By Greg Price
The hysteria has more than settled now over the historic $1.5 billion dollar Powerball Jackpot that had winning numbers of 4-8-19-27-34 and Powerball 10 bestowed upon three lucky ticket holders in Florida, Tennessee and California in January.
Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states in the United States, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. But residents in the six states that don’t participate found ways to get their hands on tickets. Some of the biggest Powerball sales have come from cities bordering states that don’t sell the tickets, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. That hysteria also includes bordering cities and towns in Canada to American states which I and a handful of my fellow workmates were part of.
While the Taber Times office did not have to be close because its employees called in ‘rich,’ at the very east our voyage across the Coutts border made for column material.
UNDER WRAPS: The weekend before the big draw, as the news continued to circulate that the Powerball rollovers were nearing the purchasing power of small countries in their magnitude, I declared on Facebook that I was seriously thinking of making a visit to Montana to purchase tickets. In hindsight, not a very good idea. Luckily I wasn’t, but the chance of being inundated by ‘Facebook’ friends to purchase them tickets was a real possibility and to be fair, not a really fair request. With $1.5 billion at stake in American funds, the ‘I’ll pay you back later’ is a slippery slope one does not want to go on whether someone is a Facebook friend or a close friend. Can you imagine if you purchased a ticket for someone else and it ended up winning and they hadn’t paid you for the ticket yet? Friendships have been lost over a lot less than a winning lottery ticket that would allow you to buy the Baltimore Ravens, nine private islands, 33 Stradivarius violins, make 25 seasons of ‘Game of Thrones,’ or take 3,000 trips to Mars. Finally deciding to make a road trip out of with three other co-workers, we vowed not to publicize we were going to the border incase such headaches were to arise.
LONE WOLF: Speaking of co-workers, we drafted a document where each employee was allowed to buy $10 worth of Powerball tickets as a group entry (individuals bought their own tickets as well), that had their name and signature verifying they paid and noted any winnings would be split evenly among co-workers who entered. Taking the cash payout instead of installments would have meant $103,333,333.33 for each co-worker who bought in, and $0 for the one employee who didn’t. While that employee is now $10 American richer than all their other co-workers after our failed attempt at riches, I cannot even fathom how the person would have felt had we caught lightning in a bottle. That would have bee one lonely Monday-morning meeting in which the employee in question would have been the only one attending.
SCROOGE MCDUCK: Given it was the largest Powerball prize in lotto history, I knew there might be some hurt feelings if I didn’t allow my two of my closer friends at least a chance to get in on the hysteria. I purchased blocks of tickets for them, making sure I had their money in hand that same day of my return. One friend said he’d give me $10 million easy if I got him the winning ticket in which I jokingly called him a cheapskate. While I would have a hard enough time spending $10 million in my lifetime, it’s interesting to do the math with how huge the Powerball prize was as $10 million accounted for a mere 0.67 per cent of the $1.5 billion maximum payout.
MY CO-WORKERS ARE MY CHILDREN: I may not have any children to call my own, but I certainly got a taste of what it would be like given what amounts to a one-hour drive to the Coutts border. There was Amanda Boulay and Christine Mykytiw doing the ‘are we there yet’ chorus a mere half an hour into our drive. Yes, I know they have been subjected to that as mothers themselves, but I returned the favour with the ‘I’m going to turn this car around if you guys don’t stop acting up back there.’
MARITAL BLISS: The family feel continued with another co-worker in JoAnne Toth who rode shotgun with me to the border as I felt like an old married couple with her. It is always a natural reaction to feel at least a little nervous while you cross the border even when you really have nothing to hide. It’s perhaps the power that a border guard has to allow or deny you entry into another country that makes for that slight discomfort. It’s as if we think when they ask us the purpose of our trip, all the sudden we are going to blurt out — ‘well, there’s the three kilos of Columbia’s finest lodged in our hub caps that are in urgent need to be unloaded on our happy customers in Montana.’ Toth took control, saying to let the driver of the car do the talking (me). Only…I didn’t. The moment I pulled up to the border and on our return trip back, JoAnne took over the conversation to the border guard. It made me wonder, is her husband Bob able to get a word in edge wise in the car or the dinner table?
SERVICE TO OTHERS: I got a chuckle hearing about a Roast and Toast in the Lethbridge Herald criticizing Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman for making the trek to Montana to buy Powerball tickets, where he should instead be concentrating his efforts leading Lethbridge. Apparently, mayors are not allowed to do anything in their spare time aside from their political service. I spotted Spearman getting tickets at the same store as me shortly after we secured ours, and how can anyone criticize another for being human? A cool $1.5 billion isn’t appealing to a politician? Could they not use some of the green to donate to a good cause in Lethbridge?
ART OF CONVERSATION: As we waited in the long line to purchase our tickets, conversation was abuzz among fellow Canadians and Americans alike. Fantasies were in full affect of how people would try to lessen their tax burdens if they won, the urban legend that lotto tickets were not allowed to cross the border and the wish list of extravagant purchases. The odds of winning were very small (1 in 292 million). You are 250 times more likely to be hit by lightning, but the road trip was fun along with my co-workers as we all day dreamed with the crowd.
PARTING GIFT: While we at the Taber Times did not become multi millionaires, we did get a prize for being in the studio audience. Partaking in the bliss known as the Duty Free Store, those who purchased libations got to experience a kind border guard who did not make us pay duty on our purchase despite being across the border for only an hour-and-a-half. Getting two bottles of my mother’s milk for a cool $20 total, I felt like jumping out of the car after crossing the border and doing my titanic ‘I’m the King of the World’ pose.