I didn’t buy a lottery ticket last week. I wasn’t afraid of the odds, I just knew money couldn’t make me happier than I am right now.
I know, I know. Too many pink Sweet ‘n’ Low packets. But hey, it’s not all saccharine. There really is evidence-based research on this lottery happiness thing.
Back in 1978, psychologists from Northwestern University right here in Chicago published a study called Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? Our Illinois State Lottery had just begun back then, and the researchers asked 22 winners to rate their happiness months after the initial elation of winning the big bucks. In addition, they asked the winners how much pleasure they were taking in mundane activities like reading a magazine or meeting friends for coffee. Then they interviewed 58 people who had not won the lottery but lived in the same neighborhoods as the winners. The results showed that months after the winners were announced, the non-winners were just about as happy as the lottery winners, And by then the so-called losers were finding much more pleasure in everyday activities than the winners were.
As long as they were at it, the researchers decided to interview 29 people who were injured in accidents that same lottery year, too. In each case, the accident left the victim paralyzed. After initial sadness and depression, the newly-disabled people rated their pleasure in everyday activities slightly higher than that of the lottery winners, and their life satisfaction was nearly the same.
It’s Monday. After I finish the cup of coffee Mike made and poured for me after we woke up together this morning, I’ll flip on the radio and listen to some pop music while getting dressed. Ben Folds? Jackson Five? Warren Zevon? Stevie Wonder? From there I’ll head outside with Whitney. It’s a cool, sunny, spring morning in Chicago. Maybe we’ll take the long way home, listen for birds, smell the lilacs.
Back in the apartment, I’ll spend a few hours on my part-time job for Easter Seals and then give Flo a call. She’ll tell me about everyone who phoned her over the weekend. She’ll say how much she is looking forward to sitting outside today and let me know what she has planned for the rest of the week. Her credo is to do only one thing each day that takes her out of her apartment. No more, no less.
Our call will end the way it always does. “I love you, Mom.” “I love you, too.” Flo turns 96 later this month.
Out with Whitney again. Maybe this time I’ll brush her, too. Mike is working from home today, so I might listen to a book while waiting for him to finish. I’m re-reading my favorite book from childhood, one my older brothers and sisters read aloud to me when they were teaching me to read: The Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh.
After my trip to the 100 Acre Wood? Off to Costco! I’ll hang on to the back of the cart, eavesdrop on people from all walks of life, try to decipher the dozens of foreign languages I hear, all while Mike pulls us through the aisles. He’ll stop periodically, say “Feel this!” and drop an enormous oversized jar of some unknown substance into my hands. “Miracle Whip!” he’ll exclaim with glee. I always roll my eyes, but I can’t help but laugh, too. And I can’t help but relish, ahem, the $1.50 hot dog and pop we enjoy before we leave. Free refills, too!
After unloading the Land of the Giants groceries at home, we might slink over to Hackney’s to share some wine with friends: Mondays are half-price bottle nights.
Back in our apartment building, if our favorite maintenance man James is working, we’ll stop and talk baseball before stepping into the elevator. Opening day is coming up, Chicago! A dear old college friend emailed today to say he can’t make it to the White Sox home opener on April 13. He’s mailing us his tickets. For free. Who wouldn’t think they’d won the lottery after a day like today? And the thing that makes me the happiest: I didn’t even buy a ticket!