Every week, I make a trek to a certain store in Donelson where I buy a Powerball and Mega-Millions lottery ticket. Yes, I know it is a waste of money but my justification is always, “it only takes one.” Recently, I ran into a friend while buying said tickets and he echoed the same sentiment. “I will play when it is 10 million, or when it got up over a billion a few years ago. It does not matter. If you don’t play, you can’t win.”
It brought me back to a certain encounter years ago while working in TV when the Powerball did hit $500 million and a chance encounter with someone I will never forget.
I was at a gas station in town doing live reports for channel 4 and in between segments, this guy walks up to me and this was our conversation. He was about mid-fifties, jeans, hat, scraggly beard, and had on a McCloud jacket. (If you don’t remember the TV show McCloud, I am sorry.)
“Hey man, you the TV guy?”
I am standing with a mic in my hand and a shirt that says, WSMV. “Yes sir, how are you?” (Eerily similar to the scene in the movie Airplane, when the lady says a doctor is sitting next to her and it is Leslie Nielsen, and the flight attendants says, “Excuse me sir, are you a doctor?” He has stethoscopes in his ears and says, “Yes, I am.”)
“Are you playing Powerball?”
“Yes sir, every week. You?”
“Let me tell you something. Listen closely.” He was already a foot away from my face.
“If you win, here is what you do. You leave town. Leave. Don’t tell a soul. Just leave. Check into a hotel. Give them a fake name and pay with cash. When they ask your name, say, “it doesn’t matter.”
“Is that Italian?” I replied. He didn’t either understand the joke or thought it wasn’t funny. I am going with the first one on this.
“Take your ticket to a bank. I don’t give a damn, what bank, just take it to one. Sign it and put it in the safe deposit box. Don’t tell a soul that it is worth anything. When they ask why you are putting a Powerball ticket in there, you tell them it is none of their business. You got me on this?”
“Umm, sure. Can I ask you a quick question?”
“Make it quick.”
“Have you ever won the Powerball or anything?”
“I have not so when you have the ticket in the box, you don’t go back for a week. Set up camp in whatever town you are in and talk to no one. After the first week, go check on the ticket every other day but do not fall into a routine. Do not do that.”
“Well, if you go every other day, is that not a routine?”
“I said every other day, are you listening at all?”
“Sure man, what is next?”
“Where was I? Oh yes, after you know who your friends are, go flag down a cop in this town. Tell him you have the ticket and have him drive you to wherever you get your money. Some bank or store, I don’t know.”
He pats me on the back and walks off, only to return 15 seconds later.
“Hey, you and me? We never talked.”