Only five more numbers to go
I admit it. I bought a Powerball ticket. When my husband mentioned the gigantic pot which by now everybody knows was over $600M, I didn't tell him that I'd actually put $2.00 down at the local 7-11 until he said he was in two pools at work and had purchased a couple more in one of the area's 'lucky' stores. Then we sheepishly had the 'what if' conversation.
Turns out I actually had one number this Saturday's drawing, one more than I usually have. Perhaps I should publish a 'do not pick these numbers list' as a warning to others if they are going to insist on playing regularly, which I do not. My Powerball ticket was worth absolutely nothing but it does remind me of the time my sisters and I bought a ticket in the Lake Huron beach town of Southampton years ago when we were vacationing together. We had four of the six numbers and when I called my sister, who was holding the ticket, to find our what our windfall was she gave me the good news: $2.00. Are you kidding? The Ontario lottery sucks eggs. And that's all I'm going to say on the matter.
I have purchased a few lottery tickets over the years but I never expect to win and four of six numbers is as close as I'm ever likely to get. I just like thinking about what I would do if I became an overnight half-billionaire. It's a good exercise that one hopes would be actualized if the numbers did fall into place. I've heard so many sad stories about lottery winners who ran through their riches in months or years and ended up exactly where they'd been before, except worse for the hangover. But I know there are many others out there who have done something useful with the money, and I don't mean buying a Masarati or taking early retirement and touring the world. The kind of money that this mysterious (and so far intelligently anonymous) person in small-town Florida just won isn't just the kind of wealth that sustains a lifestyle, it can change entire landscapes, fund cloning research, create a superpac for the NRA, get Jesus or an Imam in the White House. Frightening possibilities if you happen to be on the other idealogical side of this newest Forbes 500 member. At this point I am hoping the winner just buys a really big house in the Bayou and sends all his friends and relatives' kids to college.
For my part, I like to think about what this kind of money could do and it's an interesting exercise in challenging thinking and the complexities of real social change, something no amount of money can magically force . When I start thinking this big, I realize that politicians usually start out this way and then hit a wall pretty quickly. No, too frustrating....
I have pretty much everything I want already so thoughts inevitably turn to how I could support change in small, manageable increments especially when it comes to my neighborhood. The problem with most wealthy activists is they have no idea how to start small. My plan in three or four parts: First I would offer the guy down the street with the two crummy, neglected and weedy houses with 10 cats lying around on the front porch, enough money to make him go someplace else. And then I'd tear the boxes down and put up two enticing little cottages for urban pioneers who just might turn up at the Neighborhood Watch meetings and shop local. Now that the one hair in my soup is dealt with, on with more lofty goals: I could put together a fund to give a grant to anyone willing to convert their San Pedro lawn to drought tolerant landscape and then pay for 20 years of maintenance. This could significantly reduce water usage in our area and create habitats for butterflies, honey bees and birds. Having a drought-tolerant yard may be easy for the first two years but it takes work to maintain it and without help it could, over time, devolve into a weedy mess. I know because we've managed ours without a gardener and it's not as easy as it looks. Along those same lines I'd fund a program for backyard organic farming, paying experts who already exist in this business space to come in and build gardens, plant fruit trees, then maintain them and share the bounty with the homeowners. I'd also fund a solar paneling program for households to get them off the grid. Although there are a couple of companies offering to install paneling at a very low up-front cost, it's attached to the main DWP power grid (the idea being the solar power feeds in and DWP pays it back) so it only reduces costs for the consumer and keeps them dependent. This conversion would also include a maintenance program to ensure householders are secure. Even if the fund brought in a few hundred new people, that would be enough to make a difference.
I would buy the big empty lot up the street that used to belong to the old ice-house, build a theatre and bring in world-class entertainment for subsidized neighborhood prices, along with workshops to empower kids and build confidence. And I would fund scholarships, not just for university, but for technical schools and trade apprenticeships and/or schools. I believe too many kids who have no aptitude or interest are being told they must to college and as a result we don't value all the other skills that make our communities run smoothly.
The idea of having that much cash I didn't earn (and therefore feel in some ways will always be the peoples' money) is just that: an idea. For those of us who buy tickets, even as rarely as I do, I don't regret the mental canoodling this buys me.
I just hope the person who is now $600M richer does something good with their gain. A very practical postscript to a very impractical purchase.