The Florida Powerball jackpot is up to a cool 173 million, and I speak for the entire Sunshine State when I say that it’s my turn to win.
I buy a lot of lottery tickets. I know, I know. It’s not the smartest way to spend your money. My uncle used to say the lottery was a tax on stupid people.
This from the same uncle who once tried to eradicate squirrels in his attic with a Browning shotgun. At the same time, my aunt was sitting in the den watching “General Hospital.” She heard a loud blast, then her plaster ceiling caved in and crushed her TV.
Well, I’m no nuclear physicist, but there’s nothing “stupid” about the lottery.
When Gloria C. McKenzie, of Zephyrhills, Florida, stood before camera crews in 2013 holding a giant check for 590.5 million bucks, the largest jackpot ever paid to a sole Powerball winner at the time; she wasn’t exactly dumbest gal in the room.
So shortly after sunup this morning, I crawled into my truck, rubbing sleep from my eyes, and I drove to the filling station like I often do.
There, I usually buy a small coffee, and when I checkout the young cashier, Tray, greets me with, “What’s up, Sean?”
Whereupon I will answer, “Make me a millionaire today, Tray.”
Then I pick my lottery numbers.
This morning, while Tray was printing my ticket he used the opportunity to explain that Florida law stipulates that gas-station cashiers who sell winning lotto tickets are entitled to half the winnings.
“That can’t be true,” I told him.
“It was on the Internet,” Tray said. “So I has to be true.”
You have to worry about today’s youth.
Fact is, I don’t actually expect to win the jackpot. Truthfully, it’s less about the lotto ticket and more about the ceremony of it all. I’m a routine oriented guy. Plain and simple. I like the ritual of my mornings. It’s just how I’m wired.
Over the years, my morning routines have varied. When my wife and I lived at my mother-in-law’s, for example, I would drive my bloodhound to the gas station, then purchase a lotto ticket and a five-piece box of fried chicken. I’d split the breakfast with my dog in the front seat. She got the thighs; I got the shaft.
Years later, after my dog passed, my morning routine consisted of drinking coffee alone. I rarely touched my chicken.
But the primary staple of my morning activities has always remained the same. The Powerball ticket. It’s tradition. And it’s a practice that started a long time ago with my predecessor.
My father was a stick-welding ironworker who spent his workdays suspended from fifteen-stories of soot and steel, welding column splices, swinging hundreds of feet in the air, with nothing protecting his skull from the pavement but a bumper-sticker-covered hard hat.
Daddy was fearless of heights. At backyard parties sometimes he would demonstrate his skill by crawling onto people’s rooftops and walking ridgelines like Mary Lou Retton. He could walk from one end of your roof to the other without once spilling a drop of his beer.
But on weekends, my father had a sacred pre-dawn routine. He would follow the same ritual every Saturday morning by rustling me out of bed, piling into his work truck, then beating along gravel roads into town.
After we arrived at the filling station, my father would march inside and buy the same items each weekend. One package of powdered donuts, one newspaper, one two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola.
And a lottery ticket.
We’d share the donuts and trade swigs from the Coke, passing the bottle back and forth, Prohibition style. Then he’d shake open the paper and read the box scores while I caught up on the latest Chuck Schultz installment.
They were the greatest mornings of my childhood.
Then, later that night, after the ten-o’clock news, when they announced the lottery numbers on television, Daddy would tune in. He would don his drugstore reading glasses, turn up the volume until the windows rattled, and study his ticket as though it were scripture.
The tuxedoed man on the TV screen would choose numbered balls from the bingo machine and report them to America.
“C’mon, baby!” my old man would shout to the TV. “Daddy needs a new transmission.”
The first few numbers would be chosen.
“Hey! I got two numbers!” my father would howl. “Two numbers! Turn it up!”
A third number was chosen.
“Three numbers! Honolulu here we come!”
Then he’d slowly wad his ticket into a tight ball, slap the TV, and begin cussing beneath his breath.
After that, he was good to go for another week.
My father has been gone a long time now. But at this age, a small piece of me tries to relive those sunlit mornings with him. I suppose I’m trying to keep him alive somehow with the insignificant things I do.
