I found two $2 Mass Lottery Bingo scratch cards in my jacket pocket this morning and I do recall toddling into the Store 24 at Davis last night somewhere after beer o'clock, when I'd gone and toasted the good fortune of two friends who are disappearing from our beloved town and reappearing somewhere in the borough of Brooklyn. We enjoyed many fine libations and participated in C's current project of taking videos of as many people as she can get simply saying "what" and then editing them all together for a giant chorus of what. Several of us took the concept a bit further, and somewhere on someone's video card there's video of me doing a brilliant Chevy Chase dribble-take as well as giving my pal J an english lesson and getting him to repeat "hhhWhat" with me. And then, on my way home, I was at the Store 24 buying my usual giant bottle of Gatorade for to help stave off any dehydration effects, and when I got my change back I dimly recall feeling like Charlie Bucket with a sudden cash windfall in his hand so off we went to buy the Wonka Bar and hopefully find the Golden Ticket, or at least enough money to buy another scratch ticket.
I must've chosen the game in fond memory of the nights where some of us flush in our early 20s would actually go out, get drunk, and play bingo at whatever local parish was holding a game. Mohegan Sun used to have a 24-hour bingo parlor as well, so if you had a group, you could go down at any time of night, get drunk, and play bingo. See the connection here between drunk and bingo? Oh, it tugs at the heartstrings more than any movie about a beloved dog ever could.
However this morning I realized, as I took out a quarter and dutifully began scratching, that of all the scratch ticket themes that the Massachusetts Lottery has presented to us over the years from MATCH 5 SUN SYMBOLS to MATCH THE DICE ROLLS to MATCH THE MATCHES, scratch-off bingo has got to be the strangest and, frankly, most useless. Oh, sure, you scratch off 27 bingo numbers on one side and match them up with the four bingo cards on the other side of the ticket, winning if you make lines, 4 corners, or an X, but bingo is really a real-time game of chance. Someone's up there with the giant rolling wire cage pulling balls out and reading them out. The numbers are chosen right there as you play. Here? These tickets? The numbers have already been chosen and calculated in a way so as to most likely lose. You're playing Premeditated Bingo, chuckles.
Even so, isn't it fun to take a coin and scratch away at that silvery stuff? It certainly is, and it's the only reason why people buy the darned things. Otherwise you could have the MAGIC PAPER game. I am spending two dollars on MAGIC PAPER! Now I have my MAGIC PAPER! I give it back to the guy behind the counter who scans it and says BEEP! YOU DO NOT WIN! How exciting and fun! And technically, you could buy your scratch tickets and get their barcodes scanned to see if you won without scratching a single scratch, but gosh, Jim, where's the fun in that? No, we needs our coin and silvery litter.
I realized that Premeditated Bingo was not as much fun as Regular Bingo after the first card (and it involves a lot more scratching than the ones that ask you to scratch off 8 boxes and match whatever) but the second card took the needlessless to a whole new level. As I scratched off the very first row of three ball numbers on the second card, I saw three teeny tiny letters between the numbers. The letters read O-V-T. And right then I knew I had a losing ticket on my hand.
In my days as a supermarket dogsbody, I learned quite a bit about the game from our store manager, who was known to buy up whole strips because she had some kind of theory about how many tickets in each strip it took to produce a winner. I don't know. Gamblers are a superstitious lot, and any theory they may have which could by some remote possible chance give them an advantage is a Good And Wholly Viable one. My manager taught me a few tricks when it came to the tickets, especially how to tell if you've got a winner without doing too much scratching. This was the only real thing I learned from her in my two-plus years of dogsbodying, so that's saying something.
See, there's three forms of validation on each Mass Lottery card: the code underneath the VOID IF REMOVED bar (and what a delicious rush of danger and temptation that is -- dare I? I could irrevocably and forever render it null and void! I decide who lives and who dies!), a barcode which you can scan with the Lottery Machine (which probably holdes the same numerical code as the one underneath MR. VOID IF REMOVED) and three teeny tiny letters printed somewhere in the main spot on the ticket where you do all your scratching.
Those teeny three-letter validation codes help determine at a glance how much the ticket has won, if indeed it has won. A two-dollar winner, for example, will have T-W-O somewhere on it. A four dollar winner is F-O-R, and a one hundred-dollar winner, if memory serves, is O-H-R. So forth and so on. I've been trying to find a list of 'em online, as I know someone has been gamblin' enough and who is thorough enough to want to catalog such a thing, but all I've found is that Pennsylvania has a similar bunch of codes on their cards and actually goes so far as to list the codes right on their official lottery website. The Massachusetts site doesn't and nobody in our state seems to want to rise to the occasion and complile a list, myself included.
All the losing tickets have three-letter codes as well, so you can easily tell if the one you have is a loser if you've seen enough of them and trust me, you end up seeing a lot of em. T-Y-H is a loser code, and so is N-E-W (which is confusing, because yeah, it's a word but it ain't a winning word.) And so is O-V-T. I hadn't even begun to play this ticket and already I knew it was a clunker.
So at least I didn't have to continue scratching because, honestly, all the scratching on the first ticket made my wrist hurt. But I scratched anyway.
God loves thems what follows through.