Lileks: Hoping to spend more at the pump? You're in luck

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 1, 2012 - 4:21 PM

We are now the first state in the nation to sell lottery tickets directly at the gas pump.

Apparently there are people who find themselves standing at the pump and realizing, "Hey, I'm not gambling. Why am I not gambling?"

Before you think I'm one of those anti-lottery snobs, let me show you my losing ticket from Thursday. My scheme of playing the birthday numbers of Carlo Ponzi is now 0-27.

I'm just ... weary of having one more screen to go through. No, I don't want a car wash. No, I don't want a receipt. No, I don't want to burn another buck playing MegaGopherMillionPickFifty or whatever the game is. I just want to pump gas, not worry about how it affects my estate planning.

I'm not the target market, though. It will be a boon to those who think: "Why do I have to walk all the way into the store and stand in line to lose money?"

Of course, the players won't think like that. Numbers on a magic piece of paper have the potential to be $100 million until the drawing proves otherwise. Only lottery tickets that promise delayed disappointment would be popular. If you have a screen that says, "Would you like to buy a chance to win $100 million now?" and the person punches YES, and the screen says "You lost," it's not going to catch on.

But you'll still have people hogging the pump for half an hour, stabbing the YES over and over, because man, this gas pump is just ready to pay off, I can feel it.

Next we'll have video pulltab screens, where you use a touchscreen to lose. But when it gets to be 15 below this means you'll hear the voice over the speakers: PUMP 4, YOU HAVE TO REMOVE YOUR MITTENS TO PLAY.

If they're going to have video screens on the pumps, don't just have lottery ads. Two-minute lessons on the Constitution. Selections from the current Guthrie plays. YouTube videos of funny cats.

As it stands now, the time you spend pumping is time spent away from the radio, the Internet, the cellphone. Time to think, if only for a minute. It's horrible! You come up with all sorts of ideas in that quiet time.

Like: Man, another fifty bucks to fill. If only there was a way to get lots of money, all at one time, for a buck.

Things like that.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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