By Jason Menard
Where else can you buy a dream for only $2? Over the past couple of weeks, the nation has been caught up in lottery fever – and, while the chances of any of us actually winning are slim, nationwide response to the exorbitant jackpot shows just how powerful the lure of a dream is.
Have you ever noticed that while we’re all fond of saying that there are only two types of people in life, we end up coming up with a myriad of different criteria to finish that statement? Well, here’s another one to add to the list – there are only two types of people in life, those who play the lottery and those who don’t.
Oh, sure there are subsections of each – such as the rabid fan who has the personalized pouch, an array of lucky numbers, and has subscribed to the advanced order program. And then there’s the self-denier who denounces those who play the lottery, but will indulge in the odd scratch ticket. Of course, there are the cynics who refuse to play the lottery and look down upon those that do.
However, my personal experience is that a large number of people are like me, occasional players who buy a ticket once in a while, when the lure of a potential payout is too much to resist. And apparently I dream big. I only play the lottery when the stakes get higher – like over $10 million.
It’s a fool’s wager, of course. The odds of winning are so astronomical that I’d be better off standing in my back yard waiting to get struck by lightning. The lure is too much to resist – not that I honestly believe I have any chance of winning, despite the placating “Well, somebody has to win…” sales pitch that lottery commissions love to trot out. But what draws me to throw a Toonie on the table is the investment in a dream.
That one little slip of paper with a few random, or not-so-random, numbers is your ticket to indulging in a fantasy for a couple of days. During the run-up to a big lottery drawing, we’re all winners in our minds. We happily while away some time fantasizing about how we’ll spend our soon-to-be-had riches: start by paying off debts, make a few big purchases, and invest some for the long haul.
For those few days, we’re able to dream about how a big windfall would help not only ourselves and our families, but all those close to us. We make deals with each other: “If I win, I’ll give you $1 million,” or “I’m going to buy all of our friends a car.” And, of course, there’s the dizzying array of worthy causes to which you can donate that get discussed. This is done partly out of caring, but also out of karmic negotiation – as if promising to give away a portion of future winnings increases our chances of divine or cosmic intervention when those numbered balls drop.
I remember, after adding a lottery ticket to a fuel purchase (and, let me tell you, that $2 magically disappears in the cost of filling up a tank), my wife and I passed a significant amount of time on the highway discussing trips we would take with the family and how we would distribute the money – leading to the ever-popular, “How much do we actually like that person game” when your friendship with people gets tested by a dollar value when the amounts to give away are broken down. By the end, we had planned a few trips around the world (scheduled around our kids’ school requirements, of course), purchased a new home, car, and a summer cottage, and had put aside money for our friends and family. That $2 bought enjoyment, laughter, and dreaming with my wife.
In the end, except for the exceptionally lucky few, it all comes to nothing. We walk away with maybe a free ticket won for our efforts, but more likely we’re simply adding another slip of paper to the recycling box.
But what can’t be thrown away so easily is the dream – and that’s what makes buying a lottery ticket so enjoyable. Cynics and critics will look down upon lottery players as throwing away their money or wasting their time – but the fact of the matter is that, for a minimal investment, lottery players are buying a dream. They’re engaging in some healthy escapism based on fantasy, which is no different than losing yourself in a movie, a sporting event, or a night at the theatre – only the stage that this fantasy gets played out on is in the theatre of your mind.
Two bucks to enjoy a dream for a few days – that’s an investment I’ll make every time. And win or lose, I come out ahead.
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