Along with several million other Texans, I'm worrying about budgeting my million dollar-a-year (after taxes, charities, etc.) lotto windfall. On my way to work this past lotto Wednesday, radio commentators reminded me of my need to quickly find a lawyer and investment counselor and to change my phone number and address. I'll be different from those poor devils who blew their winnings within three years. Hey, all we're talking about is simply adding a hundred thousand bucks or so to one's monthly check register. Let's see. Month one I'll pay off my mortgage, settle all debts, reshoe the kids, and finally take that trip to Disneyworld. Month two? Well, I'm still thinking about it.

I confess to having had a certain pride--a rare fusion of the senses of moral self-righteousness and intellectual (or at least statistical) superiority--over my wagering counterparts in never having lost a cent and even in being ignorant of the means for placing a bet. After all, the odds of winning are less than the sun going supernova, Michael Jordon making the Cowboys team, or the Pope becoming a Branch Davidian.

But when the possible windfall reached one-twentieth of a billion dollars things began to look different. Along with many other middle-class types (and probably quite a few Fundamentalists as well), my gambling inhibitions dissolved. As steel becomes brittle in supercold temperatures, even the strongest moral fiber softens when one's proverbial "price" is reached. Reason too takes a hike: Odds of winning suddenly increase; all those out-of-staters similarly dropping their millions into the coffers have not a chance--they only serve to beef up the stakes for we Texans.

With my lotto receipt in my hand, I have paid for THE DREAM and now have the right to contemplate its implications. And what do I feel? Curiously, there is a twinge of guilt. Why should I be entitled to the combined lifetime earnings of many generations of hardworking family members just for having picked six silly numbers? Has collective life been improved? Certainly the state gets its cut but have we really gotten our monies' worth?

What if such money were to be given to that person who comes up with the best idea for solving some shared problem? Problem for Week 1 can be ways of defusing gang violence. How much is that worth? Week 2 can be health care insurance (let's give it $100 million, with no members of the AMA or any pharmaceutical company being allowed to play). Week 3 concerns the homeless, with the best idea being funded by the state's take that week. And Week 4 features where to put the contaminated Alamodome dirt ($2 million, and in the case of no winners, having the soil go to that community with the lowest per capita submission rate of ideas). Too tough? I guess the state could also throw in a few "no brainers," such as what to do with politicians caught with their hands in public coffers.

Naw, never mind. I'm off to my Stop-and-Go to try my Social Security number.

Return to Index of A Sociological Tour Through Cyberspace