Several years ago, I stopped in a convenience store on my way home from work.
I wanted a six-pack of Diet Coke.
It was a quiet little shop in central Illinois. I’d been there many times and barely noticed another soul. But on that evening, the place was jammed with noisy customers.
I asked a guy, “What’s going on?”
“Haven’t you heard?” he said. “The state lottery is over $100 million. You HAVE to go for it.”
I asked him how much the top prize had been the previous week, when he hadn’t bothered buying any tickets.
“About $60 million,” he said.
Honestly, I was baffled.
An apparently sane gentleman was standing in a long, long line for lottery tickets that would give him an astronomically impossible chance to win – all because of an extra $40-plus million.
“I guess last week’s $60 million wouldn’t have done him enough good,” I thought, deciding right then and there that anyone who plays these giant lotteries must be completely wacky.
Brad Everett, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn, phoned on Thursday to set me straight on that craziness thing.
It turns out Everett and 11 colleagues from the hotel all chipped in $2 for a “multiplier ticket” in Tuesday night’s Mega Millions national lottery.
Well, OK, they didn’t win the big prize — a lady in suburban Atlanta and some mystery contestant in San Jose each will pocket $120 million from the $648 million jackpot.
Another 20 winners got $1 million each.
But I’ll let Everett tell his story of triumph…
“We all put in a couple bucks each, and we used the numbers from a Chinese fortune cookie,” Everett said. “To be honest, I didn’t even know what happened until the next day.
“But Rodney (Wright, the hotel’s chief engineer)…Rodney had quite an experience.”
That’s because Wright actually watched the lottery drawing, and probably came close to fainting when they hit the first four numbers. One more number, then the Mega ball, and…
Four was their limit – but, hey, four correct numbers in the Mega Millions was worth about $2,000 with that multiplier ticket.
“It got really funny after that,” Everett said. “I still didn’t have any clue we’d won anything, but the next morning, three of our sales team (Shannon Garvey, Kelsey Hailey and Kelli Myers) were already in Topeka – collecting the money, having their picture taken, interviewed in a YouTube thing, just having a grand old time.”
In fact, each of the 12 Hilton contestants received about $168 once the swag had been divided.
“But what a lot of fun the way the whole thing turned out,” Everett said.
“Even Rodney survived and was pretty calm the next day. If that had been me when we hit those first four numbers…well, best not to think about it.”
Nope, and now I have to go back and wonder about the guy I met long ago in that Illinois convenience store.
Maybe he won a few bucks. Or met his future wife in line.
I’ll never judge the lottery again.