Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Who feels scratchy?

Lunch-hour business-district newsstand customers come in two categories: cigarette buyers and scratch-off lottery-ticket cultists.

Both camps have similar goals. We both waste money on a guilty transaction.

My purchase is faster: "Pack of Marlboro Lights, please," with seven-ish dollars in hand. Exchange: initiated and completed in no more than 20 seconds.

The scratch-off lottery ticket buyers binge. The scratchers, they are inefficient. They ask for one wildly named product ("I'll take three Magic Millions* ...") and then survey a wide field of multi-colored scratch-offs. Their eyes are greedy, and you can see their ambition build ("... and a Lucky Millionaire ..." [long pause] "... and a Fortunate Frog ..." [and the list goes on]) while a serotonin-flash pushes them to buy more.

It's real addiction. I swear. The scratchers can't afford it. It's not a PowerBall crowd. Most of the scratchers are over 50. They're not professionals. They don't look like they're secretaries -- they look like maintenance workers or long-distance commuters who work some kind of back-office inner-cubicle job (benefits, mailroom, etc.) that is probably unendurable. Some blow twenty bucks a time. There's a Sara Goldfarb mix of despair and inflated hope.

Every time, my impatience with the lines (true for all lines, everywhere) segues into discomfort. In a small newsstand near my office, four or five scratchers wait in line ahead of me. A few scratch through their cards in a counter by the window and then go back to the register for more. A hyped-up scratcher my age chastises the Bangladeshi owner because the last cards he bought included no winner. Later I see him storm to an ATM machine.

My nicotine addiction has dragged me into an underground economy. Here I am, waiting in the scratch-off crackhouse, but all I want is simple cancer agents.

*All scratch-off brands named herein are, to my knowledge, fictional, though it wouldn't surprise me if they happen to be real.


evil girl said...

honestly, if i really thought i could win enough cash to quit my job, i would find me a lucky quarter and go to town.

crimenotes said...

That's because you're scratchy.