Karma Counter
September 16, 2015

“I bet you never see anyone come in with this many tickets, huh?”

Beaming, the man gleefully hoists four reusable grocery bags onto the glass countertop, each bag overflowing with arcade tickets. He gives his stash a prideful once over.

“Pretty good haul if I do say so myself…”

The ticket attendant forces a humoring smile before taking the tickets and feeding them through an automatic counter. Rote.

“Sure guy, let’s see what you got here…”

Twenty Five Thousand Three Hundred and Eighty Six. Exactly. Amassed over a lifetime. He knew. He counted them every day. It brought him comfort. Especially over the last year when things started to get really bad–when a month after he was laid off from his job his car broke down, and a month after that he maxed out his last credit card, and a month after that Dominoes mistakenly sent him ranch dressing with his cinnamon sticks. While the month after that was calm, in the month after that month he was hanging out at his regular bar when someone he hadn’t seen since high school walked in and shouted, “Hey is that the Incredible Bulk?” thereby triggering massive laughter from his fellow barflys and creating another collection of people who called him that unfunny, juvenile, dumb, stupid, dumb, unfunny nickname.

So, it was time. Time to cash in. To get what was coming to him. He didn’t know exactly what he was looking for but he knew he had enough for something big. Something life changing.

“Well buddy, for Twenty Five Thousand Three Hundred and Eighty Six tickets you can get… Hmm, let’s see here… Anything on that lower shelf or below.”

“Haha, good one!”

The attendant stares back at him. Humorless.

The man feels all the enthusiasm drain from his face. He begins scanning the lower shelves, panicking: “Stress free DMV experience,” “A date with someone you kind of like, goes okay,” (”A date with someone you kind of like, goes well” was two shelves above) “Win a scratch off lottery ticket, sum < $100.”

All the stuff that he would have wanted like “Marry a supermodel,” “One million dollars,” “Become rich and famous, looks” “Become rich and famous, looks plus talent” were on the shelves above. Unreachable. Starting at 75,000 tickets.

“But… But, that’s Twenty Five Thousand Three Hundred and Eighty Six tickets! That’s an entire lifetime of… Do you have any idea..!”

The attendent sighed. He’d been through this before. Everyone had a story about how much more their tickets should be redeemable for. That their experiences should be worth more based on blah, blah, blah. The attendant placed his elbow on the counter, rested his cheek in his hand, as–

“I’m lactose intolerant!” “I was passed up for a promotion 9 different times at 2 different jobs!” “I had six wisdom teeth!” “My car’s windows malfunction and open automatically when it rains!” “I never broke anyone’s ankles off a dribble!” “Six wisdom teeth!” “I once told a girl, ‘I like that you smell…’ That was it! End of sentence!” “Are you hearing me? SIX!”

“What else could you possibly have to go through to get the good stuff! I want to speak to your manager!”

The attendant begins rattling off the response that, at this point, he’s perfected.

“While we are sensitive to your situation we encourage you to look at your options and appreciate them for the wonderful…”

The man violently slams his hands against the counter.

“You’re not listening!”

Startled, the attendant stumbles backwards, bumping into shelves, and knocking over every single scoop denomination of “Receive free ice cream cone.”

The man composes himself, he exhales a breath containing the beginning of tears.

“You don’t understand. Just yesterday I decided I wanted to do something nice for myself. So I figured, why not make myself pancakes?”


The attendent cautiously but frantically paws around for something under the counter.

“I was so happy. I spent all morning going out, getting ingredients–actually figuring out how to make pancakes–making them. Making a complete mess. And, somehow, they came out great!”


The attendant finally finds and rests his hand over a button marked “Security, -900 tickets.”

“But when I finished? I realized I didn’t have any syrup. I had a stack of pancakes, an empty, growling, child-like belly, and no syrup. Do you know that feeling? Do you know that feeling at all?”

The attendent removes his hand from the button.

“Do I go get syrup and come back to cold pancakes? Do I choke down pancakes with no syrup? Or do I just sit there and weep at my life once again? People think being sad is the worst. It’s not. It’s being knocked from elation to depression in an instant. That’s the worst.”

“Well… Sorry to hear that.”

“I had to eat them with ketchup…”

The man stares at the attendent. Pleading. Confident that he is reaching him.

“Isn’t that worth at least 10,000 tickets?”

“Why wouldn’t you just eat them plain?”

“Because they’re pancakes. You put things on them.”

“Look man, that’s a sad story…”

The man perks up.

“But, I’ll let you in on a little secret, we don’t even make enough tickets for anyone to get at those upper shelves.”

“What? What do you mean? Not even for…”


“’Win an argument, foe admits defeat?’”

“Nope. Not even for that.”

“Then what’s this all about? Why toy with people like that! If nothing will ever make that happen then why am I… What was the point of all that suffering? What was I holding on to? No! No, I am due what I am owed!”

“You have to stop fixating on the tickets, man.”

“What else is there to fixate on?”

The attendant leans forward.

“Okay, look, since you ate pancakes with ketchup I’ll cut you a deal. How about I bump your total up to an even 30K and you can take ’Sit on a park bench, be in the moment, 5 min. duration?’”

“Are you crazy! After all I’ve been through?”

“Hey! People go there whole lives without sitting on a park bench, being in the moment, 5 min. duration. That’s a great deal!”

“No! No! That can’t be it! What was the point? Why did I… Why did I…”

“Take it or leave it man.”

Crestfallen, the man looks away.


He sighs.

“I’ll just take the lottery ticket.”


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