CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - It Ain't Gambling; It's About Establishing Friendships

By Jack Cawthon 2001

Some time back when I was informed by Pennsylvania's tourist promotion ads that I had "a friend in Pennsylvania" I was overjoyed.

I have never been certain that I have a friend in my own state of West Virginia as I began writing for publication at an early age and had pretty much teed off a lot of people, even strangers, by the time I had reached voting age, which in olden days was 21.

I had intended someday to search for that illusive friend among the millions of people in the land to the north, perhaps by using the latest advancements in cyber technology, which I hope to learn after I give up my dependable electric typewriter.

But as luck would have it I may not have to wait as my friend may come looking for me. You see, we have something very enticing here in good ole hill country that can cause our many Pennsylvania friends to visit us. We have Powerball.

There is nothing more rewarding than to have friends who have money and who are willing to spend it on us. And last week they came in droves, those friends of ours, and they lined up for hours with money in hand just to hand it over to our businesses along the border all in the hopes of finding those magic numbers leading to a $300 million payoff.

Strangely, our friends don't get very excited when the jackpot is only a piddling $10 million or so. We are pretty much left alone, friendless, to place bets of our own as we raid the kids' piggy banks, take the rent and food money, and maybe apply for small loans from some guy on the street corner named Ernie who doesn't fuss with paper work and who computes interest in his head on a daily basis.

It's all government approved, except maybe for the lack of documentation on the loan application, and, what the heck, the money will be spent wisely by the same government that sponsors the project. Some of it will even be awarded to a lucky winner!

Last week, the kitty for the winners, or winners, amounted to around $300 million, give or take a few mill and with certainty several of those would be kicked back in taxes to the same government that handed it over in the first place.

Everyone who played-or should I say invested as this is really high tech-had a 1 in 80 million opportunity of doing just that, about the same odds I face of ever becoming an established writer. But you can't win if you don't play.

Some lucky person could and in this case four of them did, including a good ole boy in Kentucky who was down on his luck, so to speak, and who reportedly had spent some time in the pokey. He spent $7 buying tickets for himself and a dollar on a ticket for a girlfriend, which I thought was rather thoughtful. But what if she had won?

Would she still be his girlfriend, or would she look for someone better than a poor penniless loser who spent only a dollar in her behalf?

According to the West Virginia Lottery Commission Powerball tickets accounted for $23,046,664 last week. A pretty good amount for those of us used to complaining about the price of gasoline when we fill up the tank.

I might add that when the prize gets into "big" money it can even draw in frugal-cheap if you like-people like me. Greed is a terrible thing! Or it used to be until government and the stock market made it all right.

I am certain that our government wouldn't lead one astray on something that might be bad for us. At least that is the rationalization I used when I handed the Little Woman (5 ft., 3 ins.) three dollars and told her to put us in the game. (I can be a big spender when the need arises.)

She has always had the instincts of a gambler, but after she won me in a contest where the odds were somewhat lower than Powerball but about equal to a strike by lightening with the same consequences she, unlike those who are addicted gamblers and who after winning big eventually lose it all by staying in the game, seemed to lose her enthusiasm for just about everything that required taking a chance on the outcome.

I had to gently push her toward the window at Kroger to place our three dollars down as she pleaded that she didn't know the rules of the game.

I explained to her that the only rules were to turn over the money, have the computer cough up the winning numbers-I believe this is called "user friendly" in Bill Gates speak-and sit down that night and try to remain calm when the winning combination was announced.

I couldn't wait to tell her of the big reward I had planned for her: a new wardrobe the best money could buy at Value City, just for using MY three dollars to buy the tickets. I consider myself quite generous, and what's a wife for?

Anyway, you know the rest of the story without Paul Harvey's help. Something went terribly wrong, we didn't win and, sadly, neither did any of our friends in Pennsylvania.

However, in appreciation of their friendship I plan to soon cross over the border and purchase some food, clothing and gasoline, all at their favorable tax breaks.

I ask you, what are friends for?