All night Tuesday Robert Smiley was afraid the "do not scratch off" portion of his lottery ticket would scratch off and invalidate his big break.
Smiley, 28, of Tustin, who drives a car nearly as old as he is and earns about $20,000 a year working two jobs, had become the state's first $100,000 instant lottery winner.
Smiley celebrated into the evening Tuesday with two friends in Laguna Beach, but eventually he returned to the room he rents at a friend's condominium, where he locked the winning ticket inside a strong box.
Wednesday morning Smiley delivered his ticket to the regional lottery office in Anaheim. His check, minus $20,000 for taxes, should arrive in a few weeks. "I still haven't slept," Smiley said Wednesday afternoon. "Hopefully, one day I will be able to."
The $100,000 instant winnings are an increased prize offered in Game No. 5, "The Grand Game," which does not officially get under way until Friday. Merchants who have exhausted their supply of Game No. 4 lottery tickets, however, are permitted to sell Game No. 5 tickets, although claims like Smiley's cannot officially be processed until Friday, lottery spokesman John Schade said.
(The odds of being a $100,000 instant winner are about 960,000 to 1, a lottery spokesman said.)
"I had been wanting a new car," Smiley said of the fateful Tuesday night, "so I was going to a Honda dealer and stopped at the 7-Eleven for a diet cola."
He also bought two lottery tickets, as he had been doing every day.
"I began to scream a little bit," said Smiley, who on Wednesday took the day off work to renew his search for a car and to consult his banker about the relative merits of U.S. Treasury bills and certificates of deposit.
During the day, Smiley works as a customer service representative at an Orange graphic arts supply store; at night he works as a warehouseman in an electronic appliance store.
He dropped by the graphics supply store Wednesday morning only long enough to show his boss the winning ticket.
He said his boss's response was: "So this is your resignation?"
Smiley didn't resign.
He did try, unsuccessfully, to reach his parents in Texas.
"My mother's going to give me a 30-minute lecture on what to invest it in and don't spend it all in one place," he said. "But not much surprises my dad. He'll say, 'Oh.' "
Smiley said he will continue his search for a new car--"something with a sunroof"--to replace his 1963 Volkswagen. He also will dip into his winnings to upgrade to "first class" the "budget trip" he planned to take to Vancouver in May.
"I don't think (my life) will change," Smiley said. "I think it will improve.
"It's really nothing," Smiley said with a grin. "You can't even buy a nice Rolls-Royce with it."