We Found Hope in a Mega Millions Ticket
April 12, 2013 11:03 AM   Subscribe

“This restaurant lifestyle is killing us,” Mandy said one night as we took a break from our creative endeavors to eat Walgreen’s off-brand ice cream sandwiches on our front stoop in the cool, salty night air. “Look at us. It’s two o’clock in the morning and we’re still awake. Working. Eating. Drinking shitty wine. Every night. It’s unhealthy! How can I work well if I don’t live well?” “Yeah, it’s the pits. But what can we do?” I ate my ice cream sandwich slowly, nibbling around the edges. Mandy finished her sandwich in two bites and crumpled the paper wrapper into a ball. “I’ll figure out something...”
posted by showbiz_liz (45 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hopes & dreams are fragile. I hope Hawaii worked out for her.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:26 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This reminded me a lot of Dorothy Parker's story The Standard Of Living.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:31 AM on April 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Billfold does nonfiction stories? Well, anyway, this was great.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:35 AM on April 12, 2013


Moral of the story: If you are going to sell yourself, first learn how to sell.
posted by Ardiril at 11:35 AM on April 12, 2013


Pinning your hopes and dreams on gambling: Winning strategies for winners who win. More on winning at eleven. In the meantime, enjoy your catfood, plebes.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:36 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I dunno, this whole thing was rambly and pointless to me. It didn’t go anywhere. I guess if that was her point, success?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:36 AM on April 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I dunno, this whole thing was rambly and pointless to me. It didn’t go anywhere.

Thus presenting a clear and accurate picture of her, my, and most of my other young friends' lives!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:40 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had no idea where it was going but I really enjoyed reading that.
posted by exhilaration at 11:40 AM on April 12, 2013


showbiz_liz, yeah, I guess that was her point. It makes for a terrible piece of writing though.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:41 AM on April 12, 2013


I thought it was quite entertaining. Not the Grapes of Wrath, to be sure, but we're lucky to live in times that are bad, but not THAT bad.
posted by rikschell at 11:43 AM on April 12, 2013


I think the point was that the author moved to a place where the cost of living is exorbitantly high on a whim and with no plan, and learned that it can be very, very difficult to live a decent lifestyle in a place where the cost of living is exorbitantly high and you have no plan.

I think the point of the piece was that she learned, through great difficulty and severe life circumstances, that unless you already know where your money is coming from you shouldn't move to one of the most expensive places in the world to live.

Mary Mann is a native of Indiana. She lives in New York.


Or not.
posted by Shepherd at 11:44 AM on April 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


When I get overwhelmed with all the things I want to do and don't have the money for, I start daydreaming out loud with the sentence, "If I won the imaginary lottery I play in my head...." Because I will only fictionally play; I won't bother with the actual lottery.

I come from a family of lotto players--Quick Picks, scratch-to-win cards, Keno--and for every win (nothing exceeding a rare $10,000), it just makes them pony up more money to try and hit that rare sweet spot. I wish they wouldn't and put the money they spend on those things weekly towards savings.
posted by Kitteh at 11:44 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nice piece.
posted by brevator at 11:51 AM on April 12, 2013


I liked it. It showed what life is like as a directionless 20-something just taking whatever jobs you can get to try to pay the bills. And somehow still hold on to your day dreams.

I was never like that, so it was entertaining to me to read about lives not like mine. But I know people who are and were like that. :)
posted by jillithd at 11:56 AM on April 12, 2013


I think the point of the piece was that she learned, through great difficulty and severe life circumstances, that unless you already know where your money is coming from you shouldn't move to one of the most expensive places in the world to live.

Perhaps. I didn't get that from it though. It read to me like a microcosm of what life in the United States has become for so, so many people. Shitty jobs in service industries with little or no opportunity for advancement or wage increases, for instance, just the other day we saw right here that vast swaths of major metro areas are toiling away in dead end service jobs. Plan or no, the reality is fast becoming the same in many cities. And severe and difficult life circumstances are becoming standard circumstances for many - college grads, high school grads, recently laid off, removed from the rolls of the unemployed - it seems like the nation is listless and lost all around. Its political leaders are out to lunch and millions of people simply have no chance.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:58 AM on April 12, 2013 [32 favorites]


After too-much-yet-too-little-school you expect things to be handed to you neatly as a matter of course. I am now officially old.
posted by fleacircus at 12:03 PM on April 12, 2013


Perhaps. I didn't get that from it though. It read to me like a microcosm of what life in the United States has become for so, so many people. Shitty jobs in service industries with little or no opportunity for advancement or wage increases, for instance, just the other day we saw right here that vast swaths of major metro areas are toiling away in dead end service jobs.

