Always check your shirt and pants pockets before you throw your clothes in the wash, or even before you hang them back up in your closet, especially if you've recently purchased a lottery ticket. Jimmie Smith found that out this spring when he was watching the evening news in his East Orange, NJ, home and saw a segment in which New York Lottery officials announced they were seeking the winner of a $24.1 million jackpot, with a winning ticket set to soon expire, NJ.com reports. And so the 68-year-old retired security guard sauntered over to his closet, where one of his favorite shirts was hanging, a bunch of old lottery tickets crumpled up and crammed into the shirt pocket.
When he saw one of those tickets was indeed the winner, Smith says, per a New York Lottery press release: "I stood there for a minute thinking, 'Do I see what I think I see?' I had to stick my head out the window and breathe in some fresh air." He explains he has been buying lotto tickets in New Jersey and NYC for 50 years, but that he's never in any kind of hurry to see if he's hit gold. "I always told myself, 'I'll check them when I have the time,'" he says. He even needed to "clear out some cobwebs" before heading over to a lottery service center in Manhattan to claim his prize on May 23—two days before the ticket expired. The dad of two and grandfather of 12 doesn't appear to be in any rush to spend the money immediately, either, noting he'll let the dust settle a bit, then have an "all-family discussion" on what to do with the money, which he plans on taking as annuity payments over 26 years. (Read more lottery stories.)