I could have been a thousandaire in Detroit. An extended layover had me pacing down its airport halls, zig-zagging between kiosks to kill time and winding up in front of a lottery ticket vending machine.
Winning money in Detroit seemed cruelly funny to me. I heard a news story recently—or maybe it was a rumor?—that a house goes for $1 in the most dejected quarters of the city. Detroit was in a bad way—it was somewhere you just didn't go. Before I even landed, I assumed that it was my first and last time visiting. But...what if my numbers matched? I could own 10,000 houses—or maybe 5 really nice ones. I could upgrade my flight to first class. Could I be mayor of Detroit?
I waited until my flight was just about to board and then I scratched. While everyone else got antsy and gathered up their bags, I dragged a dully penny back and forth across my ticket, brushing away the tiny bits of silver veil that lay between me and fortune. A matching pair of numbers appeared early on (would I have to stop back on my return flight to collect my riches?) The line of passengers advanced as I pressed my penny to the last square, scratching even slower this time, prolonging the hope that I just might win.
I bought a losing lottery ticket in Detroit. I bought a shot glass, too, although I can't remember the last time I took a shot, let alone at home. But Detroit is rugged—or at least my notion of it is—and so the Motor City-emblazoned glass seemed fitting. I imagined a wearied auto worker throwing back a finger of whiskey after stepping off the assembly line. Now we'd drink together in spirit.
After all, it wouldn't have been fair for me to win the lottery in Detroit. To collect 10 grand in a city I'd regarded with such disdain, so confident I'd never return, without even setting foot outside the airport.