Yeah, I realize you shouldn’t live in the past. Perhaps my lotto-ticket tradition is ridiculous. Maybe even a little naive. But I ain’t stupid.
Christina - November 12, 2021 7:35 am
These routines are sacred rituals in their own ways, tying us to parts of the past that we don’t want to forget. What treasured memories you carry with you every morning. And when you win, don’t forget to keep writing! 😜
Liz Hoyt Eberle - November 12, 2021 7:51 am
I will be thrilled and delighted when you win the lottery. Any lottery. That is, of course, IF you keep writing and don’t leave us, the other part of your loving and devoted family, behind. We need you, Sean 🤗💕…..just keep telling us the way it is. 😌
Leland Locke - November 12, 2021 10:39 am
This blog made me smile, Me. Sean. You mentioned your squirrel shooting uncle. Just finished reading Sean of the South : Volume 1, in which said uncle was written about. It’s nice reading your work, & how it has changed through the years.
Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration.
Leland Locke - November 12, 2021 10:59 am
Dear Mr Sean:
It was that you mentioned your squirrel shooting uncle again. I just finished reading your book, Sean of the South Volume: 1, where said uncle had an appearance.
It is nice to see the growth in your work through the years. You are a good writer. And an inspiration. Thank you.
Chasity Davis Ritter - November 12, 2021 12:32 pm
The boy my daughter had her high school years crush on worked at the neighborhood gas station. I really didn’t expect to win when I bought the lottery tickets Although it would have been nice I just considered it a $2 surcharge so she could giggle at that boy twice a week. It was as sweet as winning for her. I miss doing that…. time goes too fast. But yeah… neither of us have ever been stupid.
Paul McCutchen - November 12, 2021 12:34 pm
I still buy my ticket with a hope and prayer. I always have said if I win I will buy me a black corvette and put side pipes with flames down the side. My wife says that is the reason I will never win. God doesn’t want to see that on his roads. I always respond “He might”.
Trudy - November 12, 2021 12:38 pm
Sean, I think you won the lottery when you married Jamie.
Kate - November 12, 2021 1:20 pm
Linda Dunlap Hulen - November 12, 2021 1:00 pm
I grew up in Arkansas a long time ago. Reading your post this morning brought back a memory. I can’t remember the last time I heard “filling” station, but I love that you did.
Patricia Collins - November 12, 2021 1:05 pm
Sean, those people that did the question and answer thing, don’t listen to them. I hate to say we have a lot of NUTS in this country these days that have too much time on their hands and need to get a life. I’m sure there are a thousand and one things they could be doing besides criticizing someone else. I love your column so keep going with it and I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this way.
Kate - November 12, 2021 1:17 pm
I always think the Lottery is about HOPE. So many of us would like to have a better life with a little or a lot less worry, many would like to be able to help family or others in the community, maybe build a better ball park for the kids to play on, or maybe new football or band uniforms for kids, or even buy instruments for those kids who want to play in the band, but their family cannot afford the instruments. While money will not cure all our problems it can and does help give people a better life. The Sheriff Youth Ranches across the country would be a good place to help and I have always said I would buy cars for those who really would like to work or have a better job if they only had decent, reliable transportation. I hope whoever wins the lottery each week, helps to do good. And I don’t drink coffee but I think a lottery ticket is probably less expensive than a fancy cup of coffee. 🤣🤣 Best of luck Sean, but now I have to go buy my lottery ticket.
Cindy - November 12, 2021 1:20 pm
Good one Sean!
Jan - November 12, 2021 1:55 pm
Traditions are wonderful things … they keep a part of our life traveling down a familiar path which gives us great comfort especially in difficult times. I too love lottery tickets although I don’t get to play often since I live in Alabama. Thanks Sean!
Melanie - November 12, 2021 2:11 pm
I’ll be dreaming all day about driving a truck on a dusty gravel road. Thank you Sean for the beautiful imagery.
Linda Dunlap Hulen - November 12, 2021 2:14 pm
Haven’t heard “filling station” in a long time.
JACKIE LEON DARNELL - November 12, 2021 2:22 pm
Good one, I’m right there with you! This probably won’t post but here I go again.