Exactly. I'm just so baffled by the incredible inequality I see every day. I have what must be one of the last remaining semi-middle-class jobs - pay is low-end-of-okay, health insurance is great - but I live in a very poor neighborhood and pass through a much, much wealthier enclave daily. It's just unbelievable. It's like either you have a high-paying job in some banking industry and spend a ton of money on stupid shit or selfish shit or else you're scrabbling to get the last aging vegetable at Aldi's. And I feel like hardly anyone sees both worlds. It's total vertigo all the time. The people around me have it so, so hard and the people I work around have it so, so easy and there's no one in the middle anymore except me, and my days are probably numbered.
posted by Frowner at 12:05 PM on April 12, 2013 [50 favorites]


I just read her writing about a piece of her life, doing what a writer is supposed to do -- bring us right there into it with her. Good writing.

She's got a web-site up, seems she's doing what she wants to be doing, she's serious about it.

Thx for posting.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:08 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I get overwhelmed with all the things I want to do and don't have the money for, I start daydreaming out loud with the sentence, "If I won the imaginary lottery I play in my head...." Because I will only fictionally play; I won't bother with the actual lottery. I come from a family of lotto players--Quick Picks, scratch-to-win cards, Keno--and for every win (nothing exceeding a rare $10,000), it just makes them pony up more money to try and hit that rare sweet spot.

My father and a couple of his friends on our block when I grew up were like this (although not as bad, it was only an occasional indulgence); and then one of them won big. Like, 8-Million, record-setting-for-the-state big. I think Dad was too pissed off that it wasn't him to play after that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:08 PM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


After too-much-yet-too-little-school you expect things to be handed to you neatly as a matter of course.

Very few people think that way. What they do hope and believe is that if they work hard and do well in their studies, they have a good chance of getting a somewhat-meaningful, not-too-terrible job which will let them can live comfortably, and even advance if they work diligently.

The fact that in 2013 that's an unreasonable expectation for many or even most young people speaks volumes about where we are as a country.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:13 PM on April 12, 2013 [30 favorites]


Oh, and this whole article is very sad to me.

As a mathematician, I break from the crowd by thinking that if you're poor, spending a marginal amount of money on lottery tickets is actually fairly rational... the marginal value of the few dollars is effectively zero, and even the tiny chance of having a real life is enough to brighten your existence. (I can say this even though lotteries are vultures preying on the poor and desperate - particularly since they only pay out 45% on the dollar, and that 45% is taxed to death...)

And this article is sort of my argument why. If you're out of rational answers, do something irrational - "I examined the problem from all angles, and it was plainly hopeless. Logic informed me that under the circumstances, the only possible action would have to be one of desperation."

All those sad young people with nothing to look forward to. Today's news is generally making me sad, so here's a lottery joke.

"My whole life had collapsed around me, through no fault of my own. My wife had run off with my partner, all the money in the bank was gone, my sciatica was acting up and my hair had picked this year to start falling out.

"So every day I prayed. "God, I've tried to be a good man all my life, I go to temple, I help old people. I've never asked you any favors before, but now I'm begging you, just this one thing - please, please, just let me win the lottery."

"I prayed like this morning and night for a week, and after seven days God appeared to me in a dream. And he said, "Irving, meet me half way! Buy a ticket, already!""
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:37 PM on April 12, 2013 [18 favorites]


Did anybody else hear the title in Rihanna's voice?
posted by saul wright at 12:48 PM on April 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


After too-much-yet-too-little-school you expect things to be handed to you neatly as a matter of course.

Yeah, no. Not really. And that kind of attitude really belittles those of us who worked our asses 40 hours a week while going to school full time to try to minimize our debt out of school, but didn't have the social connections of family histories to get decent jobs. Some of us tried to do all the right things, and now, we're working the same jobs as all of our friends who went to Thailand and El Salvador every year to play (uh, from the sounds of it, just like the writer, according to her bio...). So, no, some us don't think we deserve those things.

