Scratch Off and Win

Just down the street from our apartment complex in Charleston, S.C. is a service station and convenience store. The girl who works days behind the cash register is Maria, a pretty native of Guadalajara, Mexico. She is rarely without a smile and is full of energy for her regular customers.

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'Hello, Amigo,' she will sing out to me as I enter the store. 'Are you ready to hit the lottery and take me dancing?'

Now I rarely play the lottery or the scratch-off tickets that are lined up next to the cash register. But when Maria issues the challenge, I pause, think 'Why not?' and dig into my pocket for an extra dollar.

With lottery and scratch-off tickets, the odds are definitely against you. But there is a certain level of excitement in buying such a ticket that causes millions of people to do as I did -- reach into their pocket to take a chance on Lady Luck and faith.

'Tell the truth, Maria,' I say as she selects my ticket. 'Did you ever sell a big winning ticket?'

She wrinkles her attractive face in thought. 'No...but I came close a couple of times.'

I admire her honest answer. I take the ticket and scratch off the numbers. Hey, I am lucky. I hit for a dollar. Naturally, I buy another ticket.

While working as associate editor of LottoWorld Magazine in Naples, FL., I had the opportunity to interview a young man who had won $4.3 million lotto jackpot. David lived just outside Columbus in Ohio. He was married, had an infant son, and had just lost his job driving a delivery truck for a baking company.

With less than $20 in his pocket, he was driving down a side street in Columbus when he passed a small grocery store. A voice in his head said, 'Turn back. Buy a lottery ticket.'

David told me in a phone interview, 'The message was ridiculous. I never buy lottery tickets, especially when I am head broke and I have a kid at home to feed. But the voice was persistent, so I stopped my car, backed up to the grocery store, and bought three lotto tickets.'

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That night to his utter amazement his numbers were called and he won the jackpot.

'My marriage had been on the rocks for a while,' he said. 'I had married an emigrant from Russia and she wanted the good life that she believed all Americans had -- the kind of life I couldn't provide for her. After I had won the money, she claimed her half and filed for divorce.' He laughed. 'I win the lottery and lose my wife.'

David went on to improve his life. Today he is rearing his young son on his own. His former wife has returned to Russia. P.S. He has become a regular lottery player. Hey, it could happen to you, he says.

'The lightning struck me once. Why not twice?' he reasons.

I check my second ticket after scratching off the numbers. It's a loser.

'Sorry, Maria. No dancing tonight,' I say.

'It's okay,' she says prettily. 'There's always the next time.'

One of the celebrities I interviewed while working for LottoWorld was Tiny Tim, the ukulele-playing singer with the long hair and the falsetto voice. He played the lottery almost on a daily basis, using favorite numbers like the address of his friend Elizabeth Taylor or the phone numbers of some of his star pals.

Tiny Tim believed -- absolutely believed -- he was destined to hit the lottery.

'I can feel it in my bones,' he told me. 'Just watch. You'll see.'

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