Tears and Laughter: Tickets of hope

My intentions weren’t to buy Power Ball tickets. I get around to playing the Florida Lottery at least twice a summer. I stop before the state line at the end of a beach trips.

I live in a place where some people think it is a sin just to cross the Florida line, let alone play the lottery too. Alabama is one of the six states that do not have a lottery. We do have a few casinos, but we don’t believe in having revenue from a lottery fund our failing education system. As I have heard it explained by politicians, “We are better than that.”

But Alabama State Highway 41 offers few views and little evidence of this pretentiousness. Fading Christmas decorations still clung to door fronts of tired houses. A cross stood in an unkempt yard. I noticed a sign outside an outreach thrift shop advertising free soup on Saturdays. It was Saturday. There was a line.

Escambia County seems at first glance to be a place not unlike Marengo or Wilcox Counties where men still hunt to feed their families, if not out of necessity, out of a deep seated keeping of family tradition. In fact, the whole purpose of the trip to Brewton was to visit a gun shop. But with the growing nationwide enthusiasm over the growing Powerball jackpot, the Florida line was too close not to take the chance.

Two registers at R & R State Line Lotto were serving a line that grew past the door and wound itself to the back of the store. Nobody bought anything other than lottery tickets the entire time I waited. Not a Coke, not a pack of Big Red, or a can of Skoal – nothing, but Powerball, other Florida lotto tickets, and Scratchers.

One man said he lives in Brewton and crosses the line twice a day to play Cash 3. He said he won $45,000 last year. The couple in front of me said nothing. She mostly looked down, only lifting her head to check the progression of the line. He stood silently, seemingly lost in thought.

People dreamed out loud to one another about what they intended to do if they won – where they would go, what they would buy, who they would help. Just the thought of the possibility made everyone friendly and polite. I lost the line between who was buying lottery tickets and who was just there buying an ounce of hope. They were paying as much for the chance to dream a moment as they were to play the lottery.

Behind me a gambling woman’s voice confessed to the man in front of her that she did not know if things between her and the guy she has been seeing are going to work out. She had seen him the night before at a party, but she wasn’t exactly sure where they stood. He being a gambler too told her about his divorce. He said visitation had not yet been agreed upon, that in retrospect, they had never really agreed on anything.

The owner said the line had been that way for almost three days. He said he wouldn’t close as long as there were customers in line. I looked back and noticed the quiet woman that had been ahead of me leaving. She still wasn’t smiling. She clutched the tickets tightly and held them close to herself as she walked out the door.

At least it rolled over. The anticipation can continue a while longer. Even the slightest sliver of hope holds meaning…when there is none.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.