Taking a Gamble on a Birthday Gift

For 80 years, my mom’s family owned an Italian restaurant in Walla Walla, Washington. Although three different generations ran the place, my grandpa was in charge for the longest tenure. On Sundays, when the Pastime Café was closed, my grandpa would take me to the restaurant as he inspected it to make sure all was well. He let me play the arcade games in the bar, raid the candy counter, and eat all the ice cream I wanted.

But perhaps the best part of the outing was when he would go to the Washington Lottery scratch off machine, feed it a $20 bill, and let my siblings and I choose a diverse selection of tickets. We would then go back to the house, run to the kitchen table, and then use coins to scratch them off. If we uncovered a winner, my grandpa would pay us from his own wallet on the spot. I still remember the time I won $50…it genuinely felt like I had won the real lottery!

Long after my grandpa was no longer around to accommodate my taste for scratch offs, I would sometimes be successful in funneling my mom a couple dollars to buy me a ticket or two. The thrill of potentially hitting it big was alluring to me, a feeling that lasted for a couple years after I turned 18 and could buy them myself. However, I soon accepted the dismal odds of ever winning anything of value and stopped buying them.

I have had a love-hate relationship with scratch offs.

Well, for the most part.

This morning, I stuffed a birthday card with South Carolina Lottery scratch offs. Although I no longer waste my income on a long shot chance of winning a large cash prize, I do like to let my family and friends dream when a special occasion of theirs comes around!

Over the years, I have “gifted” scratch offs to people I enjoy. Blame it on my upbringing as an underage gambler but I think they make great presents. Scratch offs are perfect for men and women, they don’t need to be wrapped, and they are readily attainable at any local gas station or grocery store. When it comes to the recipient, it allows the person to have some fun without any investment. In other words, it is all gravy. No sweating it out over whether you are going to win your money back or not!

In addition to the scratch offs I purchased for the person celebrating their birthday today, I might have also bought a scratch off for myself

Of course the therapeutic thrill I mentioned above is what makes scratch offs really stand out. Besides the soothing feeling you get when you rhythmically scratch the ticket, the “what if…” train of thought that one gets when playing is the best. That moment when you have scratched most of the ticket and only a “7” or a teapot symbol is separating you from a few thousand dollars is the best! (until you lose).

If you are ever in a bind for a birthday gift, consider sticking some scratch offs in a card. You never know, if the person you buy them for wins a ridiculous amount of money they might share it with you. Don’t Blink.

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