Every time one of the big multi-state lottery jackpots gets up towards record territory, there’s a flurry of reports decrying the whole concept of state sanctioned gambling. I can tick most of the main arguments off by heart: They’re a tax on the poor; They’re a tax on those who don’t understand math; They divert funds that people should use for long term investment; They destroy the lives of the people who win. The list goes on and on and on and on… but you get the gist.
Like most other activities in life, there’s no end to people who want to tell you why you shouldn’t do something and why you’re an idiot if you do. I tend to fall more in line with the “let people enjoy the things they enjoy” school of thought. Deciding to buy a $2 Mega Millions ticket, even if it’s your last $2, literally doesn’t hurt anyone else. You buying a ticket doesn’t impact me in any way. In this country we’re all free to bankrupt ourselves in any way we’d like.
With no hand wringing at all, I’m happy to throw a few dollars every week at various games sponsored by the Maryland lottery. I’m putting plenty back to care for myself in old age, it’s not taking food out of anyone’s mouth, or a roof from over anyone’s head, so why the hell shouldn’t I take a flyer on fabulous wealth? It’s a happy dream that costs next to nothing.
Now if anyone needs me between now and Friday night, I’ll be over at Country Life getting a read on what English country homes are heading to market in the near future. A billion dollars probably won’t buy me a peerage, but it’s more than enough to live like it did.
1. Timing. The 76 billion cicadas camping in my back yard are fine – aside from the dogs wanting to eat all of them. I generally don’t get freaked out by bugs. Their early morning screeching is what I’d charitably describe as “troublesome.” It’s made my favorite pastime of sitting on the patio for an hour each morning with coffee and a good book decidedly unpleasant. I know they’re temporary, but the little bastards are stepping all over the last days of full-time working from home. That’s just exquisitely bad timing… and I hate them for that.
2. Eligibility requirements. Marylanders who received the COVID-19 vaccination are eligible for daily drawings for $40,000… unless you’re one of the Marylanders who got the “federal” vaccine instead of the state jab. That puts me out of the running. Would I have waited a few more weeks to get the vaccine if I knew I could win a sweepstakes? Maybe. I suppose the world will never know… but I want my damned money.
3. Good intentions. The people who control the Thrift Savings Plan, the federal government’s version of a 401(k) retirement plan are being pressured to make two significant changes to how the fund is managed. The first would see the TSP divest from fossil fuel securities, with an eye towards, supposedly, making the investment funds “environmentally conscious.” The second major change would be driven by proposed congressional legislation to prohibit TSP from investing an any company based in China. Maybe both of those are admirable objectives and people should feel free to target their own money in whatever fashion they want… but for the TSP in general, which bears the lion’s share of responsibility to secure federal employees’ retirement. Personally, I want fund managers laser focused on driving down costs and maximizing return on investment… while keeping the “good intentions” of socially crusading politicians as far away as humanly possible
1. The bridge into North East, Maryland. It might be a mild exaggeration, but it feels like various companies have been working on the bridge that provides the only direct access into “downtown” North East for about 87 years. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall, spanning the width of Britain in about 14 years. The Empire State Building took one year and 45 days to build. But the state and the county and the original contractor who got his ass fired off the project and everyone else wants to cry the blues that it’s “only” taken five years so far to replace a fairly straightforward two lane bridge the crosses over a railroad track. What we have to show for that five years of effort is the northbound lane – and that hasn’t even been opened for traffic yet. When I’m out on the weekends and run into people, I often wonder how they function in the day-to-day world. I’m increasingly convinced that they actually don’t.
2. This is probably too much information, so if you’re feeling overly sensitive, it may be best to skip on to the third weekly annoyance. You see, recently at work I hurt my back standing up after taking a shit. It was showing marked improvement and I really thought it was well on the way to being serviceable again… but I know the inability straighten my back completely for those few minutes means it’s going to be twitchy for at least another week or two. That’s ok. It’s not like I have a list of spring yard work tasks that need to be accomplished anytime soon. It seems that this is your 40s.
3. I have a dream. I dreamt the lottery pool I participate in won the Cash For Life jackpot. I sprung up from that dream fully awake with the shit-eatingist of shit eating grins on my face. You can well imagine the disappointment on really waking up and realizing that a) the pool doesn’t play Cash for Life; b) It wasn’t even the correct night for the Cash for Life drawing and; c) it was all my brain’s little way of saying “fuck you very much.”
1. Cash only. It’s 2018. I can order products directly from Europe from the comfort of my living room using my cell phone. We live in an age of technological wonder…. which begs the question, why in blue hell can’t I use a debit card to buy six dollars worth of lottery tickets? It’s apparently the only activity in the developed world that steadfastly insists on being cash only.
2. Weekday deliveries. I order a lot of things online. That means in most cases that thing is going to have to be delivered to the house. Most of the time it’s easy enough. They big truck arrives, leaves the package on the front porch, and I retrieve it when I return home. Occasional, something needs a signature before it can be released. There are usually easy ways around that too – except in special cases that require live ink from someone older than 21. Look, if you try to deliver the same package at approximately the same time on three consecutive weekday afternoons, the chance of typical working adult being there is somewhere between slim and none. The fact that SOP is to attempt delivery three consecutive times when a normal human being is probably at work reeks of ridiculous. There should be a better option available… and no, “we can hold it at our warehouse 40 minutes away so you can pick it up” is also a pretty dumb option. I’d be willing to pay a premium for some kind of guaranteed weekend delivery option.
