How Not to Pretend to Win the Lottery

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The truly weird story that has captivated our attention for some unknown reason (slow news week? Love of crazy people? Love of lotteries? Some combination of all of those things?) is that of McDonald's employee Mirlande Wilson, who on Monday claimed she won Maryland's Mega Millions Lottery ticket, which would have netted her $105 million after taxes. And the story has legs! The fact that Wilson been on the pages of actual newspapers pretty much every day this week is nearly as ludicrous as her tale. After claiming she was the big winner, lots of interesting things ensued, creating, essentially, a handbook of what not to do when you maybe do (or don't) win the lottery. We've broken it down for you, because if we do not learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them:

Upon realizing that you may or may not be the winner of the Mega Millions lottery, do not:

  • Announce to everyone that you are the winner of the Mega Millions lottery.
  • Give the New York Post an exclusive about you being the winner of the Mega Millions lottery.
  • Tell your coworkers that you won but they didn't, even though you bought tickets with them. 
  • Agree to share your winnings with said coworkers upon threats of death. 
  • Say you're actually not sure you won, but some of the numbers looked "familiar."
  • Claim you hid your winning ticket in the McDonald's where you work—even though your coworkers say you didn't return to the McDonald's after buying your ticket.
  • Call a press conference.
  • Show up to your press conference 45 minutes late.
  • Show up to your press conference "wearing a snug pink T-shirt and baseball cap emblazoned with a cartoon pig and the words 'Sweet Swine.'"
  • Have your lawyer tell all the journalists gathered at the press conference that they should go home so you and your kids "can go back to a normal life." 
  • Be OK with your lawyer saying that he "cannot say with any certainty this ticket exists."
  • Casually back off your own story at the end of the week, saying that you lost the ticket. Or "misplaced" it. It's somewhere! Or maybe it's not: Say, “I have no idea where it is. I’m not sure I have it." 
  • Say, though, that there are some places it could still be, where you haven't looked: "I haven’t even looked in my uniform pants yet,” for instance. 
  • Say that you'll ask for your money when you find the ticket again. 
  • Insist, to NBC, “I did not make up no story to get no attention."
  • End up the subject of a Friday Daily News poll: "Do you think Mirlande Wilson won the lottery?": "Yes -- she could have misplaced the ticket." "No way, she's totally lying." "I'm not sure." (Answer: b. That is, if we bet on lotteries.)
  • Remember that this all how it was supposed to work out. “It’s a blessing from God. If it’s meant to be, we’ll [find and] claim the ticket."

Of course, it could be worse. Wilson could have actually won the lottery, a reality that turns out to be positively disastrous for most people. So for that, she is our hero of the week, though we don't think we could bear it for another. Actual Mega Millions winners, please come forward and end this emotionally strenuous news cycle.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.