Nothing says “lower-class desperation” more clearly than state-sponsored lotteries:
A new Pennsylvania Lottery game debuts Tuesday, while other longtime drawings are getting new names. The new game is called PICK 2, a twice-daily drawing that allows players to bet on any two-digit number. Other daily lottery drawings, in which players choose three to five digits, are being rebranded under the “PICK” name. The 38-year-old Daily Number, the lottery’s first daily draw game, will now be known as PICK 3.
And no one appreciates this desperation more than the hustlers who organize the lotteries and the politicians who use lotteries and casinos for back-door taxes, because they’re too crooked and cowardly to raise legitimate taxes on the well-to-do.
I thought of these guys today when I ran to a convenience store to steal NyQuil for my sick friend Swamp Rabbit. One employee was ringing up overpriced junk food and another was collecting money from the faithful after taking their numbers and printing their lottery tickets. A crusty chap in a Cowboys cap intoned his numbers, as if the right combination would open the treasure chest: “4-6-9. 6-9-4. 9-4-6. 6-9-5…”
Then I had to fax something, my machine at the shack is beyond repair. I ran to one of those squalid little bunkers — there are chains of them — where people who can’t afford bank accounts buy money orders or place bets, or both. The employees work from behind a sheet of glass, or plastic, thick enough to stop an RPG. On the wall next to their little bomb shelter are messages on flyers:
Please specify day or night numbers
Sorry, we cannot cancel Cash 5, Powerball, Super 7, Quinto
Back at the shack, I commiserated with the rabbit. I told him check-cash joints provide one-stop shopping for the doomed. The lottery, cigarettes, money orders that cost an arm and a leg, all under the same roof. And four-dollar faxes! It’s like crossing the border to the land of the lost. If you go there, don’t expect to find your way back.
The rabbit coughed then took a swig of NyQuil. “You done crossed the border, too, in case you ain’t noticed.”
Not for the first time, I wanted to grab him by his ears and toss him in the swamp. “I’m just going through a rough patch, you dumb rodent. Any day now I’m gonna sell my new novel and blow this dive.”
“Right,” he said. “The same day I win a million bucks playing PICK 2.”