Dear Dirty America


Dropping Balls

March 31
00:13 2012
Dan Rudy
           A lottery fever grips the nation, and about as tightly as millions of grim-faced Americans clutch their tickets for tonight’s drawing.  Running at a record high $640+ million dollars, the Mega Millions draw promises to shift at least one family from the unemployment line to an East Egg estate.  And that line is still a long one, roughly 12.8 million deep.  Were everybody standing in it to share tonight’s winnings, they would each take home about fifty bucks – enough for a week’s groceries, a tank of gas, or a basic phone bill.
            “It’s all rigged though,” our shop’s crotchety mechanic Bob was telling me earlier today, garage redolent with the stink of fuel leaking from my work van.  “Got a buddy that works up at the local Powerball.  Powerball – they don’t even televise the balls dropping anymore.  That’s because they’ve got one of them supercomputers that figures which set of numbers didn’t get picked.  The bigger the pot, the more tickets people’ll buy.”  He spits sourly onto the oily concrete, saliva browned by a lifetime of bad coffee and car exhaust.  “So they stack it.  It’s simple economics.”
            I can’t rightly argue with him; out of the several dozen tickets I’ve ever bought over the years, I’ve never made a single buck.  Perhaps I’m not doing it right, or maybe not enough of the time.  I didn’t even bother to tailor-pick my numbers for tonight, content enough to take the mathematically impotent set the computer decided to let me have.  Most everybody else at the Plaid Pantry were taking fortune into their own hands though, hunched over every available counter space and flat surface in the store as they pencil in their fateful digits.
            Behind the counter, Gracie was looking haggard.  “Feels more like a damned betting shop than it does a convenience store,” she lamented, having earlier in the week been quite glad to get a reprieve from the snot-nosed school kids off on their spring break.  “By the time it’s all over the kids’ll be back, buying small and mussing up the displays.”
            The bloke behind me couldn’t believe I’d bought a single, random ticket.  “More chance for the rest of us then,” he sneered cheerfully as he forked over a stack of penciled-in forms to Gracie.  “Someone’s got to get rich in all of this, right?”
            And indeed, someone has.  But not from this lottery, as much as from the line up and dosh out mentality that feeds it.  Spend, spend, spend, money buying happiness (or the things happiness is made from), everybody living their Dear Dirty American Dream.  When all else fails (such as trickle-down economic theory, the idea of an unadulteratedly representative legislature, a service-emphasized production model, et al) bank on chance and improbability to set things right, because everybody loves to see an underdog turn round.
In a world where Apple is now the largest corporate earner – primarily on the strength of the entertainment gizmos it sells (and obsolescifies and sells again) – one wonders when America will wake up from its dream and begin facing the unpleasant realities that abound.

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