Saturday, April 24, 2010

Oh, ha, ha, ha!

You may have seen the recent story about the 29-year-old Missouri convenience store clerk who won the $258 million Powerball jackpot. If not, you'll find it below. As you read it, note the condescending tone of the writer.

Mo. clerk says he'll use $258M jackpot on bills
Apr 23, 2010 (2:24a CDT)
By SARAH D. WIRE (Associated Press Writer)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A Missouri man who won a $258 million Powerball jackpot and plans to use some of the money to pay bills and take his children to Disney World says he hasn't decided yet if he'll quit his job at the convenience store where he bought the winning ticket.

Chris Shaw - a 29-year-old tattooed father of three who was raised by his grandparents in rural southern Missouri - came forward Thursday as the winner of the 10th-largest Powerball jackpot ever. Shaw said he had just $28.96 in his bank account and recently bought a 1998 Ford Ranger from a friend who agreed to let him pay off the $1,000 price $100 at a time. Now, he said, he no longer has to worry about how he'll pay his friend - or his utility bills.

"We didn't come from money. For us it's just going to be a huge relief to know I'm going to be able to pay my electric bill, my gas bill," Shaw told the Associated Press. "It's like a weight lifted. I had bills at home I didn't know how they were going to be paid."

Shaw said he bought the $5 ticket Wednesday at the Break Time convenience store where he works in Marshall, a central Missouri town about 80 miles east of Kansas City. He accepted his ceremonial check at the Missouri Lottery headquarters in Jefferson City wearing a tan and red plaid shirt, a red hat and a huge grin - minus two front teeth he says he lost because he didn't take care of them but can now afford to have replaced.

"I'm just a regular guy working paycheck to paycheck ... well not any more," he said.

Shaw said he needed a few days to decide whether he will keep his minimum-wage job at the store where he has worked for just three weeks. He also plans to seek advice "from people who know about money" about whether to take the jackpot in 30 payments over 29 years or the lump-sum amount of $124,875,122.

His boss, Jackie Maxwell, general manager of the Missouri-based Break Time convenience store chain, was thrilled to hear Shaw had won.

"He's just a great guy, a good employee. When you think of a large winner like this, everyone likes to see that the person who won is somebody like Chris," she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Shaw - who has a 10-year-old son, a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old girl by two different women - said he had played Missouri Scratchers lottery tickets before, winning at most $80. He checked his Powerball ticket against the state lottery's website only after his girlfriend, Tosha Ewry, told him the winning ticket was bought at the store where he works.

When Shaw called Ewry back to tell her the news, she thought he was joking, he said. Finally, he said he told her: "I swear on a stack of Bibles, you need to leave work and come home."

The winning numbers were 11-34-41-49-55, Powerball 20. The Power Play number was 2.

Shaw said he looks forward to spending more time with his kids, who live with their mothers about 240 miles southeast of him in his hometown of Alton, as well as with his girlfriend's two sons - 13-year-old and 15-year-old boys Shaw says he considers his own. He plans to take them all to Disney World in Florida.

"I can be with them as much as I want now," Shaw said.

He said his children already have been asking for new skateboards, bicycles and "just stuff that's really hard to do when you make $7.25 an hour."

Break Time will receive $50,000 for selling the winning ticket. If Shaw takes a lump-sum payment, the state income taxes due on the winnings would be about $6 million, state budget director Linda Luebbering said.

Granted, this guy probably did not excel in school, hence the dead-end job, but at least he's doing honest work, something the reporter seemed to take little note of. Instead, she mentioned that he has three children "by two different women," a fact not necessary to know. A lot of people from every social strata have offspring by more than one person, but this must have been too good of an opportunity for the reporter to pass up to laugh up her sleeve at the perceived promiscuity of people like Shaw.

Another barb she shoots from her poison pen is at his most salient feature, his missing teeth. Again, it was not necessary to elaborate on this point. We all know that good oral hygiene is not usually a well-practiced activity among the lower classes, but by enlightening us as to the details of the mystery of his missing incisors, she again shows her condescension of those people. The photo in and of itself is derisive enough; didn't anyone think to ask Shaw to smile with his mouth closed, or at least take a photograph of him from some other perspective? Of course not, for that might have ruined the smirking tone of the piece.

For those who think I'm being a bit picayunish about this report, please re-read it. The evidence is there for all to see.

Incidentally, lest anyone accuse me of hypocrisy, I, too, am not a fan of many of the choices people in Shaw's socio-economic class make. As long as they are supporting themselves, however, and paying their own bills (tattoo bills included), I'll back them, although I will sometimes question the logic of their choices. And, yes, I will still poke fun at them on occasion. But I hope I never get my nose so far up in the air that I devolve into condescension.

Take care.

P.S. Good luck to you, Chris Shaw; the world is a wonderful place filled with interesting places and artifacts. Go discover it.

Get away from your usual circle of acquaintances and culture some friends from other social strata, they'll help you see life from another perspective. Not all of it will be good for you (but don't let that scare you), so you'll have to have your BS filter firmly in place.

Read widely, even if you've never enjoyed reading before; at the very least, start listening to audio books, especially those of the classics.

Travel, but do so with an open mind. Believe it or not, America is not the center of the universe and there are other ways of living than the American lifestyle.

Find and retain the very best financial consultant/advisor you can (look to past Powerball winners to help you there). Put yourself on a budget, seriously, and stick to it. Of course, your budget can probably be several hundred thousand dollars a year, but you might be surprised how quickly that money can go if you are not careful. Even your great wealth is finite and there's been more than one sad tale of rags to riches to rags told of lottery winners.

Watch out for the sycophants of the world, for they are legion. Never get married without an iron-clad prenuptial agreement. Perhaps better yet, don't bother getting married at all. It's safer that way. Oh, and get a vasectomy.

Finally, just be careful. Few decisions you will make from now on will need to be made without wise counsultation from an attorney and an accountant. Remember, used correctly, that money will broaden your horizons and enrich your life. Used incorrectly, it will lead you to a crystal meth addiction and an early grave. The choice is yours.

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