Sometimes You’re Better Off Not Knowing

Today (November 21, 2013) is the last day someone can turn in their $16 million lottery ticket that they purchased at a food market in Florida.  Today is the last day someone can change their financial life in a way that they never imagined was possible.

Pile Of U.S. $100 Bills (Image: PicturesOfMoney.Org, Nov. 21, 2013)

Pile Of U.S. $100 Bills (Image: PicturesOfMoney.Org, Nov. 21, 2013)

It has been 180 days since an unclaimed winning Powerball ticket was purchased at Carrollwood Market on Saturday, May 25, 2013. For whatever reason the winner has yet to come forward to bask in his or her multimillion-dollar windfall.

The Huffington Post states that if the lottery winnings remain unclaimed “about 80 percent of that share will go toward the state’s education enhancement trust fund [and] the remaining 20 percent [back into the] Florida Lottery prize pool to fund new games and promotions.”

Hardcore, occasional and first-time lottery players are imagining what it would be like if they were the one to have that ticket. There are those who have never played who are wondering as well.

For a few, your lottery dream might go something like this . . .

You’re running around your home, getting ready for work when you hear this story on your local news channel. You frequently purchase lottery tickets, sometimes at the Carrollwood Market. Suddenly you realize or think that you may have purchased a lottery ticket at that store on Memorial weekend.

What your living room could end up looking like while searching for that lottery ticket. (Photo: NeatFreakMommy.com, Nov. 21, 2013).

What your living room could end up looking like while searching for that lottery ticket. (Photo: NeatFreakMommy.com, Nov. 21, 2013).

Immediately you start digging through your clothes, wallet, purses, and bags. Since you need more time to look you decide to take the day off from work so that you can tear apart your home and car to find that ticket. Hoping and praying that maybe your ticket has the winning numbers. During your search you start imagining all the things that you could do with all those millions. Pay-off your family’s debt. Quit your job. Take early retirement. Leave the area or country. Buy a new home and car. Set aside money for your children’s tuition. Go on a much needed vacation. Donate money to your favorite charities. Start your dream business.

But as the day passes and you still haven’t found that lottery ticket, you start to question your search. Telling yourself that you’re wasting your time. Thinking about the long odds that you of all people would actually have the winning ticket. That something so wonderful would never happen to you. That maybe your luck has finally changed. That maybe having that much money would bring about more pain than happiness. Eventually you realize that you have looked everywhere, but can’t find the ticket. Maybe you lost it. Maybe you never had it. Anyway, it’s 12:10 a.m. – the deadline has passed for you to cash in on a new life.

The next day the Florida Lottery Spokesperson announces in an authoritative yet still surprised tone that no one has claimed the $16 million winnings – that the money would go back to the state of Florida.

Aston Martin Car, Model - Vanquish 2012 (Photo: AstonMartin.com, Nov. 21, 2013)

Aston Martin Car, Model – Vanquish 2012. A dream car for the rich and famous. (Photo: AstonMartin.com, Nov. 21, 2013)

A week later you’re cleaning under your refrigerator and notice a couple of lottery tickets underneath. For a second you forget about the unclaimed lottery winnings. But then you remember – and then debate whether you want to look more closely at the tickets. You ask yourself ‘Do I really want to know if one of these are the winning ticket?’ You tell yourself ‘I will only look at the store name and the date to see if I had a chance of winning.’  But then you wonder if you can stick to that promise, especially if it turns out the store name and purchase date are the same as the unclaimed winning ticket. What about the numbers? Would you be able to live with yourself if it turned out to be the winning ticket? Would you end up shortchanging the rest of your life because you would always be thinking ‘If Only I Would Have Found That Ticket In Time?’

Your back starts to ache. You have been standing in the kitchen for almost 30 minutes, clinching the lottery tickets so hard so that you’ve practically crumpled them. You drop the tickets to the floor as if they were on fire. The thoughts of what you could have done with that money run through your head again like a never-ending freight train, though you know that this train has passed you by.

Powerball winner Gloria Mackenzie, 84, leaves the lottery office after claiming her lottery winnings. (Photo: Steve Cannon, AP, June 5, 2013)

Powerball winner Gloria Mackenzie, 84, leaves the lottery office after claiming her lottery winnings. (Photo: Steve Cannon, AP, June 5, 2013)

The tickets are staring up at you, but you look away as you place them in the kitchen trash can. You walk back in the living room, seemingly pleased with your decision to discard the tickets. Maybe for some this act would have been enough. But as you sit on your couch you know that you have to destroy the tickets as if they never existed. You retrieve the tickets from the trashcan, grab some matches and burn the tickets until all you see are small flakes of ash. Though you shake your head at your actions your mind is finally at ease because the ‘what ifs’ have disappeared.

You promise yourself that you’ll never play the lottery again. You remind yourself  wisely of the idiom ‘a fool and his money are soon parted.’ Weeks and then months have passed since you have purchased a lottery ticket. But one morning you hear that the Powerball is worth over $300 million.  Self-promises are tossed aside easily because – well, you have broken them before. After work  you swing by Carrollwood’s Market and then a nearby 7-11 store to pick up a few lottery tickets.

Your last stop is a hardware store to purchase a nice change box to keep your lottery tickets, just in case…because…you never know.

……………………………………………

Update: On Friday, November 23, 2013 Florida lottery authorities announced that no one had come forward with the winning Powerball lottery ticket. The $16 million jackpot expired at 11:59 pm EDT Thursday, November 22, 2013. The ticket is now worthless.

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