i am not a gambler. not in any respect. i don’t get the thrill that drives one to spend, spend, spend. but casinos have more than gambling these days and as we all know, they aren’t just in Vegas anymore. we have a casino local to us and while i’m not a gambler, i have been there several times for all of those other reasons: 1) to see a concert and comedy show, 2) enjoy dinner at the buffet and 3) watch someone else spend, spend, spend.
if you didn’t know it by now, i’m a people watcher. it’s a natural talent and always provides multiple levels of entertainment and blog inspiration. my most recent visit provided me with a little alone time in which i found no shortage of writing inspiration. once again, i found myself sitting, typing notes in my phone and giggling to myself completely devoid of my friends and their goings-on.
“oh no! she’s got her cell phone out. girl! who are you talking to, i don’t even have service in here. tell him to bring some friends”
“are you finding us some boys?”
“boys? what? no. i don’t have service either, i’m taking blog notes.”
“oh lord. she did this the last time we went out too. the blog was funny though.”
“just a couple more and i’ll be done.”
“uh huh. sure you will. come on. someone’s gonna have to hold her hand so she doesn’t walk into a wall.”
so, we enjoyed the show and then we enjoyed the buffet. i like having eating choices and nothing accommodates that like a buffet. an international buffet, even. with worldly inspired options and enough dessert to choke a horse. we sat with our plates full, laughing and giggling about the days’ events, our children and our “getting ready” horror stories of nail polish in our hair, burnt clothing from forgotten ironing and the elusive lost shoe (an evening out with a buncha moms is nothing shy of sit-down-stand-up-comedy. we would stand but we just don’t have the energy and no matter how cute our shoes are, they hurt). after filling ourselves to our clothing limits we paraded around like a cheerleading squad, laughing at everything and nothing at the same time. we have one poker player in the group. she was not going to rest until she’d played a hand or two… or more likely in the amount of two hundred dollars worth of poker. that’s where i come in. the other girls ran off to the slot machines…a group of broken video games if you ask me, with no point, no extra man and limited fun. so i sit with the poker player, to keep her company, repel the “how YOU doin’?” gang and she keeps me supplied with drinks. mostly rum and coke. it’s a win-win (for me, anyway).
it is during this time of sitting quietly and watching that i made my many observations. in the midst of watching, i found myself being watched. the ever-familiar and always happy security agent wandered over to me as i typed feverishly into my phone. poker players are not allowed to play with their phones or take calls while at the table. i, on the other hand, am not at the table, not a poker player and so those rules don’t apply to me. mostly. but you can’t sit enveloped in a one-sided cell phone conversation via thumbs without catching the eye of Big Brother. Mr. Security came to me quietly with a… a look of inquiry. i stood up and flatly said:
“Big Brother wants to know what i’m up to? just taking notes for my blog. do you need to see.”
he shook his head “no” while simultaneously reaching out for my phone. i quickly showed him first, that i had not made nor received any calls. as well, i had not sent nor received any text messages. then i thumbed over to my magic notepad and went through my notes with him. at first he was within hair-smelling distance. no. not me to smell his hair, him to smell mine, as men do, but that was not his intention — just a scenario to explain our proximity. as i proceeded to explain what i was considering writing and what i was observing he took a comfortable step back and flashed his familiar smile. he listened to me and let me finish before he gave me some friendly words:
“i would have never taken you for a writer, but that just goes to show that even after all these years of observing people, i know nothing about women. (bahahahah!) feel free to take as many notes as you need. Big Brother and i are both satisfied knowing that your not in cahoots with any of the players. here is something that your notepad will never tell you and you can write this down: poker is a social game. most of this is just socialization. 90% of our regulars, 90% of our daily clients are DAILY. they come here everyday and they usually follow the same routine. they would rather come here everyday and blow a hundred or two instead of saving up to go to vegas and blow thousands. this way they get it out of their system, the loss isn’t so heavy and they get to see their friends.”
amazing! 90% go there daily. wow. i would have never suspected such a fact. ok. so now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. there is a lot to take note of in a casino. some of it has to do with the structure. some with the machines and games, but the lion’s share has to do with the people. the clientele.
casino’s draw a crowd. all of them do. from the CEO to the housewife. everyone looking for a chance. a score. a win. now, i know that some people go there to socialize, to hang out, to perfect their skill of reading faces and counting cards, but not one of those people would turn down a win. everyone that steps into a casino is hit with that electrifying air upon entry. the air of winners. the air of jackpots and big wins. the air… of the long shot. the reality though, it that the air is also mixed with the air of losers. of no luck at alls. the air of desperation, lost mortgages and marriages on the rocks.
in my hours there, i made two sets of observations. the first set is about the casino and all that it holds, in general. the second set of observations (which might have to return as a part 2) is strictly regarding the poker room. so, let’s begin our journey.
1. people still smoke?: i’m not judging. i’m not complaining. but! once upon a time i smoked cigarettes. i think i might have been in high school. early high school. i don’t have any rhyme or reason for it other than the fact that it was forbidden and banned and teenagers always embrace what is forbidden and banned. with that said.. i’m almost amazed to see that people still smoke. and inside, no less. i’d be a liar if i said i didn’t hate it. the smell invades and permeates everything about me. my hair, skin and clothing wreak of second-hand smoke and that totally irks me. but that’s the price i pay for going to that establishment. c’est la vie. nothing a shower can’t solve. but again, i am often shocked to see someone smoking thinking to myself: “people still do that?” as if it’s some long lost habit. like macrame or doin’ “The Hustle”.
