Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gambling in Dallas

"I am shocked!  Shocked to discover that there is gambling going on in here!"
--Louie, Casablanca

So for about five minutes there, everybody in the country seemed to think they'd become multibajillionaires in one swell foop.  Something called "Powerball," which I guess is kind of like Rollerball, except that after the match they're less inclined to kill you.  The pot went up to like $600 million, which is almost enough for Romney to bet against Perry that one of them will change his mind about which two (three?) departments he's going to eliminate from the Cabinet after he loses the election.  Then two people won it, and everybody else heaved a collective sigh and went back to whatever they were doing.  Going to work, probably.  

At my office, like lots of others, there was a Lottery Pool, which, I gather, works like this:  Everybody tosses in a few bucks, somebody goes to buy tickets, and if, by that 154-in-600-million chance, somebody's ticket happens to win, everybody splits the pot 22 ways.  I'm sure we could each manage on our $27,272,727.72, in between feeding Namibia for a year and buying 6 or 700 pairs of size-eight black high heeled shoes.  But I found myself plunged into a Situation almost immediately.  You see, the last time The Lottery got high enough for an Office Pool to be generated, I wasn't an Official Buddhist yet.  I mean, I was walking around acting like one and so on, but I hadn't Taken The Vows, as it were.  This time around, I had (have).  And guess what one of those things is that Buddhists aren't supposed to do?

Yeah.  Right up there with not drinking alcohol.  

Mind you, Buddha didn't actually say, "Don't spend money on Powerball tickets; lots of poor people could use a good meal."  The actual quote in the Dhammapada is something to do with not betting on horse races, which could very well be where "Don't bet on the horses" comes from. What did Buddha have against betting on horses, you may want to know.  Well, from what I understand. it's a couple of things.  First off, it's an addictive behavior.  Bet on the horses once and you want to bet again, especially if you lose.  No, really, it's more addictive if you lose.  You want to get your money back and the best way possible is to--leave immediately and make prudent investments in the future.  Well, maybe, but no one ever thinks of that.  No, they think of betting on the next race to win back what they just lost.  Obviously, this cycle could continue as long as you have money.  I saw it on an episode of Intervention once.  

Besides being addictive, gambling is a form of attachment to the material world that's pretty hard to ignore.  If you're hoping to win money, you're grasping at money.  Grasping is attachment.  Attachment is one of the things that gets between you and serenity.  Walking the Middle Way means neither grasping at things nor pushing them away.  Kind of hard to do that when you're watching the races and yelling "Move your bloody ass!" at the white one with the black spot on his head.  

So, okay.  No gambling.  Got it, never really liked it anyway, casinos worry me, all the flashing lights are disorienting and you can never find the damn ladies' room to save your life.  The last time I was in one, which was a couple of months ago on my drive to Tulsa, I just went in to get lunch and spent most of the time I was in there worried that somebody would recognize me.  (Nothing else was open.  The whole town was essentially deserted.  Except the casino.  Go figure.)  But then, this office pool thing.  How was I going to gracefully bail out of the office pool?

Then I discovered that there was no bailing out.  I'd already entered.  The last time we had an office pool, we'd won the princely sum of $154. Not really enough to retire on, unless you live in Bangladesh and make shirts for Wal-Mart, but it was enough to buy another round of tickets for everybody.  So there I was.  Part of the office pool, whether I wanted to be or not.

One really, really good reason that I should not gamble is that I'm superstitious.  You wouldn't know it, because I keep it under wraps most of the time, but wake up that superstitious streak in my head and it won't shut up until I take an Ativan.  One of the really good ways to wake it up is to indulge in a little gambling.  My first thought, besides the one about how guilty I needed to feel about this gambling that I'd been forced into, was whether I'd jinxed the whole thing.  Surely if I were in the office pool, the pool had no way of winning.  My very presence would prevent it.  Only by exiting the office pool could I help my colleagues win.  

And if that wasn't silly enough, I then began to wonder if instead, we would win, and winning would ruin everything.  We'd all quit our jobs, burn through all the money on stupid frivolous things like sexually oriented T-shirts and Web episodes of Hell on Wheels and end up broke, destitute and lolling in a gutter somewhere.  Worse, we wouldn't be a law firm anymore.  We're a good little law firm.  What would happen to our clients?  What about all the justice we had yet to insist on, all the plaintiffs with multiple injuries that needed compensating?  I mean, the implications were staggering.  And, okay, I was staggering.  I've had a stupid cold for like two weeks.  It's affecting my balance a little.  

Eventually, I calmed down, we didn't win the lottery and things went on as normal.  Phew.  That was close.  I think we won eight bucks, which probably isn't enough for another office pool.  But if the pool thing comes up again, I think I'll try to stay in the one where I get wet.  Intentionally.  

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