I was recently standing in line at my local Speedway gas station (Motto: “It’s been 2 days since our last restroom stabbing!”), attempting to buy an uber-healthy lunch consisting of a gallon cup of soft drink (diet, for what it’s worth) and a meat pastry purporting to be in the “pizza” family, when I noticed the man on line in front of me apparently had no item to purchase, but was waiting with a bill of an indeterminate amount clutched in his hands. Sighing into my Big Gulp, I reflected that this could only mean one of two things:
1) He was pre-paying gas, or
2) He was about to engage in a time-honored transaction observed at quickie mart registers all over this great nation, one that, on average, lasts longer than the time it takes to finalize the sale of a boat, namely buying lotto tickets.
Spoiler alert: the man did not have a car.
Glancing at my watch, I wondered if I would make it back to work on time or if, worst case scenario, I might miss the graduations, weddings, and silver anniversaries of my children. The lotto ticket purchasing process may represent a lot of things, but speed ain’t one of ’em.
There are a couple of things to make clear here at the start. One, I believe it is every person’s inalienable right to be able to walk into a retail establishment and purchase all of the lotto tickets and scratch-offs one’s hopeful heart desires. And two, those places should ONLY sell lotto tickets/scratch-offs and be located approximately 4 miles from civilization. For instance, a random corn field or a barge floating in the middle of a local river.
I should also state here that this suggestion has virtually nothing to do with my own misgivings about the lotto system (it has, for instance, been scientifically proven that you have less chance of winning the lotto than of being romantically linked to Taylor Swift, although to be fair, the odds of the latter are steadily improving).
It’s strictly the mechanics of the whole thing. As someone who professionally dabbles in process improvement, having the poor clerk standing behind the counter have to leave her God-given post at the register to walk over to that large clear ticket dispenser full of little pieces of cardboard with unsettling pictures of cartoons on them, or to that glorified reverse-atm machine which seems to have an unnecessarily precarious height-to-width ratio, to type in random numbers and/or check random numbers and/or verify random numbers and/or be told that these are NOT the random numbers that lotto-guy asked for, all while other patrons are “patiently” waiting in the queue, some losing patience becasue their pizza pastry is starting to ooze something resembling motor oil through the cheap paper sleeve it’s in and MIGHT have just moved of its own volition, their Big Gulp steadily being depleted and HAVE YOU SEEN THE PRICE OF GAS?!!! . . . .
Sorry for yelling. It’s just that this transaction doesn’t make sense in this setting. It’s a bit like walking into a men’s clothing store, asking the clerk if he can help you find a suit, and having him say, “Sure, but first I need to deal this gentleman a few games of craps.”
It should also be pointed out that many of those partaking in this transaction are taking it VERY seriously, which strengthens the argument to move this activity to a dedicated area, as the gravity with which this ritual is approached only seems to gum up the works. Some lotto-seekers are carrying bulging envelopes full of new and used lotto forms, a few are wearing green accountant visors, one is accompanied by a man in a 4-piece suit carrying a Tommy gun. Pair this with the cigarette people, the money order folks, and the guy trying to figure out how much of his twenty he wants to use for gas and how much he wants to spend on energy pills that were banned everywhere else back in 1998, and you could spend an eternity in such lines. In fact, there is a good chance that my writing of this post is all a hallucination and that I am actually still back in a gas station line in 2019, trying to buy a Zagnut.
Having said all of this, I have to admit that it might be unfair to the gas stations to take away what is surely a very lucrative revenue stream. I can only imagine that without the lotto income, gas chains might have to hike the price of a Fiji water from the moderate sum of $8 to $15 and beyond! Without the lotto, might we see a 4-tablet pack of ibuprofen reaching as much as $20, up from its affordable normal price of $12? Sans lotto, would these establishments not be able to hire someone to clean the bathrooms?! (Wait, sorry, scratch that. That activity was eliminated during the Reagan administration.)
So, maybe the best approach is to have a SEPARATE LINE FOR LOTTO PURCHASES. That way everyone is happy: The lady with the 1930’s style adding machine can work her number selection system at her leisure, the store can still enjoy the fruits of all the hard-earned money being flushed, er, transacted, and my pizza pocket and I can get on with our lives.
BTW, his name is Gary, and we have become fast friends.