3. “Uber is killing the taxi business.” I’ve never actually used Uber. It doesn’t feel like the kind of service that you could use reliably or cost effectively in the parts of the country where I tend to find myself. I’ve been in plenty of taxis over the years though. Saying that Uber is killing the taxi business and that government should step in to protect cab companies is a lot like saying government should make us all buy buggy whips and riding tack because we’re hurting the horse and buggy business by continuing to buy cars and trucks. It’s not fashionable to say it, but creative destruction is a real thing and tends to be of benefit in the long run.
1. I don’t think I’m giving away any state secrets when I say that if you build a giant office complex at the end of a peninsula and then fill it with people, there are only going to be a limited number of ways people can get and their cars and drive away from that facility at the end of the day. When you close some of those already unlimited number of exits things get worse. When you additionally closed one of the few that is usually open just in time for peak traffic, well, you get thousands of people clogging every feeder road fighting to measure progress towards the gate in feet rather than inches. I get that shit happens, but when it does I feel like someone would have a plan to address it – like maybe opening up one of the long shuttered gates just for the day and just for outbound traffic. Being the considerer of worst case scenarios that I am, I’m abjectly horrified at the prospect of what a real honest to God emergency evacuation of this place would look like when just closing one single gate can leave traffic gridlocked for over an hour.
2. The death of a dream. With my 1.6 billion dollar dream now laying in ashes, divided to those with better luck in California, Tennessee, and Florida, I suppose it’s back to building wealth the old fashioned way – piling money regularly into a well-balanced, low-fee retirement vehicle. It’s not nearly as sexy or exciting as winning the Powerball, but it’s something… and statistically way more likely to pay out, though I think my newest ambition to retire early to a 17th century Scottish grousing estate may have to be shelved for the time being.
3. Extemporaneous speaking. Back when dinosaurs rules the earth and I was a student we were required to deliver “off the cuff” presentations. Being able to give a talk without the benefit of notes was something they assured us would be of the utmost importance in whatever fictitious versions of the “real world” they’d concocted in their heads. In the actual world I inhabit, extemporaneous remarks have almost never come into play. Instead of mastering the content there’s a constant stream of requests for notes, bullet points, or an entire script no matter how mundane the topic at hand. Maybe having that seamless, well-reasoned, and articulate messages is reassuring to other people around the table, but for the guy putting the words in your mouth it never rises above “vaguely unsettling.”
$636 million is a seriously big hunk of cheese. I sit out most lottery drawings these days, but I’m just sucker enough to take a swing at this one. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be thrilled to win “just” a few million bucks, I’ve got my targets set on getting the big, “Fuck You” kind of money. If my numbers come up tonight this old boy is just going to disappear quietly in the dead of night like a Mayflower truck full of football equipment. I’ll turn up eventually in some far flung outpost of humanity looking like Panama Jack, but before I do that, I’ll want to spend a significant amount of time getting to know my giant stack of cash.
It’s all a happy fantasy, of course. Statistically, I know there’s probably a better chance of getting hit by an asteroid, struck by lightning, and run over by a bus simultaneously than there is of winning tonight’s “big one.” Still, for a buck? I’m in. If there’s no post tomorrow, at least you’ll know why.
A disturbing number of things I say every week start with the phrase “When I hit the PowerBall…” Usually that’s leading to some discussion of buying an island somewhere in the South Pacific and doing my best to ignore the rest of the world. It occurs to me that my needs are really much more mundane. Sitting here tonight, I suspect I could be bought off with much less than a full-blown lottery jackpot. Sure, the island or a well fortified Montana compound would be a nice touch, but I suspect I’d be perfectly happy just sitting here on the porch with the dogs at my feet and my nose stuck in a good book. I think I could potentially entertain myself like that for years, as long as I didn’t have a tiny little voice in the back of my head reminding me that I have to get up at first light tomorrow to go sit in a cube for eight hours. It seems the better the weekend, the heavier the weight of Sunday night bears down. Bugger all.
I realize that some of you do not to purchase lottery tickets or engage in gambling activities because of your religious convictions. I absolutely respect and support your decision. In light of tomorrow’s $540 million Mega Millions jackpot, I have come up with an idea that will help all of us. I’ve already bought my tickets for the drawing so don’t worry, that sin is all on me. I’ll do my best to account for it when my turn comes to meet my maker. In the meantime, what I need from you, my friends, is just a little prayer that my numbers match up with the drawing on Friday night. No fuss, no muss, just a kind word from your lips to God’s ear.
If I can count on your help in bringing this bounty home and sharing it with your favorite charities, just mention me and the Jeffrey D. Tharp Charitable Trust to the deity of your choice tonight… and maybe again in the morning… and possibly for a third time after dinner tomorrow night. When my six numbers match and just as soon as I can get the Jeffrey D. Tharp Charitable Trust up and running, I’ll be happy to make out a sizable check in your name to the charity of your choice just as my little way of saying thank you for keeping me in your prayers tonight.
Don’t forget to click “like” so I know I have your support (and I can figure out where to send the checks!).