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York County lines up for today’s massive Mega Millions prize

So what if the odds of having a fling with a supermodel while winning an Oscar and the Masters is far more likely than winning the colossal Mega Millions lottery jackpot that, by Friday afternoon, had risen to an astounding $640 million?

Thursday was not a day for rational thought.

Thursday was when bosses drew up economic prospectuses and had meetings and readied to cut pay and slash jobs. Thursday, politicians lied and stole.

As those dry bores pleaded poverty and wrecked local, state and federal budgets, the people who work for them and pay the taxes for a country in economic crisis dashed for the store to blow part of the rent.

Old ladies, young men, construction workers and dental assistants found single dollars, fives, tens – even pooled money among co-workers – for a chance at today’s drawing that is now, by far, the largest in American history.

Anybody who ever had a jerk for a boss bought a lottery ticket Thursday, when the prize was still $540 million. A chance at that much cash is a chance to tell that boss with the bad breath and the hateful glare that a winning ticket means no more boss.

All over York County, people bought and bought and bought tickets.

They did so with hope, with prayers, with rosary beads in hand and Bible study bulletins rolled up as talismans, with dollars in hand.

“It has just been madness,” said Jennifer Bass, day-shift manager of the BP convenience store just off Interstate 77’s Exit 77 – in the heart of the hope for riches. The store had hundreds of Mega Millions customers, each hungry for money that would change life forever.

A young guy, John Cagle, who just got accepted to the University of South Carolina, said hopefully, “School would get paid for.”

Then Cagle acknowledged maybe he could buy the school – and most importantly, get all the chicks.

A sweaty and hot guy named Jessie Smith, who installs garage doors, sprang for two tickets.

“Four sons I got, one in college,” Smith said. “This would pay it all off.

“I could donate to my church. Man, I could build a church. No more bills. No more worries.”

So what if the odds are one in 175 million? So what if the chances of being crowned King of Finland are better? Somebody in this country of 300 million-plus people has to win.

Grace Kelly married a prince all those years ago. A person in management smiled once and bought a cup of coffee. A boss sprang for a beer. A mother-in-law stayed less than six months. Dick Cheney’s heart was found to exist.

Miracles happen.

A guy named Daniel Byrd, 32, tattooed up and down, said church gets a piece, bills get a piece, he’d build a house – then he’d certainly buy and race a dragster.

“Number 540 million on the side,” said Byrd. “Fastest thing there ever was.”

He might even be able to afford the gas.

Taxes will take many millions, but only a spoilsport worries about Uncle Sam’s greedy paws taking 25 percent off the top.

“I might call in sick if I win,” said BP cashier Nikki Johnson. “Buy a car. Honda Civic. New.”

Johnson is frugal even in her dreams.

“Yeah, sick forever,” said another cashier named Nikki Ashworth. “$540 million? I’m partying. Breakin’ it on down.”

A guy named Norm Radermacher bought his first lottery tickets. He didn’t know how to play, what it was called – nothing.

Still, Norm Radermacher bought $5 worth of tickets.

“I did the math, and the odds are the worst,” said Radermacher. “But it is $540 million.”

Across Rock Hill at The Spot store – where somebody who is hated by all gamblers anywhere did not claim an $800,000 winning ticket two years ago – a guy named Kenneth Heath spent money on a single ticket.

If he wins, “my daughter goes to school paid for until she learns the whole world,” said Heath.

A man named Derrick Chisholm came in for a cold drink, was told “$540 million” and asked “For what?”

“Lottery!” said the cashier.

“Gimme one of them 540 million winning tickets then,” said Chisholm, in one of the best lines of the day, maybe ever.

Robert Strong, working the fryer at the store/restaurant, hot, made it clear that with $540 million from his ticket, he would not be frying fish Saturday if he wins.

“Somebody will be cooking for me,” Strong said.

At Herlong BP on Herlong Avenue, near Rock Hill’s medical district, a lady who smiled and hoped, from “an unnamed dental practice,” she said, on the clock and in her dental smock, came in with $150.

“$10 each from 15 of us,” she said. “Even the bosses.”

Others who work as a team brought even more money, with hopes that more tickets mean a better chance to win. A lady from Specialty Polymers chemical company had $210 to buy tickets – $10 each from 21 employees. The odds are still one in 8 million.

So what?

The purchases were for huge amounts and down to just a couple of dollars. The hopeful spanned all economic classes of people, all job descriptions, all neighborhoods. People laughed and wished each other luck, and in true gambler’s form, secretly hoped that the other guy won nothing and ended up cleaning windshields.

Each person who has punched a clock will wait until 11 tonight, when the six winning balls are picked, and hope that the boss, called so many bad words under breath for years, will be called far worse loudly and over an intercom. Then the boss can be punched.

Maybe the most hope of all came from a tiny lady who stopped at Scott’s Food Store.

LaTiffany Morrison, an accounts manager who knows numbers and statistics – “no mathematical chance almost at all,” she said – threw all that math right out the window where it belonged. She bought a ticket – to go with two she already had.

“I have a husband and two kids, and if I win, I will have a husband and two kids with their college paid for and a new house and a lot of money going to charity,” Morrison said.

“I am not asking for much. Just a tiny $540 million.”

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