It's usually not a good idea to throw around the term "fever" during a deadly global pandemic.
But we make an exception for lottery fever.
Mega Millions and Powerball have jackpots this week that, combined, total more than $1 billion.
It has been nearly two years since the two national lottery games offered such giant prizes — and only the second time both jackpots have topped $500 million.
At Lou Perrine’s Gas and Grocery, 5145 Sheridan Road, lottery ticket sales were brisk on Tuesday.
That's not unusual at the Downtown business.
"We usually sell a lot of lottery tickets here anyway. We have regulars who buy lottery tickets every day," manager Savannah Delaney said. "But it does get busier when the jackpots are big."
While the odds are astronomically long for winning a big jackpot, Lou Perrine's did sell a winning Badger 5 Lottery ticket worth $64,000 on July 1.
Delaney doesn't usually buy lottery tickets — "I see folks who win, but I also see a lot of people lose, too," she said — but she will split the pot with fellow Lou Perrine's employees if their numbers come in.
Business owner Anthony Perrine "always buys tickets for the staff when it's a big jackpot," Delaney said.
If she does come into some lottery winnings?
"I'd buy a house somewhere warm, buy my parents a house and go on a long vacation," she said. "I'm not a high-maintenance person, so I probably wouldn't do anything huge."
'If I won the lottery ...'
We spoke with customers at Lou Perrine's on Tuesday about their lottery dreams and, because we were talking on a cold January day in Wisconsin, it's not surprising that many of those dreams include palm trees:
- Eric Repka of Kenosha: "I play the lottery sometimes and, if I won, I'd buy a plot of land in Tennessee and live off the land. I'd donate some of it, too."
- Roderick Avant of Zion, Ill.: "I usually don't play the lottery, but I saw it was getting big, so I might. If I won, I would make sure my family is taken care of; invest some of it; fund college for my kids; and take a trip after this pandemic is over."
- Jim Sager of Kenosha: "I never play the lottery, but if I did win, I'd take a long vacation, traveling the U.S." (Note: After we spoke, Sager walked past us, flashing a few lottery tickets he had just purchased. Good luck, Jim!)
- Jan Likes of Kenosha: "I do play sometimes and, if I win, I would help out loved ones and move out of this godforsaken town to someplace warmer."
- Gigi Andino of Beach Park, Ill.: "I play the lottery sometimes, especially when it gets big. You can't win if you don't play! I'd share the money with everyone who needs a home and food — I wouldn't keep the money. Jesus says to help the homeless and the hungry and the sick."
- Paul Dorsey of Watertown: "If I won, I'd move my whole family someplace tropical. I want tropical waters."
- Christina Ptak of Kenosha: "I play the lottery most weeks, spending $10. If I won, I'd get a house with a yoga studio inside and buy some fancy race cars. I work at an auto body shop, but I'd love to buy my own cars. I'd help out the community, too."
Paying off bills
When asked on Facebook what they would do with potential lottery winnings, paying off bills and helping the community topped the lists of these local residents:
"I guess I would have to quit my job," Kirsten Kaiser said, adding she would "basically just pay off my bills, help my family and friends, give to one of my favorite charities and just have fun!"
Likewise, Melanie Becker Hovey would use any such funds to "pay off all my bills, then renovate my house, add a functional greenhouse, and buy a new van and a new car." She would also "donate a big check to Lemon Street Gallery, Krazines and Kenosha Public Museums."
Michelle Serpe dreams of paying off "my student loan I took for my Ph.D. — aka 'the national debt.'''
For Liz Dutton, playing the lottery is off the table. "I don’t play. I can’t gamble. I’m such a sore loser," she said, though her husband, Paul, does buy lottery tickets "and I wouldn’t object to his winning."
Diane Goergen Giles — a retired Kenosha News reporter who writes our monthly local history column — has big plans for those big lottery bucks: "If I won, I would buy houses for my kids, with property taxes paid off for their lifetimes. There has to be a way. And new cars for all friends and family members who need them. And then Gayle (her wife) and I would travel, including Disneyworld with the new great-grandbaby. Buy the lot behind my church, prep it for building and build an addition on it."
Dottie McMillan has an eye toward helping family members — and the world at large: "I would give money to family for their debt, new homes and cars, trusts for grandchildren's education, etc. Plenty would be left for donations to environmental issues, poverty and organizations that aid people."
As for helping out family members, my sister, Patty, pledges to share the wealth, too, and we'll certainly hold her to that promise if she wins.