Hello Again, Sydney

One Sydney-sider's experiences moving back to Sydney after a long absence overseas.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Striking it lucky

One of the big opiates of the masses here in Oz comes in the form of little coloured balls with numbers on the side. Millions of people watch as these balls swirl around in a transparent container and with the help of a special machine and an attractive hostess, eight are picked out. One by one they roll down a ramp into the ball holder and the camera zooms in for the final announcement: "And the supplementary number is... 36!" Yes, it's the lottery.

Someone once told me that 7 out of 10 Australians count on winning Lotto as part of their long-term financial strategy. That's quite a lot of people, considering the odds of getting the first prize are 8,145,060 to one. The other thing that makes me scratch my head when I'm lining up to put my entry in, is how many of the people who play are pensioners. Not that the elderly don't have things to spend money on, but you know, they must be thinking of spending a lot of cash in a relatively short time. My mum is retired and plays lotto religiously and she says she hopes to win to help her kids out. (Should I be grateful, or concerned that I still need helping out?) She determines her entry using a combination of birthdays and ages of relatives and friends, though sadly, we've never been able to help her out by providing the winning numbers. I'm actually a bit ambivalent about the idea of having loads of money; it would probably just make life more complicated, though it's a challenge I'd be prepared to take on.

In Colombia they had lotteries too, but something about gambling in foreign currencies just doesn't do it for me. Especially with the Colombian peso (where $1 = 1800 pesos), the top prize will send you cross-eyed just reading it, never mind winning it.

They do have a smaller-scale version of the lotto too, called chance. In chance, you only have to choose three numbers so it's better odds but smaller prizes. My mother-in-law is partial to a bet, and one day as we were walking down the street. she stopped to check out a dead butterfly on the ground. "Look at the number on the wing," she told me. I looked as hard as I could but couldn't see anything, though I nodded when she said "9 1 3". So the next day, she put a bet on the chance, and what do you know, the numbers came up! Next time I'll look on both wings - maybe I'll win the big one.