With tonight's Mega Millions jackpot ballooning to more than $540 million, some people are waiting more than four hours in the desert sun for a (slim) chance at glory. The Las Vegas Sun says that a line more than 1,000 people deep formed outside the Primm Valley Lotto Store on the Nevada-California border to wait between four and five hours for their turn to buy tickets. (Nevada is one of the few states that doesn't participate in Mega Millions, so the store is the closest outlet for Las Vegas residents.)
While the lines aren't quite that treacherous elsewhere, it's still clear that nearly everyone in the United States is either talking about or already planning to win the biggest single jackpot in lottery history. Residents of Northern California lined up to try their luck at a liquor store that has sold five winning Mega Millions tickets in the past. The store has sold 80,000 tickets including $800 worth to one pool of co-workers. Thousands (perhaps millions) of people who never play the lottery have been unable to resist the lure of such fabulous and easy riches.
It's a worth a reminder, of course, that your odds are still quite long (175.7 million-to-one) and your final take will be considerably less than the advertised total. If you take the lump sum payment as most winners do (instead of a 26-year annuity), your haul is around $389 million. After taxes? Your take home is closer to $230 million. And given the huge number of ticket buyers, it's highly likely that there will be more than one winner splitting the jackpot.
Still, for $1 it's a good gamble and pretty cheap dream. Though we have to say that the dreams of people posting to the #IfIWonTheLottoIWould hashtag on Twitter are surprisingly banal. Surely, people can imagine more interesting ways to spend $540 million in fantasy money than paying for college tuition (who needs a degree?) or new tires for your truck (why not buy a whole truck?) It's not like you're actually going to win the money — and no one will hold you to your Tweets if you did — so why not go wild? You can dream bigger than VIP tickets to see a boy band.
Or at least dream something. You know you're a pessimist when you can't even enjoy your own fake fantasy.
#IfIWonTheLottoIWould probably lose my ticket before getting the money because I'm incredibly unlucky— Mr Smiles (@CitrusSmiles) March 30, 2012
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.