All I want is a job that pays more than 12 fucking dollars an hour before my kid gets old enough to realize just exactly how poor we are. Because the feeling you get when you're 7 or 8, and you realize "oh shit we're poor" is by far one of the worst.

But yeah, this piece hits all the wrong spots for me right now. It's fairly well written, and quite illustrative for the times (some of us) we're in.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:59 PM on April 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


It read to me like a microcosm of what life in the United States has become for so, so many people.

I actually agree with you -- I was just being flippant, noticing that the entire premise of the piece was how hard it was to make a living in one city being capped with a byline that states that the author now lives in an even more expensive city.
posted by Shepherd at 1:12 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


the marginal value of the few dollars is effectively zero, and even the tiny chance of having a real life is enough to brighten your existence.

This is why I always get a little pissed at people who like to repeat the old saying about the lottery being a tax on the stupid. Actually, I can do the math, and spending a buck for the fantasy of having fuck-you money is one of the cheapest, most side-effect-free highs there is.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:17 PM on April 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


I dunno, this whole thing was rambly and pointless to me. It didn’t go anywhere. I guess if that was her point, success?

The point is: your twenties are a weird time in life where incredible energy and resilience are often frustrated by a lack of wisdom or clear direction, which leads to an endless sense of treading water and angst.

The point is: barely scrapping by is exhausting for the young and unattached just as it is for families and older workers.

The point is: it's a story. You're supposed to read it, reflect on your own experiences and figure out what the point is for you.
posted by midmarch snowman at 1:48 PM on April 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I hardly ever buy a lottery ticket, because when I do I'm genuinely disappointed when I don't win. Yes, I know what the odds are, but some part of my subconscious is saying, "well, you never know..."
posted by Daily Alice at 1:54 PM on April 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I hit a $40 winner off an instant ticket once, gave my brother-in-law half of it -- he was with me, why not? Probably I've spent a hundred bucks over my lifetime, maybe more but not too much more I don't think, most every bit of it just a random thing, like maybe I'm in the store and there it is and I buy it, scratch it off, and then throw the useless cardboard away. I did buy maybe $30 worth this last holiday season, bought on the way to a small party, gave a few of them to everyone there -- I passed them out at the table over dessert, we all scratched them out happily, everybody got a kick out of it, and what else can you buy someone for five bucks that gives them a chuckle?
posted by dancestoblue at 3:03 PM on April 12, 2013


And I feel like hardly anyone sees both worlds.

This a million times. My parents moved from middle class to upper-middle class as I grew up and I'd never had much experience with lower classes in America, or even much of a framework of thought about classes.

It's ... shocking, really. Just shocking, how badly how many people are living, and how fast the overall average seems to be sinking into the ground, pulling those on the edge down in. So many people who a few years ago were barely pulling by and are now just fucked. Fucked.

It's very hard to find people who have a visceral feel for how fast this seems to be cleaving apart, and how poor the trajectory looks for us all in a country with so many people with so little hope.

The employment and stock market numbers they talk about on the news are such a sad, vapid joke against people's lived experiences in this country.
posted by crayz at 3:11 PM on April 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


After too-much-yet-too-little-school you expect things to be handed to you neatly as a matter of course.

Did you actually read TFA? It's a story about two twenty-somethings working their asses off at shitty low-wage jobs so they can go home and work late into the night on their dreams. The narrator is actually working three jobs at one point. Hardly the actions of an entitled brat.

I'm guessing a lot of people just have that knee-jerk response to anything involving young, creative people, but, frankly, that's really crappy. I know it's tempting to read something like this and find a way to blame the victim, but seriously, it's a widespread issue.

Anyway, I loved this piece. It was so evocative. I was a lot like the narrator, but much luckier in that I graduated from college in 2000, so I got to be aimless and have "real" jobs in between aimlessness stints. Something tells me I wouldn't have gotten away with that if I'd graduated in 2008.

Mary Mann is a native of Indiana. She lives in New York.

Or not
.

According to the bio on her website, she's in grad school in New York. Hopefully on a fellowship! Anyway, it's easy to just say that people shouldn't live in expensive places, but there are a lot of reasons some people feel compelled to. Wouldn't it make more sense to make it so that people who are willing to work hard could live a modest, middle-class lifestyle anywhere in the nation? Or is that a crazy socialist pipe dream?
posted by lunasol at 3:16 PM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


that unless you already know where your money is coming from you shouldn't move to one of the most expensive places in the world to live.

