Who's "playing" who in this lottery?

I don't expect anyone will learn much from the details of prepping for my trip to China. But maybe someone will see something worth relating to in a totally random moment from my life earlier today. Admittedly, I don't do lotteries. I'm one of the few people on the planet who hasn't even bought a single ticket. Ever. Maybe I'm just waiting for an indescribably lucky feeling that will probably never come. I did, however, have the unique, confusing pleasure of cashing in a ticket today. It came by way of my father-in-law, who has a foolproof manner of playing the occasional lottery. When he'd visited Seattle in May, he employed his system. To the tune of a hunnerd simoleons. A Benjamin. One. Hundred. Bucks. The ticket was handed over to me during our recent visit to California to cash-out prior to the six-month deadline that such tickets apparently have. Without prompting, I chose a 7-Eleven relatively close to us. Thus far, no big surprises. I tried to even act like I knew what went down in this transaction. That's when it got weird. The lottery machine wouldn't read the ticket. The clerk called in a second opinion from the back room. Around the time I felt sure that I was being punked for not knowing some sort of secret handshake, the stars aligned and they saw that I was indeed a winner. The fact that I was due $100 was greeted with disbelief. Disappointment. No dropping balloons or even so much as a mumbled "congrats". I was instead asked if I had "any shopping to do". While the thought of approximately 100 Slim Jims or a massive pile of sudoku puzzle books and microwave pizzas should have come to mind, I answered truthfully. Who, after all, has ever spent $100 in a 7-Eleven without first spending at least an entire evening at a frat party? I then realized the reason for their flummoxed reaction - the drawer couldn't cover my winnings. What to do? To my great surprise, the second man took out his wallet. From what looked to be an entirely healthy wad unless you were trying to find a comfortable seated position on the outmatched wallet meant to contain it, he pulled out five crisp twenties. I innately took the money and signed nothing. I didn't even fold it, choosing instead to just shove it in my pocket like an undelivered short stack of Chinese take-out menus and hightail it for my car. I even checked my rearview mirror on the way out of the parking lot, vaguely convinced that something criminal had just occurred. The point being - will I ever "play the lottery" again? No way, man. I'm out of that game. Well, at least until the next time my father-in-law comes through town.

Until the next page turns...may your own late-ish night visit to REI have you first taking the time to offer humble sympathies at Espresso Vivace. Brian is already missed by so many.