Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#010 In which our hero plays the lottery. Poorly.

About a year ago the battery in our cordless phone died. Naturally, it wasn't a C-cell or AA or something that we conveniently have in the house, it was an odd cordless-phone-specific high-density-something-or-other that forced me to truck out to Radio Shack.

I don't really like going to Radio Shack; it always makes me feel dumb. The rows and rows of obscure little electronic components sealed in tiny baggies... I have no idea what they're for. I'd love to be the guy that buys half a dozen things at Radio Shack then goes home and builds his own robot, but I'm not. Usually it goes something like this:
ME: I broke the antenna off my boom box. Do you guys sell replacement antennas?
CLERK (Looking over my shoulder to the rack of 50 different brands of replacement antennas): Yes we do.
ME: Okay, which do I need?
CLERK: That depends. Does your radio have a framestat receiver or a ramestat receiver?
ME: Um... should I know that?
So I go in there with the dead battery in hand, hoping that I can just hand it to the guy and say "sell me one of these."

But, wonders of wonders, when I get there they have a revolving kiosk of phone batteries. I won't even have to talk to the sales guy! So I spend the next ten minutes looking for my battery. It's printed on the side that it's "Type 342," and the blisters of batteries are also clearly labeled by type. So I'm turning the display, looking for 342, 342... 352, 421, 221... no 342. So I finally break down and ask the guy behind the counter.

Why is it, do you think, that Radio Shack is staffed exclusively with middle-aged white geeks? I've never seen a 16-year-old just working a summer job, or, come to think of it, a woman. Ever.

Anyway, the guy looks at my battery, confirms it's "Type 342," and does exactly what I did: rotates the display looking for the battery. Some of the batteries are out of place, so it's possible that there's one I missed. But after another ten minutes of this guy mumbling "hmm.. 342, 342... 352, 421, 221... no 342..." I'm ready to leave. But, just as I'm about to bail, I notice the corner of a package that has fallen under the display. I fish it out, and it's "Type 342!"

"Wow," Mr. Radio Shack says, "That's incredible that you found the only 342 in the store. You should play that number in the lottery."

And that's exactly what I do. I'm not a lottery guy at all, but what the hell, I figure. There's a lottery store right here in the mall, and I'll only play a buck. With the "Type 342" in my pocket, I plunk down my $1 to play my number. The nice lady behind the counter looks up, types in "342" in her lottery machine, then asks "Straight or boxed?"

This, if you didn't guess, is a critical moment of our tale. For anyone even less lottery-literate than I am, "straight" means you win if the number comes up "3-4-2." "Boxed" means you win if any combination of "3-4-2" comes up. You win more money straight, naturally. So I play it straight.

And what comes up that night? "3-2-4." If I had boxed it, I would have won something like $80. Instead, I got zero.

And so, once again thanks to Radio Shack, I end up feeling dumb.


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