Last week’s ruckus over the Powerball’s potential $600 million payout left me wondering once again about whatever happened to Lettie Kistler and her long-handled toilet brush.
By now you no doubt know you were not the winner of Saturday’s Powerball drawing. Apparently, someone in a little Florida town bought the lone winning ticket, worth a record $590.5 million (or a measly $376.9 million, should he or she choose the lump sum option). That leaves the rest of us where we started, but a few bucks broker for our long-shot investment on tickets.
The money spent on a chance at the big prize may not pay off in cash, but that’s not to say it doesn’t get the spender something. A buck or two tossed on the local carryout counter gets you a few days of dreaming about exactly how all that phat cash will change your life. Or, in my case, it sends me off with questions about Lettie Kistler.
Lettie is, hands down and no contest, my favorite lottery winner of all time. Truth told, she’s the only one I can actually name, but she would win my loyalty even if I could rattle off the winners’ names like they were Buckeye running backs.
Back in 2004, the then-86-year-old Kistler won $2.04 million in the Washington State Lottery. By the time they had whittled off the taxes, she was handed a $1.5 million check. When reporters asked her how she planned to blow her newfound wealth, she told them, without a wisp of irony: “I’m going to buy a new davenport,” she said. “And one of those long-handled brushes to clean out the toilet, and then I don’t have to lean way over and scrub.”
Kistler’s family said she’d been eyeing the new toilet brushes with the disposable brush at her local supermarket but couldn’t bring herself to splurge. At the time, she was living on $638 a month from Social Security.
So you can see why, every time the lottery hits record heights and local news crews end up milling outside the town Party Mart in search of folks to share their dream purchases, I think of Lettie and wonder what became of her. And unlike those of you who dream of how you would actually spend that windfall, I spend my time contemplating how I could outdo Lettie’s performance with the media should I win.
The fantasy rolls out pretty much the same way every time. I am standing with my giant check (both literally and figuratively) surrounded by bored reporters prepared to ask the same, stale questions and receive the same, hack answers. One of them asks me what I plan to buy, expecting me to ramble on about cars and college and those donations to the church the winners always claim they’ll make.
“My eldest has always wanted Zachary Tyler’s bones. My youngest is in the Polk camp. I figure, if I have enough, I’ll buy them both. If not, I’ll use some to buy a couple marmosets and let them work it out with a good old-fashioned monkey knife fight,” I would answer.
Chances are pretty good that will invite a follow-up questions. In my fantasy, they always ask if the money will change me. Unlike other winners, I assure them it will.
“First off, I’m getting a whole new group of friends. Frankly, the ones I’ve got now aren’t appropriate for the fast crowd I’ll be moving with now,” I’ll tell them. “I figure I’ll start hanging out with high-living celebrities. Any of you got Vicki Lawrence’s number?”
Of course, the fantasy changes by the day. Sometimes, I mention wanting to buy Vermont or hang out with Kim Jong Un. Other days, I come up with ill-considered money-making schemes to “grow” the money, crazy things like tilapia-flavored breakfast cereals or gasification.
Of course, I don’t just fantasize about messing with the media. Like anyone else, I have a list of things I’d buy with a few million in loose change. I’d have a few dozen classic cars, some sweet guitars and maybe even a summer house or two.
And, of course, a good toilet brush, one with the long handle. After all, Lettie may have been different from the rest of the lottery winners, but she wasn’t wrong.