This column first appeared in the Orlando Sentinelon January 15, 2016.
Once every three to four years, usually while standing in a local 7-Eleven store, I hear a voice that says, “Hey, man, buy a lottery ticket.”
Like an idiot, I listen to the voice and metaphorically flush a dollar or two down the toilet. When I do what the voice says, I always pick my own numbers (more on that later) rather than let some computer program steer me wrong. Of course, I know that my numbers give me the same odds of winning the lottery as being struck by lightning while fighting off a great white shark sporting an “I love Donald Trump” tattoo, but so what?
This week, that darn voice was at it again. I was in line to buy Gatorade wearing my lawn-mowing clothes. These clothes — some hole-ridden jeans from the past century and a paint-stained “Bigfoot for President” shirt — allowed me to blend in with others in thePowerball line without tipping people off that I am a professional economist with countless hours of probability theory work under my belt.
I did not want anyone to walk in and say, “Hey, Professor Chambless, what are you doing in this line?” So instead of picking my numbers, I mumbled “quick pick, please” and got out of there.
On Thursday morning, I was scanning this newspaper when there in front of me was a headline, “Economics professor loses Powerball jackpot for stupidly refusing to pick his own numbers.”
The winning numbers were 4 (my favorite baseball player of all-time and the guy my first son was named after); 8 (my high-school baseball number); 27 (my high-school football number); 19 (my oldest son’s high-school football number); 34; and 10 (my youngest son’s baseball number.) What about 34? Oh, nothing big there except this:
This season I am coaching a local high-school baseball team. One of the kids coming out for the team is a kid who reminds me of me back when I was a kid. I have been discussing this guy all week with my sons. That kid’s requested number? You guessed it — 34.
This means all week somewhere, somebody was sending me cosmic hints. All I had to do was stick with the numbers that made sense to me and then throw in the number sent from the heavens, and I would be smoking a cigar right now trying to figure out how large of a cabin to build in Northern Minnesota.
I was even planning to give most of the money away. Millions to my church. Hundreds of thousands to friends and family and dozens to people I do not like much.
Since I was supposed to share in this incredible jackpot and was victimized by social pressure that economists should not buy lottery tickets, I am demanding the following:
I want to submit my case to the government and have it examined by the greatest lie-detecting machinery known to mankind. When I pass this test, I want the government to set aside a portion of the tax revenue it will collect from the Powerball and start a new welfare program for all truth-telling lottery losers. I would be the first recipient of tax dollars from this fund.
After all, just because I made a poor choice and refused to put in the effort to work on my numbers does not mean I am not entitled. I think in this case I can show that I am as deserving as other folks who ostensibly make the same claim on our tax dollars every day.
In the meantime, I think I will take my case directly to the three people who won and see if they would be willing to help out an economist who buys stupid lottery tickets while wearing a Bigfoot shirt.