“How Many Powerball Tickets You Bought?”

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The man leaned against a pillar inside the TJ Maxx store at Metro Center area, talking into his phone. He was obviously in the store to escape the cold outside rather than to shop. “How many Powerball tickets you bought?” he asked the person on the phone, perhaps his significant other.

A lot was at stake. All of $1.5 billion. The more lottery tickets they bought, the higher their chances would be of getting instantly rich. His dreams showed in the contortions of his face and in the urgency in his voice.

Half a block away, the usually lifeless magazine store on the ground floor of the National Press Building bustled with activity. One store clerk attended to a line of people buying everything else. Another clerk was kept busy by a long line of professional-looking people using their lunch break to try their luck and indulge their dreams of firing their bosses.

“I should come back later,” I said to the clerk, laughing. Everyone laughed half-embarrassed, half-hopeful. No one made eye-contact.
“I think that’s better,” the clerk said to me giggling back as he handed a number of tickets to a woman in a black jacket.

I fondled my purse for any paper change and considered joining the queue. My phone rang.

*First published on my Facebook page on Jan 14, 2016.