2. slot machine stalkers: this is almost self explanatory, but i’ll give you my version. my grandmother was a nickel slot machine player. she had her favorite casinos, her favorite types of machines and occasionally an actual favorite machine. she would sit at that one machine and play until her heart was content. if the machine was not available, she would loiter nearby reluctantly entertaining some other machine until she could pounce. apparently, this is what all slot machine players do. they stalk “their” machine. they loathe the person that spins their wheels and pushes their buttons. they watch and wait until that person makes the slightest move and they transport themselves through space and time, effortlessly, to claim what is unknowingly theirs. heaven forbid that machine “hits” and pays out to another person. all is lost and you will need law enforcement to get them to a) not slap the winner in the back of the head and cast a stink eye in their direction for all of time, b) not write an angry letter to management demanding their cut for having played eighty five dollars in nickels to that one machine and for being being casino loyal and lastly, to c) NOT sit down at that exact machine until the sun comes up, goes down and comes up again. they will skip meals, showers, phone calls and all discernible human activity trying to spin those wheels into submission.
3. the gambling oxymoron: there is an advertisement on the ATM machine, as well as the paper towel dispenser in the ladies’ room, to call and eight hundred number if you have a gambling problem. it just seems a little… insincere? i mean seriously? on the ATM, where you can withdraw money from your life, your children’s future and your wife’s secret account is the last stop on the road to freedom from your addiction.. Mr. Security explained the reason. a story too sad to tell but someone stole some money, lost it and then… took their own life. so i get it. like we’ve heard about eye contact from the armored truck guy because you might change your mind and not try to hijack the truck because of that eye contact. however, i still find it to be insincere. perhaps that’s just me.
4. jackpot cruisers: a select group of folk. small in numbers but biiiiiiig in purpose. they chase the “ding ding dingdingding” coming from a machine off in the distance. they hear the sound, drop what they are doing and break into a sprint trying to find the machine that is singing it’s song. i don’t know if they want to get an eye on the winner, if they want to assault the machine right after in hopes of a repeat of if they are just groupies wanting to share in the air of a winner. either way, they will push you to the ground trying to get there before the song stops.
5. technology terrified: within a 270° turning of my head (that’s looking from as-far-as-i-can-left to as-far-as-i-can-right without straining myself) i saw no less than thirty flat screen televisions. there were at least three different programs being watched at all times with intermittent advertisements for the very casino i was sitting in. in addition, every piece of equipment was touch screen or remote. including the toilet and paper towel dispenser. on top of that, my cell phone was jammed and would not make, take or receive phone calls or text messages. booooooooo. some of the employees carried gadgets that looked complicated and heavy. viewing and experiencing all of this made me paranoid. i felt like Big Brother was sitting in my lap, taking measurements and duplicating my entire system in some back room. a little scary. juuuusssssst a little.
and last but not least;
6. casino attire: as Mr. Security shared with us, soooooome people would rather go local than save up and go all out on a Viva Las Vegas excursion. not me. Las Vegas is Las Vegas and no casino in the world can compare. there’s something intoxicating about “The Strip” and knowing that everyone who has ever been anyone and anyone who has only been no one has been there. carrying with them their hopes, their dreams and their very last dime. there are only two other places as awesome and kinetic: Hollywood and Broadway. anyway, i guess the mere idea of casino is enough for some so they go full tilt. and by full tilt, i mean ALL OUT. you will see people dressed as if they are going to meet the president. and others? not so much. some people look like they were on the bus on the way home from work and decided “aahhh, what the hell” and others look as though they have been planning their fashion ensemble for the last few weeks. both of them standing in line to eat the cafeteria-mass-produced buffet food items.
well, darlings… i will conclude here with my casino observations. i will pick up with poker room observations which are just as entertaining. i thoroughly enjoy my people watching adventures and sharing them has brought me a whole new high. all’s fair in love and observation. i poke fun and make jokes, but i do understand how serious an addiction gambling can be. but, unlike any other vice, it has the power to wipe out an entire life in one hand. sad but true. other vices are a gamble, but gambling is … GAMBLING! everything a person has ever known, had, worked for and loved can vanish with the wrong card.
i’d love to hear from you. leave me a comment. and if you like this post, then click the star up top so i know. until next time… stay sweet.
You are a GREAT writer. I truly enjoyed your blog. I hope you become famous one day, so that you can share your great talents with more people.
aww, stefanie! you can’t sneak on here and make me blush! thank you for your kind words and encouragement. one day i will write about my many jobs and the friends that i’ve made along the way. that would most certainly include you. we’ve got fifteen years in! amazing. i am certainly needing to make a SPECIAL trip to the O.C. for a visit and some good laughs. miss you , friend. XOXOO
You have a way of stepping back and taking in the whole picture, and then somehow re-creating it for all to see. You even charmed Mr. Security in a casino — no small accomplishment. I’m glad you walked out of there with your friends, your money, and a great post. I hope there’s a part 2.
i consider myself a psuedo detective/parole agent/busy body. i was once a public safety dispatcher and that just heightened my ability to take in my surroundings. i do have plans for a part 2, however, after taking my vacation, i’ve got at least a good three-parter coming. not sure in which order to let them land. i don’t have much notes on the vacation. just a buncha random thoughts and about 200 pictures. perhaps i should finish what i’ve started and give the vacation time to brew.