By now, someone is likely very, very rich in Zephyrhills, Fla.
The sole winning ticket was purchased at a Publix supermarket there, and we can assume the buyer will no longer be clipping coupons. It’s the second largest Powerball ever, totaling about $591 million.
I’ve followed the frenzy along with the immediate world. I’ve tracked social media sites lighting up with posts about dreams that could be realized with the world’s greatest windfall.
And I’ve come to the same conclusion: The only thing more distressing than not winning the Powerball would be winning the Powerball.
It’s not that I think money can’t buy happiness. I’ve ridden in cars with heated seats.
It’s not that I don’t like to win. Get your hands off my bingo card, please.
It’s just that I’ve always thought winning to that obscene degree isn’t a game-changing proposition. It’s a game-over proposition.
Being relieved of a reason to get our butts out of bed in the morning simply isn’t good for us humans.
Clearly, my theory hasn’t stopped Powerball-playing from becoming a great American pastime, with the spoils going up, up, up. Two winners in 2000 split $363 million. Last year, the largest jackpot ever was a $656 million prize split among three winners in Maryland, Kansas and Illinois, according to NBC News.
Whoever bought the winning $591 million ticket has two months to come forward. NBC News called him or her “the luckiest person in America,” and not just because Florida has no state income tax.
Lottery officials apparently weren’t surprised that no one had claimed the prize in the first two days. “It never happens this quickly,” David Bishop, a Florida lottery spokesman, told NBC. “If they know they won, they’re going to contact their attorney or an accountant first so they can get their affairs in order.”
OK, c’mon. When is the only other time we use the phrase “get their affairs in order?” Sound like fun to you?
The growing popularity of Powerball pools at the office has led the Multi-State Lottery Association to offer tips to prevent lawsuits. And interviews with big winners suggest the thrill is gone pretty darn fast. Even with the best of intentions, the suddenly ridiculously rich tend to squander the cash, or fall out with families, or go into hiding to avoid the pleading solicitations from perfect strangers to help with mortgages, sick kids, college loans.
Most interesting, many winners don’t change their lives much at all. New Mexico mechanic, Philip Pina, for example, won $29.5 million in 2007. He gave $12,000 each to his three kids and a few nephews and nieces. Then he got back to his day job at his automotive shop.
“I helped my family out and everything,” he told Caitlin Dickson of the Daily Beast, “but I’m not going to give them $1 million each. They have to go out and earn it.”
Thank you, good sir.
I guess you could blame my Powerball pessimism on the fact that I’m the daughter of two squarely middle-class and perennially happy teachers who never wanted to do anything else.
Or maybe I’ve worked too long in the news business, where we step into happiness and heartache pretty much every day and money is rarely correlated with the former and too often useless to stop the latter.
If I could use my Powerball winnings to prevent any parent from ever losing a child again, I’d jump in headfirst. But the world doesn’t work like that, so I recommend we don’t feel bad at all about not being that one-in-175.2 million winner and, yes, those are the odds.
Instead, I suggest that we all get out of bed every single day and work hard to heal this imperfect world of ours, which includes taking care of ourselves and our loved ones, fighting against injustice, giving to charity, reading to kids, staying focused, cutting others slack and dreaming big.
Mostly dreaming big. We have always had the power to do that.