Gambling, the Lottery, and the Scranton School Board
January 14, 2014

The rush the gambler feels, the manic thrill of hitting on the river, the blood-pumping anxiety while watching the flop… the addictive chemicals are too much to handle.  The gambler returns again and again, win or lose.

Most lose.

So I can empathize as I dealt with yet another rejection in my attempt to ascend the dias upon which the Scranton School Board sits.

For me, it’s more lottery than poker.  No man consciously thinks of the lottery as gambling or admits the same kinds of chemical addiction to ups and downs, because, hell, it’s only a few bucks a week, right?  And even though I spent $20 on scratch-offs, I won two bucks!  It’s a sign!

The lead up to a lottery drawing is what gets the lottery gambler.  It’s the torrid downward spiral of astral projection straight into an impossible, but maybe, just maybe possible future.  What will I do with my $100 million?  Oh, sure, I’ll take it up front, so it’ll really be $60 million.  And after taxes it’ll be $30 million.  Damn the greedy government, taking my money!  Sigh.  $30 million.  Well.  I’ll pay off college, the mortgage, the car, the credit cards.  Then I’ll do the same for my family.  After I spend a year in Europe and buy huge homes in three or four countries, I’ll put the rest away in a savings and draw a generous annuity.  And don’t forget donating to charities with regularity from the Thomas M. Borthwick Charitable Trust!

This is my problem.  I am a lottery-thinker.  I think about all the good I’ll do if I get on the School Board.  I’ve written about a fraction of the plans I have here.  My mind is in always the future.  How can I bridge the divisiveness of the Board?  How can I expand programs?  How can I both find money and save it?  I spend a lot of time thinking of these things.  For no reason, it seems.  My ideas have been in public for some time and nobody has implemented them.  One Director even said, “Hey, interviewees, thanks for all the great ideas you just gave us!”  Selfish to say, but I don’t see many of them coming to fruition without me there.  It’s why I applied.  But the powers that be aren’t interested in my type.  And what is my type?  I’m not sure.  An unfamiliar, unelectable, free-thinker?  Those types are fatal to any political orthodoxy.

Instead of giving in to that horrid chemical addiction, I should’ve known better than to apply for a fifth time and find myself dealing with the inevitable combination of disgust, disappointment, dejection, and depression that follows being ignored.  At least each word begins with “D” — I need consistency.

But it’s so tempting.  I knew I wasn’t getting it.  I debated about whether or not I should even bother showing.  That small sliver of hope that something might change drove me there, just like that small sliver of hope that throwing away twenty bucks on lottery tickets may actually pay off.  Actually, it’ll never pay off.  Ever.  The statistical odds of winning the lottery and getting on the Scranton School Board are next to zero.  Why can’t I accept that?  Seriously.  Why can’t I?

After the vote, a few Board members offered remarks.  I left.  It turns out some Board members yelled at each other about the whole thing being a dog & pony show.  Most people like dogs and ponies, though, so I never got that idiom.

I stopped at home, grabbed a cigar, kissed my wife, and found myself headed to visit an uncle of mine who was playing at a pool league.  Driving is an aphrodesiac for thinking.  And I thought about what I could’ve done and I wondered why I couldn’t break through the wall of circumstance that barred me from serving.  And I got frustrated.  I got nowhere but the pool league.

I relaxed and had a few drinks and watched people yell at each other over their skills at the game, or the lack thereof — it was good-natured, devoid of the acrimony I’m glad I missed at the end of the Board meeting.

I packed up after a short time and, when I got home, I had only a little of the cigar left to finish and I do hate to waste a good cigar.  So I stood on the porch and enjoyed the night air.  Mine was the only porch with a light on and my shadow crossed the street.

It’s amazing how big we seem when we’re looking at our shadows.

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