In the early 1980’s the State Lottery program started up in Maryland.
I worked at a chemical plant in Dickerson Maryland back then. I’m not sure how it happened, but a group of about 20 people got together and decided each week to buy 2 tickets per person in the group.
Some how or another because I was the token “computer guy”, I was responsible for collecting the money, buying the tickets, printing a list of ticket numbers and holding onto the tickets.
If we hit any winning numbers I was also responsible for cashing in the tickets and distributing the money.
It all went well for many months until the Big Money week.
The pot was up to $20 millions, big money for back then. We had 20+ people in the pool. Everyone was excited about the possibility of hitting it big. During the week everyone pondered and played around with the numbers. 20 people in the pool, $1 Million each. Taxes back then were about 28% which meant we could take home about $720,000 each. Again, this was real big money for all of us.
I had collected all of the money, purchased the tickets, typed up the list of numbers and pinned the list up on the break room bulletin board. Some of the guys took copies of the list home with them.
I remember the drawings back then were done on Wednesdays. I always had a copy of the list of numbers with me so that when I heard the numbers I could write the winning numbers down on the list.
I turned the TV on just in time to hear the numbers – “2,7,12,23,34,65”
I wrote the numbers down on the paper and then started scanning the 40 sets of numbers for a match.
Halfway down the list – MATCH – Exact Match!! This was unbelievable. The pot had actually grown to $21.5 Million which meant each of us would likely take home about $774,000 each after taxes. Of course this would be spread out over 20 years, but most of us didn’t make that much per year working at Neutron. This was great money for all of us.
Before calling anyone I had to confirm the tickets, just in case I made a typo.
I got my wife to help me read off each ticket. Each week we read thru each ticket, just in case we had another typo that could turn a losing ticket into a winning ticket.
We got halfway thru the list when we found what we thought was the winning ticket. My wife read the numbers out loud, “2,7,12,23,34,56”
“Wait, don’t you mean 65,” I asked.
“No, it’s 56,” she said again.
“NO!!” I transposed the numbers.
Besides not winning the Big Money, this was not a big deal except for one thing. I had published a list that had the wrong number on it and 19 of my best friends thought we had hit it Big!
Just to set the stage a little more. This was back in the day before cell phones, text messaging, email or Social Media.
It did not take long for the phone to ring. Billy Owens, one of my best friends had a copy of the list of numbers and saw that we “WON” big, at least according to the transposed number.
My wife answered the phone and immediately told Billy that the list was wrong.
Here is when my best friend turned into someone different.
He hung the phone up and drove 15 miles to my house. He wanted to see the tickets and he wanted to see them NOW!
I handed him all of the tickets with the good ticket on top. I pointed at the typo and explained the mistake.
“Where is the winning ticket?” he yelled at me.
“This is it BIlly. But I typed the number wrong and we did not hit the Big Money”, I replied
I could not convince him I was telling the truth. It took lots of convincing from my wife for him to finally believe us.
The next day at work I had to do some more convincing, but eventually everyone believed me.
We cashed in the $1100 winning ticket and split it $55 to each player.
I started making photocopies of each ticket and posting the copy on the bulletin board. No more typos.
That was back in 1980’s. I can’t imagine the threats and doubts that would have happened if the pot was $460 Million like the MegaBucks games of today (2012). I mean $640 Million – dang typos.