And where is that, any city of more than 10k people in america? What? that's pretty much how rent costs in any actual city nowadays. all my friends up and down the west coast are paying 5-600 or more a month even in smaller towns like olympia WA. And that's generally to split a place. My choices now in seattle are in that range no matter what part of town i'm in, and my friends who live up to an hour drive away are still paying about that much but then have to deal with commuting if they work in town.

Where should these people live? smaller theoretically cheaper towns have way, way less available jobs and you end up back in the same position when your rent is cheaper but you can still barely pay it because you're working super-part-time at walmart and can't even dream of getting more hours. This isn't some situation they over-reached themselves in to when it's basically the same game anywhere you go besides maybe the NYC area(and i even have some friends living there on the cheap doing this kind of work) or san francisco proper. People often move to the big city because there's no jobs in their home town or shitty college town.

It honestly bugs the shit out of me that lots of people are so quick on the draw of telling people like this to quit their whining and shovel harder, or become convinced that there's some entitlement going on they can attack.

This kind of article speaks to me. All these people did what they were told, went to college and such and got out and now they're fucked with no free time to even enjoy the lives they're slaving away to barely sustain.

If i lost my job i would immediately be back down their shoveling with everyone i know, and i'm just ever so slightly above that line anyways.
posted by emptythought at 3:44 PM on April 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I hit submit a bit too quickly i realized, my closing statement and primary point was meant to be...

Is it seriously entitled bullshit to expect a reasonable life somewhere that isn't middle america without working 7 days a week?
posted by emptythought at 3:45 PM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is it seriously entitled bullshit to expect a reasonable life somewhere that isn't middle america without working 7 days a week?

What makes you think that living in middle America exempts someone from putting in some long hours to get ahead? That's some entitled bullshit right there.
posted by Ardiril at 4:36 PM on April 12, 2013


the marginal value of the few dollars is effectively zero

Really? Isn't the main argument for progressive taxation the idea that the marginal value of a dollar is actually higher for poor people than rich people?
posted by jacalata at 4:49 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really? Isn't the main argument for progressive taxation the idea that the marginal value of a dollar is actually higher for poor people than rich people?

Well, there's actually a lot of great arguments for progressive taxation, but I assume that's not where you're going in this comment...

For a someone with a billion dollars, the marginal value of a dollar expenditure is low. The marginal benefit of a fantasy involved in winning a million dollars is also substantially less than for poor people.

Now, for someone with 20,000 dollars, while the marginal value of that one dollar is more, its still just a buck (I'll just buy cheap spaghetti for a week instead of the fancy stuff). And the value of the diversion from the million dollar fantasy is amazing. It kept the protagonist high for a week. Hell, that's better than a box of wine!

Not like college loans has put in a place where I would make these types of justifications in a convenience store check-out lines...
posted by midmarch snowman at 5:48 PM on April 12, 2013


I agree that the value of the lottery ticket is higher for poor people, and quite possibly worth the cost. But arguing that the marginal value of a few dollars is effectively zero would equally support buying the famed latte every morning, and work against any argument to raise the minimum wage. I'm not sure if I'm really arguing that the marginal value is higher than 'effectively zero', or perhaps that marginal value is a poor way to think in personal finance.
posted by jacalata at 5:59 PM on April 12, 2013


I liked this piece. Maybe it's because I'm a little bit desperate now, I can understand how you can let yourself fall into magical thinking. They really believed the impossible and thought they would win millions.
posted by beau jackson at 6:37 PM on April 12, 2013


This is why I always get a little pissed at people who like to repeat the old saying about the lottery being a tax on the stupid. Actually, I can do the math, and spending a buck for the fantasy of having fuck-you money is one of the cheapest, most side-effect-free highs there is.

It's not the first ticket for a draw that reveals you as stupid. That's just having a flutter. It's buying more than one ticket for a draw. And when I see the sad folk who do that I think lotteries need to be outlawed.
posted by srboisvert at 6:43 PM on April 12, 2013


At a certain point you look at your life trajectory and realize that it won't be like a movie. After a while you realize it won't even be like a commercial for Home Depot.
posted by codacorolla at 7:05 PM on April 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is it seriously entitled bullshit to expect a reasonable life somewhere that isn't middle america without working 7 days a week?

