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Without those lottery riches, she's no longer Mega-maniacal

She was convinced Lady Luck was behind her and that she had a winning ticket. But her numbers didn't come in, and now she's out of the lottery business. Time for another get-rich-quick scheme!

April 06, 2012|Gale Holland, Los Angeles Times
  • Cynthia Sims, left, and Regina Quiroz buy Mega Millions tickets last week at Blue Bird Liquor in Hawthorne. An L.A. Times reporter had big plans for the $640-million jackpot, but her numbers didn't come in.
Cynthia Sims, left, and Regina Quiroz buy Mega Millions tickets last week… (Arkasha Stevenson, Los…)

I have a lottery hangover. And I can't shake it.

I was absolutely convinced I was going to win the $640-million jackpot last week. After all, stranger things have happened. I was born a middle-class American at the height of U.S. power, for instance, and not a galley slave in ancient Rome. Or any of the billions of other poor saps who peopled the Earth over the millennia.

What are the chances of that? Worse than the 1-in-176-million odds of coming up with the six magic numbers, I bet.

I won an Etch-a-Sketch in a dance contest when I was 12. Why me and not all the other little girls? Obviously Lady Luck smiled on me once, and she would do it again.

I also had some magic talismans. I bought all my tickets at a little convenience store in the shadow of the LAPD headquarters. The officers cast a benediction on my purchases, I believed. Plus I was no Johnny-come-lately. I'd been buying Mega Millions tickets for months. Wouldn't I be rewarded for my loyalty?

Once I found out the delightful man who ran the shop stood to make $1 million off my good fortune, I figured I was a shoo-in. I was doing it for him, not me. My selflessness would not go unnoticed.

Oh, the things I'd buy! My little saltbox on the hill in Echo Park would become a palace — in keeping with the historical character of the neighborhood, and to strict green building standards, of course. The peeling paint on my kitchen ceiling would be replaced with the color scheme from my favorite home on Apartment Therapy. I might even buy Apartment Therapy.

River rock — hand-selected and hauled out of the San Gabriel Mountains — would rim the heated salt-water pool. A waterfall would spill into the grotto, and I would splash into the turquoise green Olympic-size span from a high-dive and a slide, just like in my childhood dreams.

But even before some upstarts from Maryland, Illinois and Kansas cheated me out of my rightful winnings, I had begun to sour on the lottery.

When one of my colleagues missed out on the office pool, I promised I'd toss him $1,000 after we won. Another colleague in the pool proffered $100,000; I felt like a heel.

A friend stopped by to outline her plans: A new house for every family member. She'd also pay off all their debts and start a charity.

Philanthropy was not in my thinking. Nor was showering my children with riches. Sure, a condo and a Ford Fiesta. But a house? At Los Angeles prices? For both of them? There goes my Montecito ranch and the New York pied-a-terre.

People without kids didn't get it: I don't care how much money you have. If you let them, they will gobble it all down in the space of a round of Ms. Pac-Man.

Besides, I already spent 30 years of earnings on them. And I don't want them to be so coddled they can't handle the normal ups and downs of life.

People didn't get something else. It wasn't that much money, once you had to split it with the other winners. Taxes, attorneys and financial managers — you'd be lucky to come out with a Tuscan villa and some loose change.

Still, Friday morning I went into a fugue state. My numbers were going to hit, I could just feel it!

Then, Black Saturday: Not a single winning number on my personal tickets. The office pool scored just one. Total earnings among 25 people: $2.

What a patsy I'd been! Commiserating didn't help. My friends were all glum. Two had bought tickets together and planned to build side-by-side beach houses in Malibu.

"Now we'll have to earn our beach houses the old-fashioned way," one of them emailed. "Marry them."

With all the dreams that went up in smoke, it's a wonder we could see across the Los Angeles Basin.

Before lotto fever struck, a small chunk of money had come my way. Now, I realized my plans for the money were embroidered with the mythical lottery earnings. I would be able to do only a fraction of what I had drawn up.

A windfall that had me ecstatic weeks before now felt disappointing.

Let's face it. Without money I'm an OK person; with it, I'm not so sure. I am out of the lottery business. Back to my other get-rich-quick scheme: a ping-pong parlor!

gale.holland@latimes.com

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