Mark Daigle - November 12, 2021 2:44 pm
If you don’t play, you can’t win…
Leigh Amiot - November 12, 2021 2:55 pm
Any of you who played the Georgia lottery, I thank you for my kids’ college education! (lottery funded HOPE scholarship) We gave our kids a little beauty, a lotta brains, but not much money! 😂 I don’t play often, got the powerball number once, only the powerball number, and won $4, the amount I’d spent on two tickets.
Diann - November 12, 2021 4:00 pm
Wow- that little story right in the middle about you and your Dad- that right there is what memories are made for- the good times- the seemingly not so significant times- the stuff that builds character. Keep writing Sean- keep us remembering.
Margaret Jackson - November 12, 2021 4:12 pm
Your story today brought back such memories!!
My father-in-law was so excited when Georgia finally got the lottery.
Once a month, he would drive from LaFayette, AL, to West Point, GA, to buy cigarettes, 5 lottery tickets, and eat at Waffle House.
He always got sick from Waffle House food, and never won at Powerball.
Love your articles each day, and I am still praying for you and Jamie. The first year of holidays is the hardest.
jblackburn34 - November 12, 2021 5:34 pm
No Sean, you’re not stupid. All the stupid people live up here in Alabama, where we keep voting down the lottery.
AlaRedClayGirl - November 12, 2021 5:41 pm
Hope springs eternal in the human breast.
Willie agans - November 12, 2021 6:13 pm
Your uncle was a very intelligent man.
Filling station reminds me of service station. Both are no longer with us. Along with foot feed, hand throttle, and dimmer switch on the floor.
Susie Flick - November 12, 2021 6:20 pm
You have just encouraged all your readers to go buy a lottery ticket no matter what state they live in. I used to buy them religiously years ago – same numbers each week. One time I was away on vacation so hadn’t checked my recent ticket. Stopped by my parents to check the paper and I got 5 of 6 numbers – missing the last # and 7 million by one digit! This was back when the Illinois lottery was in it’s early life. At that time 5 numbers “winnings” for me was $1800! I used the $$ to put central air in my house. I felt very blessed to have that cool air around me knowing it had been the result of a lottery ticket win. I worked for a major investment firm and when I went into work that Monday, I told the two men I worked with that I had “almost” won $7 million! To that, they replied, just imagine what we could have done with that $$$$$$$ for you! I replied…..”What makes you think I would bring it all here?” We all can dream – like my one coworker always yelled out each day as he entered the office “What new, wonderful and or exciting is happening today?” It was a jump start for me each day and reminding me to have dreams and wishes even thought they might not come true for what is life worth if you can’t dream and wish?
Gayle Wilson - November 12, 2021 7:07 pm
I think we need those long ago routines to keep the balance in our life. To remember those gone on before. Our rescue dog loved scrambled eggs. Without fail, my husband would save her his last few bites. It didn’t matter that she had already had two of her own scrambled eggs. We had to let go of her in August. She had liver cancer and as much as she kept trying to go, especially for the eggs, the cancer won. To this day, my husband still saves the last few bites of eggs and as he walks to the kitchen sink he says, “This is for you Mocha.”
Jenny Young - November 12, 2021 7:35 pm
Sean, when you win don’t tell a living soul…except maybe your wife.
Linda Moon - November 12, 2021 7:46 pm
I know and love a few of those stupid people. I never heard a shotgun from an attic squirrel-kill, however. But I’ve heard critters and an old guy on a too-tall ladder up there. Nothing you think or do is insignificant in reliving memories of your Daddy. Nothing. Perhaps your tradition is no more ridiculous than Thanksgivings or Christmases that we sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews do as celebrations, memories, and traditions. You are right, Sean. I know stupid when I see it, and you ain’t.
Steve McCaleb - November 12, 2021 10:33 pm
Stupid people ? I could write you a book about stupid people ! I had a cousin who stayed up all night studying for a urine test…….and still failed.
Teresa Buttd - November 26, 2021 3:41 pm
I sort of feel like I won a readers’ lottery when I discovered you, Sean.