You do understand that the desirability and the resulting set of people who have enough variety of opinion on that particular concern is the reason that the prices are so high, right?

Is it seriously entitled bullshit to expect a reasonable life somewhere that isn't middle america without working 6 days a week?
.. without working 5 days a week?
.. without working 4 days a week?
.. without working 3 days a week?
...
posted by rr at 7:18 PM on April 12, 2013


What makes you think that living in middle America exempts someone from putting in some long hours to get ahead? That's some entitled bullshit right there.

This was absolutely not my point, i was just directly attacking the people who seem to pop out the woodwork every time someone brings up having trouble as a young adult living in basically any coastal city or remotely desirable place to live. And their complaints are in relation to not getting ahead at all and essentially just running on a treadmill.

The gist of the people attacking them seems to be "you are entitled for wanting to live in X city with Y parameters(cost of living, time spent working, income level, etc)" even when these expectations are essentially being able to survive working full time.

The pain being expressed here is the fact that a hell of a lot of people are working two jobs, or way more than 40 hours a week just to stay afloat. And people like the folks that was addressed too basically go "tough shit, move somewhere else" and completely miss the point that as you stated, you can't get off this hamster wheel. There is no magical city where the jobs are plentiful and people aren't struggling anymore except for maybe the oil fields in north dakota or wherever the hell, and that's a brief fart anyways. You're either underemployed, or overreached on rent, or some combination of the above and even more shitty circumstances. You trade one pain for another.

Because yes, Shit Is Fucked™ pretty much everywhere.

The entire complaint as with a lot of this stuff being put forth by the hecklers who refuse to have any sympathy is that they aren't being fed in to the meat grinder like the proper poor people being fucked over somewhere else, even though the end result is the same. They're "entitled" because they went to college and have(or had, in the case of a lot of people whose families are now fucked) "decent middle class families", Or because they went to college, Or because they're stuck on the grind in some town that's "too ritzy for them", or a million other excuses to not have any sympathy for them. The fact of the matter is that this is the same rot that fucked over people in small towns that they seem to actually have sympathy for just presenting itself in another way.

Some high horses definitely need to be dismounted here, but you and i are definitely on the same side of this argument. It's just that as with previous MeFi comments i probably could have expressed my thoughts a bit more eloquently.
posted by emptythought at 10:55 PM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


A poignant little story, and yes, it's a lot like Dorothy Parker's "The Standard of Living", and has parallels to my own experiences in my early twenties in its depiction of how the disadvantaged young try to deal.
posted by orange swan at 10:24 AM on April 13, 2013


The entire complaint as with a lot of this stuff being put forth by the hecklers who refuse to have any sympathy

We can be deeply sympathetic without failing to note that "why can't I live in the coolest places in the country without having to struggle as a young person to make ends meet" is a very poorly thought out complaint. I'd like to work a day a week and live in Paris, why can't I do that? Feel my pain.
posted by rr at 1:30 PM on April 13, 2013


In all seriousness... where do you suggest they go instead? Jobsville, USA? I moved away from my sleepy state because THERE WERE NO JOBS FOR ME THERE, and moved to NYC. After some seriously rough months, I now have a good job, which, despite my good degree and previous work experience, I ONLY got due to a network of older friends that just so happened to be in place for me already.

I get the impression that if you saw me, working in my professional job, you'd think "she's one of the good ones, not like these lazy baristas who think they get to write a novel." Well, I WAS one of those 'no-good lazy kids' and I still would be, if not for an incredible stroke of luck. And by 'incredible stroke of luck' I mean 'the opportunity to take an entry-level job with benefits.' LUCKY ME.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:38 PM on April 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


In all seriousness... where do you suggest they go instead? Jobsville, USA?

Not by moving to NYC, LA or SF which are incredibly expensive (high burn rate) and which have sufficient coolness to draw enormous numbers of young people with poor plans who then distort the low end of the market severely.

I mean this sincerely: the problem is not simply that the economy is bad and you do not correct a youth of bad decisions by moving elsewhere. You are conflating a bunch of different problems (bad career selection, poor training, lack of experience, genuinely crappy overall economy). The choice is not podunk-or-NYC and the issue is more than just location.
posted by rr at 5:06 PM on April 13, 2013


« Older Yesterday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed ...  |  Russian amateurs may have foun... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments