Thursday, September 28, 2006

millionaires in the midst!

Kum & Go is a convenience store chain with most of its locations in Iowa. As you can imagine, the blatent/latent coarseness of the name has inspired a slew of cacophemisms* among Midwestern youth, my favorites being to refer to the local "Sperm and Split" or the "Ejaculate and Evacuate." The big news back where I'm from is that someone walked into a Kum & Go about twenty miles from my hometown and bought a Powerball ticket that is now worth over $200 million. At last report, the winner(s) had still not stepped forward. I just called home and verified that my parents are not the winners (my mother says she didn't buy the ticket and reports no suspicious behavior or purchases by my father). According to her, the leading rumor is apparently that the winners are a group of teachers at the local community college, based on a report that a bunch of them stopped showing up for work.

College teachers who do not see their work as enough of a calling that they would still fulfill all their obligations if they were suddenly multimillionaires? Can you imagine?

Of course, there are those findings that people who win lottery jackpots are happier immediately afterward but not any happier a year later. This is generally taken as indicating some profound truth about humanity, and much more rarely taken as possibly suggesting that behavioral science still really doesn't have great conceptualization or measurement of happiness.

I know someone who told his children he would disown them if they ever played the lottery. I know another person who is fond of referring to it as an "idiot tax." It's supposedly irrational, a pastime for suckers. My father spends something like $100-$200 year on lottery tickets. He gets at least that amount of benefit out of imagining what he would do if he won. While it is true that one has approximately the same chances of winning the lottery whether one plays or not, that miniscule difference does make all the difference for the imagination.

* "Cacophemism" is the opposite of "euphemism", so it's a turn of phrase that is less circumspect than what it is used as a substitute for.

9 comments:

sara wakefield said...

The first (and only) time my grandfather ever said a stern word to me (it was all root beer floats and trips to the park before this) was when, at 12, I made an ill-advised comment on the Kum and Go in Osage, IA. My parents grew up there and Grandpa and I would go get gas at the Kum 'n Go at the end of every visit before we left -- it was a major developmental stage for me when I was able to see the inappropriateness of it all (he failed to appreciate this).

I think he may still be pissed... I recently named my daughter after him so I'm hoping he will get over it soon.

tina said...

I used to only pay with cash at the Kum & Go to avoid having a record of shopping there on my banking records.

Anonymous said...

that's even better than "Kreem Queen" -- a Dairy Queen knockoff i once saw in rural indiana...

TheInternetDog said...

Good point! People who decry the lottery as a waste of money because of the low odds of winng, etc often forget the utility people derive from simply playing the lottery. For a single dollar one can get three or four days worth of entertainment - dearing up ways to spend the money, discussing the jackpot with friends and coworkers, finding just the right place to store one's ticket so it doesn't get lost, etc.

Sounds like good value for money to me.

BTW - by my calculations, in order for the expected value of a Powerball ticket to exceed its cost (taking in to account the odds, the various smaller prizes one can win, and taxes), the headline jackpot would need to be about $525 million - assuming you don't have to split the jackpot with anyone.

Anonymous said...

I have not noticed a suspicious absence of instructors from the local community college. I am there every day and have not even heard a peep that winners had walked among us.

I did hear that it was a group of teachers (unspecified as to what they taught). I also heard it was a group from some work place. I also heard..... Well, you get the picture.

~pj

islander said...

I'm waiting until my lucky day and then I'm going to run to the nearest convenience store and buy a lifetime of lottery tickets.

If it's your lucky day, probability be damned!

captain crab said...

I think PJ and Jeremy made a pact to buy lottery tickets when Jeremy was home. They are just waiting to tell everyone they won until I am gone for a while, away from my computer.

Absolut said...

The best part of this post:

and much more rarely taken as possibly suggesting that behavioral science still really doesn't have great conceptualization or measurement of happiness

Absolut said...

Sorry, I meant, after the name of the store.:)