I picked up many discarded California lotto scratchers in the parking lots of shopping centers around my neighborhood following the Great Recession. Someone bought a scratcher, went back to their car, discovered that it wasn’t a winner, and tossed it out window. These people don’t know that discarded scratchers are eligible for a second chance drawing on the Internet. I found 500+ scratchers, entered the numbers, and never won anything during a two-year period. And then the scratchers disappeared in recent years. As I take public transit to my new job after being out of work for eight months, I’m finding scratchers again at the bus stops and parking lots.
When my father and I played of scratchers, we could always count on at least one winning ticket for every $5 USD spent. (The holiday-themed scratchers were the most generous and frequently sold out of all the scratchers.) The most my father ever won was $500 USD, and I won $20 USD from time to time. We almost always break even when playing, seeing how long we can play multiple scratchers after getting back our five bucks. One time I played 22 scratchers in a row as I kept getting free ticket winners.
From what I read elsewhere, scratchers are less generous than before and less worthwhile to play. That could explain the dearth of scratchers in the parking lots. I’ve seen people entering a huge stack of scratchers into their laptop at the Starbucks cafe inside Safeway. Like people who collect bottles and cans from garbage cans and dumpsters before dawn, perhaps these people roam the parking lot to collect scratchers.
As for the second chance drawing, it doesn’t cost anything to play except for a few minutes to enter the numbers. Sometimes the website refuses to accept the number because the scratcher is a winner. One time my father gave me a poker-themed scratcher that was a winner, but we couldn’t figure out why it was a winner. The winning poker hand was quite obscure. I got a buck back when I turned it in at Safeway. If I couldn’t win a second chance drawing after entering 500+ scratchers, perhaps no one else can either.
Does finding scratchers in the parking lot indicate that people are now confident in the economy?
I don’t know. I’m not going to rush out to play scratchers again. Since I had four jobs in the last four years, and unemployed for three years out of the last six years, I haven’t financially recovered from the Great Recession. I’m reluctant to spare five bucks for scratchers. I have no problems in picking up someone else’s discarded scratchers to enter the second chance drawing and removing litter from the environment.
The familiar “POP!” sound from outside of my apartment on a hot summer day meant that the power transformer out on the street gone kablooey, plunging the complex into a brownout that produces enough power to run small appliances and flickering lights, turning on the hallway emergency lights in the hallways (if the batteries weren’t dead), and making the filter in my fish tank gurgle loudly in protest. This time around my apartment suffered a brownout that affected only the kitchen and the bathroom. Poking my head out into the hallway, the overhead lights were still at full power. No flickering lights or dead batteries. It didn’t make sense.
After checking the circuit breakers, my initial assumption was that one-half of the circuit breakers went bad. This happened shortly after I moved into my apartment nearly nine years ago, where the circuit breakers for the kitchen went bad and the maintenance guy replaced them. Fortunately, this assumption was wrong. The power came back on 90 minutes later. A PG&E truck drove around the complex to check out the power meters in the outdoor utility boxes.
Why did the brownout affect one-half of the circuit breakers?
The answer that made sense was that one-half of the circuit breakers were on a separate power circuit. The maintenance crew enlarged the utility boxes around the power meters earlier this year, allowing PG&E to replace the analog power meters with newer digital power meters. If the apartments got wired with two main lines running into each circuit breaker box, one of the main lines got re-wired to a different path to the power grid.
The construction work done within the complex over the last few years had to do with running utility lines through the emergency back entrance. When the complex got built in 1969, the utility lines ran from the street in front and represented a single-point of failure. When I lived in my apartment during the early years, an outage that required a major repair job to the utility lines affected the entire complex. One winter I had to endure five days without running water and took showers at the gym. That doesn’t happen anymore.
The apartment complex now has dual utility lines that make a single-point of failure less inconvenient. Well, almost. I can get used to enduring one-half of a brownout, especially if it impacts the part of the apartment I’m not using at the time. The water pressure in the bathroom is strong, consistent and tastes great, but the water pressure in the kitchen is weak, inconsistent and taste like a rubber hose.
During the nine years that I lived in my Silicon Valley studio apartment, most Fourth of July fireworks celebrations were quiet affairs. With the fireworks celebration at the Children’s Discovery Museum being a few miles away, I normally heard the air cannons thumping the earth and a distant boom in the sky. Not this year. Seemed like everyone got multiple boxes of Satan’s Orgasm and blew the neighborhood to Kingdom Come. Fireworks exploded loud enough to set off car alarms and rattle my windows. One idiot lost both hands from lighting a “mortar-type” firework.
Selling, buying and lighting fireworks are illegal in most parts of Santa Clara County. A wise precaution since California is officially in a severe drought and most lawns are various shades of brown. A wayward firecracker could easily set off a grass fire. My friend and I recently tried to get on to the 280 from Meridian Avenue when a fire truck blocked the ramp. As we drove around the fire truck, we saw that the fire started at the base of the embankment, as if a passenger flicked away cigarette, to blacken the dried grass and send plums of white smoke into the air. Fortunately, this stretch of embankment wasn’t large enough to snarl the rest of the freeway.
If you really wanted to get some fireworks, you drove down to Gilroy to get the “safe and sane” fireworks that are nothing but the pale whimper of the fireworks I lit as a child in the 1970’s and the early 1980’s. If you wanted some serious fireworks, you drove down to Mexico City to buy firecrackers by the bricks, bottle rockets by the grocery bags, and cherry bombs by the fistfuls. Some of my friends did that several times in the 1980’s. I’m not even sure if that can still be done today in post-9/11 America.
While going to college in the 1990’s, I visited my parents for Fourth of July in Sacramento. The ubiquitous firework stands of my childhood are still legal there. We bought a small box of fireworks that contained my favorite fireworks: the Ground Bloom Flowers that looked like spinning roses and shifted colors three times before burning out. Alas, the fireworks stands no longer sell the Ground Bloom Flowers or anything else individually. You must buy an entire box set even if you don’t want the sparklers, snakes and screamers.
As I ran errands over the weekend, I talked with the assistant manager at my bank. She lives in a different part of my neighborhood. Not only did she confirmed that fireworks were unusually loud this year, but people were shooting them off on the street in front of her apartment. Walking through the parking lot for CVS, I spotted the burnt out remains of fireworks. It’s one thing to find an empty dumpster to toss a cherry bomb into for a really loud boom or exploding a few fireworks in the front yard. (Or, God forbid, shooting bottle rockets off the balcony as one idiot did several years ago.) Shooting off fireworks in a public parking lot was something else. It certainly wasn’t quiet.
Coming out this summer is “Guardians of The Galaxy,” a science fiction movie from Marvel Studios about a Sony Walkman and the songs, “Spirit In The Sky” and “Hooked On A Feeling,” from the 1970’s. Well, not quite. It’s an odd combination. As I’ve gotten older, I became more appreciate of the music that I missed growing up as a kid. (My father’s truck had only two radio stations, talk and country.) The forthcoming movie soundtrack is awesome. Someone re-cut the original Star Wars movies into a Guardian-style trailer for even more awesomeness.
The clever editing and blending of the two songs was perfect. The scariest part of the trailer was “Disney’s” appearing above “Star Wars” on the title screen towards the end. Since Disney owns Lucasfilms, tweaking—or twerking?—the forthcoming “Star Wars: Episode VII” movie to fit the Disney’s formula is quite possible. We won’t know until the first official trailer comes out in theaters in 2015.