Watching Grandma Play Her Numbers Alca Usan says her grandmother is addicted to the Illinois lottery. Every night, she watches the Pick Four balls roll. Usan, who produced this postcard as a project for Curie Youth Radio at Curie High School in Chicago, lives with her mother, grandmother, and her baby daughter on the Southwest Side of Chicago.

Watching Grandma Play Her Numbers

Watching Grandma Play Her Numbers

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Alca Usan says her grandmother is addicted to the Illinois lottery. Every night, she watches the Pick Four balls roll. Usan, who produced this postcard as a project for Curie Youth Radio at Curie High School in Chicago, lives with her mother, grandmother, and her baby daughter on the Southwest Side of Chicago.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The Illinois State Lottery took in more than $1.8 billion last year. Commentator Alca Usan says she knows that a chunk of that is money her grandmother spent buying lottery tickets.

ALCA USAN reporting:

She's sitting at the kitchen table in her white rolling chair, squinting through the magnifying glass analyzing the coffee grounds that stain her empty cup. Mira, she tells me.

Unidentified Woman: (Speaking Foreign language)

USAN: Look, it's a two and a five. You see them? Yes, grandma, I see. She writes the numbers down on a paper plate, works them through her system, adding the eight she discovered smeared in the baby's breakfast. And her mother's number, four. Abuela, I tell her, today is my birthday. Oh yeah? She says.

Unidentified Woman: (Speaking Foreign language)

USAN: 18, I tell her.

Unidentified Woman: (Speaking Foreign language)

USAN: (Speaking Foreign language)

Now I can buy them. The man in the dollar store on 55th Street won't card me any more. I'm going for your numbers today, grandma. And guess what, I got a good feeling.

She hands me her numbers on the back of an envelope. Do you want me to play for midday or evening, grandma? For evening, she says, pronouncing it evening. I say bendicion before I leave.

(Soundbite of lottery on television)

Unidentified Announcer: From WGN TV, Chicago. The official drawing of the Illinois Lottery.

Ms. JEANETTE RIVERA (WGN TV): Good evening, I'm Jeanette Rivera.

USAN: It's now 9:20 p.m. on the dot. She's in her chair, her pen and paper plate ready and her eyes following the Channel 9 lottery lady.

Ms. RIVERA: The number is. Second number.

USAN: The ball goes and she yells cuatro! No, it's an eight. Well we have that number too. The next one begins to roll.

Unidentified Woman: (Speaking Foreign language)

Ms. RIVERA: That number's four, that makes your Pick 4 numbers.

USAN: Yeah, it is a four. One more number. One more number and we can make bedrooms in the attic and pay off the Sears card and you can buy a nice coat for yourself, grandma. And we can put money away for the girls for college and -

Unidentified Announcer: Tonight's lottery drawing was brought to you by WGN TV and was supervised by the accounting firm -

USAN: Grandma, I see you every night. The numbers mirrored in your eyes. I see you escape from your small white rolling chair. You've given 18 years of your life to me. Today, I give you something your eyes ask the lottery lady for every night. One day, grandma, you will win.

SIEGEL: Alca Usan lives with her mother, grandmother and her baby daughter on the southwest side of Chicago. She graduated from Curie High School in June and will attend college in the fall. That story was produced as a project for Curie Youth Radio.

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