I could have been a thousandaire in Detroit. An extended layover had me pacing down its airport halls, zig-zagging between kiosks to kill time and winding up in front of a lottery ticket vending machine.
Winning money in Detroit seemed cruelly funny to me. I heard a news story recently – or maybe it was a rumor? – that a house goes for $1 in the most dejected quarters of the city. Detroit was in a bad way – it was somewhere you just didn’t go. Before I even landed, I assumed that it was my first and last time visiting. But…what if my numbers matched? I could own 10,000 houses – or maybe 5 really nice ones. I could upgrade my flight to first class. Could I be mayor of Detroit?
I waited until my flight was just about to board and then I scratched. While everyone else got antsy and gathered up their bags, I dragged a dull penny back and forth across my ticket, brushing away the tiny bits of silver veil that lay between me and fortune. A matching pair of numbers appeared early on (would I have to stop back on my return flight to collect my riches?) The line of passengers advanced as I pressed my penny to the last square, scratching even slower this time, prolonging the hope that I just might win.
I bought a losing lottery ticket in Detroit. I bought a shot glass, too, although I can’t remember the last time I took a shot, let alone at home. But Detroit is rugged – or at least my notion of it is – and so the Motor City-emblazoned glass seemed fitting. I imagined a wearied auto worker throwing back a finger of whiskey after stepping off the assembly line. Now we’d drink together in spirit.
I carried the glass in a little bag with my silver-stripped, unlucky ticket as I walked onto the plane.
After all, it wouldn’t have been fair for me to win the lottery in Detroit. To collect 10 grand in a city I’d regarded with such disdain, so confident I’d never return, without ever setting foot outside the airport.