Whoring Out Your Head – Part 4

And the payment isn’t just the money, it’s all the mind-stuff and mind-time you give to it.

In timeshare terms, the Lottery lives in your head in all that time you spend dreaming about what you’ll do with the money. The time you spend deciding which tickets to buy, and then buying them, scratching them, suffering the small disappointments, and the small seductive wins. The time you spend talking about it with friends, the time you spend defending each week’s purchase with yourself, or your spouse, or your skeptical kids. The time you spend thinking about how much money you have to devote to it this week. The time you spend checking the numbers, or watching the drawings on TV. The time you spend waiting for the numbers to be announced. Even the time you spend picking up your losing tickets and chucking them in the trash.

All of that time and money and mind, however small an amount you think it is, and however worthwhile an investment you believe each Lottery ticket purchase to be, is taken from you. Subtracted from you.

In the time you spend doing all this Lottery-related thinking, the Lottery OWNS you.

You could even argue that, in terms of the personal expense of giving over part of your mind to the Lottery, it’s better to lose than to win. Because a losing ticket just goes in the garbage, and you stop thinking about it. But a winning ticket has to be dealt with. You have to spend extra time and mind on it. Collecting your winnings, deciding what to do with them, talking happily with friends about the win, musing about the Big Win that you now know could really still happen, convincing yourself you should buy still more tickets.

All of these timeshares demand a little bit of your mind. A little bit of YOU. Which gives you less time – your mental access time – in which to BE you.

Maybe you’re still thinking this is a silly point? That after all, the coupons, the special deals, the free sandwiches, the Lottery, they’re just minor little parts of our society, our ordinary lives?

But the cumulative aggregate of time and mind you spend on such things, living as we do in the age of advertising and marketing, is significant.

Your time.

Your mind.


In their hands.

My feeling is, if Subway wants 5 minutes a week of MY time and mind, they’re going to have to damned well offer more than 50 cents for it, and the privilege of carrying around that goddam card. (Which, considering the “free” sandwich is a complete farce, they aren’t really paying anyway.)

If the state government (partnered up with a Lottery company) wants a half hour of my mind-time and ten dollars of my money every week or so, they’re going to have to give me something real for it.

Because there’s only so much of me to go around, I want all of it, both my time and my mind, exclusively available for MY use. No “reward” – especially a phony one tinkered up by some bright young jackass in a corporate marketing department – is great enough to take that away from me.

For all the dreams and aspirations you want in life, for every accomplishment you hope to accomplish, for all the thinking you have yet to do and the understanding you hope to grow into as you get older, you have this one asset: your mind, and the time you invest in operating it.

Every coupon, voucher and special “deal” is nothing more than a fishing lure, a bright bit of fakery dangled in your face for this one purpose: To get you to think the things they want you to think. To own some part of your mind. To own some part of YOU.

For me, at least, the point isn’t that I don’t want a sandwich. The point is that I don’t want those people in my head.

There aren’t enough sandwiches in the world to get me to give ground on THAT.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Looking Past the Bright Sun of Crazy
Looking Past the Bright Sun of Crazy
Thoughts on “Privilege”
Race and Culture Again: Bessie and Lois
  • Steinar

    This really spoke to me. I have never thought of this in exactly that way, but it clicked when you presented it. Though, I find it somewhat ironic that this best summary of this dynamic I have read was published on a site which, at least partly, is financed by ads. As an aside, a grocery store chain around these parts have “always” used in their ads the fact they have no bonus programs or membership cards. You walk in, you get your groceries, you pay, you leave. End of story. It is a small irony in the fact that works as a selling point as well, at least for me.

  • frustum

    Hank, I am not a lottery ticket kind of guy either, nor a gambler. For me, the pain of losing a dollar is greater than the pleasure of winning a dollar.

    My mother was a different story, and played the lottery every week for about 35 years until the week of her death. She knew very well that the odds of hitting it big were low. She knew very well that her expected earnings was negative. But the entertainment value, to her, was worth the price of the ticket. The anticipation of the reading of the numbers on TV, the tingle of thinking maybe this week is the week was fun for her, and the disappointment was small as she didn’t expect to win anyway. Even with terminal lung cancer and a tube in her nose feeding her oxygen 24/7 and full knowledge that she would be dead in weeks didn’t deter her. It wasn’t the promise of yachts and mink stoles that propelled her, just the weekly thrill.

    You might as well complain that only suckers watch movies or read works of fiction because it simply eats up time and fills your head with imaginary scenarios.

  • Old Fogey

    OK, four posts in place, so time to comment on the whole thing.

    Well, I sort of get what you are saying. Organisations, particularly businesses, want to get into your head and waste your brain time for their own purposes; the way to avoid this is just to avoid them and ignore their games.

    Well, I agree about their intents and motives, but I disagree about how to deal with it.

    Here’s my take on things.

    First of all, I simply don’t see most of the advertising that they are using to prepare your brain. I don’t have a TV, and when I do watch some (eg on holiday) I am so out of touch with the media that I can’t always tell what they are trying to sell me. Hence I have a fair chance of making up my own mind what to buy.

    Second, I have read up on marketing techniques, so I understand a lot of what a supermarket is trying to do by their labelling, shelf arrangements, choice of colour etc.

    Third, I play their games to just the extent that suits me. Two examples;

    With the lottery, we buy one ticket between us most weeks. We ignore the fancier variants, and never buy scratch cards. The net expenditure of perhaps £30 a Year achieves our goal of putting a little gloss on the fantasy (see my post in Part 1). “They” want us to buy more chances, to get hooked on scratch cards etc. But we don’t. We get just what we want.

    A major supermarket chain has a middle size branch conveniently near me. They have a loyalty card scheme – every three months you get some cash vouchers to spend in the store, plus discount vouchers.

    What they expect to get out of it is to drag me in as a “loyal customer” to make more of my purchases with them.

    But it doesn’t work. I buy exactly what I want from them, which amounts to no more than a third of my shopping, and then I leave to buy other things in other shops, or direct from the farm.

    So now imagine that I refuse to have the loyalty card. I don’t get the cash and other vouchers, but I still shop there for the items they have that I want – and I still pay the inflated price that covers the cost of the scheme. Conclusion? I LOSE!

  • http://penstemon.wordpress.com Larry Ayers

    You are a good writer, Hank! Succinct and to the point, and well-reasoned points to boot. Keep up the good work!

    I used to work the overnight shift in a convenience store. I sold many thousands of lottery tickets. I’d try to talk people out of it, with little luck. To the regulars I would say:

    “Why don’t you keep a little notebook for just a year, and record what you are spending, how much you lose, and how much you win?”

    No takers.

    I have met one lottery buyer, just one, who keeps track. This woman uses a spreadsheet, and has done this for years. She told me, “Oh, I’m just about even. At least I do know where I stand!”

    One commenter above writes about the entertainment value of the lottery. This is a valid point, and there is a socialization value as well for certain lonely people.

    I remember one guy who liked to induce me to pick his numbers for Lotto, or scratch his ticket. His rationale: “If I lose then the bad luck is yours and not mine!”

  • Didaktylos

    I never buy scatchcards – the number of winners is fixed in advance. I do often buy draw lottery tickets (I am UK based) though never more than one line for any given draw. I take the money from the small amount that I earmark each month for “frivolous cash purchases” – if I didn’t get a lottery ticket it would be a packet of biscuits (cookies to those of the transatlantic persuasion) or something else I didn’t really need. When I’ve used up my “frivolous cash purchases” budget for the month – I do without.

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