It all started innocently enough, as these things usually do. Last week, while looking for a way to break a $20, I went into the convenience store and discovered that there was nothing I really needed to buy there: I had no need for gum or Altoids, my motor oil had been changed recently, the Louisiana Heat Slim-Jim’s weren’t calling to me, and my “New Car Scent” tree air freshener was still fooling people into believing I had just driven my Jeep off the lot. That’s when I saw them, all in a row, labeled one through twenty and I thought “well here we go, I’ll just buy a scratch ticket. I’ll have a few minutes of fun – definitely two dollars worth of fun - and I have the potential to make more money, maybe even a million!” I was sold.
I waited my turn and hesitantly walked up the cashier, feeling a little out of place and said – “Hi ma’am, can you recommend a good, fun two dollar scratch ticket?” The woman behind the counter sized me up, made a quick, cursory glance to my right pinky finger that was devoid of the telltale metallic ink smudge, and knew right then and there that she had a scratch ticket virgin standing before her. She then turned her back to me to scan the neat rows of scratch tickets, and I did what I thought all scratch ticket people did and yelled “Hey toots! Pick me a good one, will ya?!” She threw me a dirty look, and handed me my ticket. I looked down and saw that it was a Bingo ticket. I made my purchase, got my change and left.
Something inside me changed when I walked out the door holding that ticket. Oh my god I thought, I could be holding A MILLION FREAKING DOLLARS RIGHT NOW!” (Editors Note: the maximum win on a Bingo ticket is $20,000 but I had no idea. Nor did it matter, really. The bottom line is, it was FREE MONEY). I went home, put my things away and sat down and studied “my ticket to the good life”. I couldn’t read the directions fast enough. I had three, neat rows of nine “calling numbers” on the left and four individual Bingo squares on which to play those numbers. I neatly scratched off the four “free” spaces in the middle and commenced my game. I scratched the first number B-12 and discovered that I had a B-12 on each square!! “This is too easy!”, I thought to myself “Like taking candy from a baby!”. Ten minutes later I had finished my game and I had won $10 – Which amounted to A FIVE TIME RETURN on my original investment. I was hooked.
I promptly sent Matt back to the store for more tickets. We decided that we’d take my winnings, he’d invest an additional two dollars, and we’d get three tickets each. Whatever we won (which would be A LOT) we’d split, right down the middle. His father is a financial advisor, so we’d be covered on that front. We’d hire a lawyer if we had to; maybe even elect a family spokesperson to handle all the publicity. We’d figure out the details later. Anyway, Matt returned a few minutes later with our tickets. He got three more Bingo’s for me, and some other kind for himself. Within 30 seconds he had scratched all his and won nothing. A half hour later I was done with mine and I had also won nothing. That is, until Matt looked at mine again, scratched off the middle part that tells you your prize and informed me that I had actually won $15!! I had missed a few numbers somewhere along the line or something like that. I really had no idea how I won, but alas… I did! True to my word I promised him that I’d give him his $7.50 the next evening.
Next day comes, and I go to a new store to cash in our winnings. I get my $15 and decide I’ll take my half of the investment and buy three more. I scratch them and a half hour later I’ve won nothing. I take a second look at each of them to be sure, and ten minutes after that I’m SURE I’ve won nothing. Now I’m pissed. I decide I’ll take Matt’s half of the investment and get more, and just pay him back from whatever I win. This time I win a measly two dollars. I put the $2 ticket in my wallet to cash in later and head home. Defeated. I decide I’m definitely cashing it in, taking my $2 and never looking back… my torrid love affair with scratch tickets is OVER.
Later on I must face my boyfriend and tell him that I’ve spent all of our winnings with nothing to show for it. Matt jokingly asks me where his $7.50 is and I tell him “well Matt, we took some risks today.” What do you mean, he asks? “Well, these things don’t always pan out quite how we’d like them to. I was hoping for a better return on our investment, but with the market the way it is… sadly that wasn’t the case for us today.” So you spent it all on Bingo tickets, he asks? Yes I did, Matt. Yes I did. I’m so ashamed.
I’ve never been a gambler. Not even close. The biggest gamble I ever make is writing a check for $150 to Shaw’s for groceries on a Sunday when I have less than that in my bank account. If I made it until Thursday (payday) without them cashing the check, then I won. I’ve been to Vegas twice and spent a combined $20 each time on slots. The only reason I spent that $20 to begin with is so that I could fool the bartender into giving me free drinks while I “played”. When my winnings were more than my original investment, I’d immediately cash out. I had a bunch of slips to cash in when the trip was over, none totaling more than $5. But I won. I was still “up”. I don’t see the enjoyment of having my hard earned money stolen from me, under the guise of “fun”! What’s fun about that? But something about these tickets was actually fun for me! Each one took about ten minutes to play (thus delaying my disappointment), and I was really just enjoying the game of Bingo itself. The winning money part was a bonus, a bonus that meant I COULD BUY MORE BINGOS.
Later on the next night I go to the convenience store for cigarettes and I remember that I have a winning ticket in my purse. I decide to cash it in, put the $2 towards my purchase and be done with it. Then I watch as the customer in front of me buys a Bingo lottery ticket. I’m momentarily stunned… "Oh my god, that woman’s going to spend the next ten minutes playing my game! WTF, those are MY tickets! What if she wins the money that is rightfully mine?!" Standing before the cashier, something tells me that the next ticket WILL BE the winning one. I decide to re-invest my winning $2 ticket, plus an additional $2 from the change of my purchase for good measure. I win $25. And so it goes.
I won’t get into the lurid details of my binge, but suffice it to say the next morning when Matt woke me up, I felt oddly hung-over. I blinked and took notice of my surroundings. My bed was covered in metallic shavings, there were tickets strewn about, and my pinky has the telltale metallic smudge of a night spent begging for B-14’s, O-56’s and cover-alls. I had a flashback to the night before when I ran to 7/11 right before midnight, elbowing my way through drug dealers and strippers from the gentleman’s club next door so that I could cash in my tickets before midnight. I shake off the vision as Matt asks me if I want anything from Dunkin Donuts. I groggily tell him to “GO GET MORE BINGOS”. His dismayed look does not go unnoticed.
Today I stand before you, proud to admit that I haven’t scratched a ticket in three days. A full week ago today I bought my first ticket, and all told on my four day binge I probably spent a measly $20. But that measly $20 was MY $20, and I earned it fair and square dealing with stupid customers and even stupider employees. I could have bought twenty McChickens, two and a half packs of Marlboro's, or three six packs of Sam Adams Light with that $20. If that doesn't put things into perspective for you, I don't know what will. Simply put, I do not have room for any more vices in my life, and I’m pretty happy to stick with the few that I have now. Of couse, if I happen to get a Bingo as a Christmas present or if someone else happens to decide to buy one for me, I’ll happily play it, and then cash in the winnings, but I’m not spending MY OWN hard earned money on them anymore.
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