Especially when you’re in a hurry which, due to some unnamed but  Universal Law, is the only time the person in front of you will ever need to buy lottery tickets.

At 7:03 this morning I ran to the gas station to grab the milk I forgot to buy yesterday and the newspaper I decided to buy today.  I needed to hurry back home before the inevitable, early morning Big-Fight-Between-Ethan-And-Anybody-Else broke out.  But without milk, there would be no cereal, so I decided to make a superquick run.  There and back in eight minutes; I promised myself.

I pulled into the little parking lot, hopped out of the car, and bee-lined for the milk and newspaper. (I generally make a big production of going through the ads, circling the best deals with a sharpie, and then throwing the whole paper–ads included–into the trash.  Feels good just knowing that I could have saved money out there.)  Clumsily balancing my two gallons of painfully heavy ice-cold milk, I headed directly to the cashier, glancing at the clock over the cigarrettes and noting with satisfaction that I had been gone less than four minutes so far.  I was about to drop my two gallons of painfully heavy ice-cold milk onto the counter when a bearded, barrel-chested, coarse-skinned man stepped out of nowhere and helped himself to my place in line.  And for the record:  I know he saw me about to drop my two gallons of painfully heavy ice-cold milk onto the counter.  So much for chivalry.  (Maybe it was because I was still in my baggy workout shorts from 1995.  Navy blue with a white Addidas stripe down the side.  Could I blame him?)

So I waited patiently in line, my hands cramping up from the painfully heavy two gallons of ice-cold milk, while this gentlemen (who should not have been) ahead of me paid for his coffee.  At least this’ll be quick, I thought.  I then noticed that the man’s head was bent over the glass counter.  He was peering intently, as though looking for something beneath the surface.  What’s he doing?  I thought anxiously.  I’ve gotta get home!  I glanced up at the clock.  7:15.  Shoot.  I then heard the words crawl out of his furry mouth, slow as molasses:

“I’ll take a scratch ticket, a powerball, and hmmm….let’s see…”

Oh no. I think.  Please no.

“How’s your lotto paying out this week, Stacy?”  The blond, middle-aged cashier (read: about my age but I swear she’s a decade older because there’s no way that I’m middle-aged) smiled back at him lazily, as though they’d had this conversation before.

“Oh, you know…same as usual.  It’s been alright…”  Creamy beads of milk-sweat were starting to trickle down my fingers.  I rested the gallon precariously against my (unfortunately) bare thigh. Yikes, that’s cold!  And it was now 7:18.  The man (who should not have been) ahead of me rambled on distractedly:

“Hmm…you wouldn’t hold out on me now, would you?”  He chuckled through his beard as the cashier batted her heavily-coated lashes.

“On you, Stu?  Never.”

“Oh, I know you’re all mad that I made that twenty bucks off you last week…”  A grin and wink toward the lady, with a bat of the eyelashes back at the man.  What was going on between Stacy and Stu?  I found myself lost for a moment in the chemistry.

The romantic fog cleared, however, as my eye caught the clock over the cigarettes clicking to 7:20.  Geez!  How long had I been listening to this banter?  Were they kidding?  Now, Stu was a customer, so I’ll cut him some slack for obviously having absolutely nothing else to do on a Tuesday morning.  But Stacy was an employee–she’s responsible for saving the hinds of frazzled moms like me!  She knows that Frazzled Moms Like Me pay for convenience at this store, and we pay big.  Isn’t it exploitative enough that eggs are three bucks a dozen and a loaf of Wonder runs me $2.89?  And yet I pay it, because I am always-and-forever-in-a-hurry.  But cashing in on mom’s procrastination is evidently no longer turning enough of a profit; now they have to really stick it to the little guy with a built-in casino.  Oh Shell Gas Station, you’ve already hooked us all on Diet Coke and barbequed corn nuts.  Must you dig ever deeper into the pockets of our basest desires?

“Hmm…” Stu repeated, gazing affectionately downward, as though settling on a ring for his fiancee.  “Hmm…”

After about a decade, Stu finally forked over a twenty to purchase three lottery tickets.  I could only shake my head quietly as I thought:  there goes two-thirds of a bottle of Pearatin.  I found myself wondering what Jim did for a living, being able to throw money around like that.  I finally paid for my stuff and sprinted to the car, making a mental note to count running with milk cartons as my cardio and weight training for the day.  My heart sunk as I read the clock on the dashboard:  7:33.  I had long missed the inevitable, early morning Big-Fight-Between-Ethan-And-Anybody-Else.

I burst the front door open with my hip, hands still heavy with the painfully ice-cold milk, to the predictable wails of “Eeethan!  Leave me alooone!  I’m trying to do my haaair!”  followed by alternating screams of anger and joy from said little brother.  I yelled up the stairs, “Kids!  Got the milk!  Come eat!”  I dumped the horrible milk jugs on the counter as relief washed over my stiff fingers.

“That’s okay mom!” Rachael shouted as she came bounding down the stairs.  “We just had Pop Tarts and Tang.”  Great.

“But, do you have any lunch money?” she asked me.  “I’m a little behind.”

“Just a sec.”  I opened my purse and flipped through my wallet to find two one-dollar bills.  Not even enough for a school lunch.

But it would be enough for two powerball tickets.

Hmm.

“Rache, you’ll have to ask Dad.  I gotta run back to the store.”

“Why?”

Why?  Why?  Because some lucky dog’s gonna win it, that’s why.  And just between you and me:  it’s not gonna be Stu.

 

 

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