Flew into Las Vegas today for business, with jet service provided by Northwest. The first time on a flight where I’ve ever wanted a pillow, and Northwest doesn’t do pillows anymore. I could have used the nap since I was awakened at 4:00 a.m. by the storm sirens. I wasn’t too concerned about that since in our neighborhood the sirens can be set off by geese flatulence, but I knew there was no going back to sleep then and little to be found on the plane. Fair warning, then, that my first day’s impressions of Vegas may be tinged with a bit of the crabbies.
Another member of our group flew in on Southwest Airlines, which ran a lottery for its Vegas-bound customers. Everyone who wanted to threw in a dollar with his or her seat number written on it, and the winning seat won the whole pot. The winner was an 18 year old girl who picked up around $150 and was, reportedly, all “Ohmigaw, Ohmigaw, Ohmifreakinggaw!” If it had been me I’m sure my reaction would have been more along the lines of, “Jolly good! Pip, pip and cheerio, what?”
Did you know, gambling is legal in Nevada? You get off the plane and right there in the concourse is a bank of slot machines. Say, isn’t prostitution legal, too? These must be stationed out by baggage claim.
I get to my hotel and go through the main door expecting to see the registration desk. Instead it’s the casino floor and a kiosk selling the opportunity to have your picture taken with a Vegas show girl. The bespangled girl in question stands there with a smile bigger than her costume. Pass.
Across from this kiosk is a bunkered desk that looks like an information stand. I ask the grandmotherly-looking woman behind the counter how to find registration, and she tells me to wind my way all the way through to the other side of the casino. Gee, why would they lay the place out like that? The kindly older woman asks me if I’m going to be staying in town for a couple of days and if I’d like to see a free show. Gaah! Timeshare sales! Begone, witch!
Traversing the casino is no easy task, and not because I want to stop and play any games. There simply is no direct route from point A to point B on that floor. This situation is repeated at the Venetian, where the trade show I’m attending is being held. This casino is even larger, and the signs with directions are cryptic and even disappear for long stretches. I know they don’t put clocks or windows in casinos so you lose track of time, but I didn’t know they also try to disorient you. After twenty minutes and twice ending up back where I first came in I am getting a little peeved and still have no desire to try my luck at a game.
Look, I know this is their business and they are good at it, and have had time to perfect every nuance. They sell the energy and excitement with every blinking light and flashing smile to help you think that lightning is going to strike at any time and you’re going to win big. Yep, the customers winning big is just how these places got to be so big and fancy looking.
Out on the sidewalks of the Strip it’s an even more moveable feast (hey, Fraters-guys, no open bottle laws for pedestrians!), with the pavement also veering off regularly into cul de sacs of outdoor games and bars. Truly, it seems as if its impossible to go in a straight line anywhere around here. The straightest line I do see are the guys handing out cards and flyers for “gentlemen’s” clubs. They’ve all got a flamboyant way of snapping their wrist and the propaganda out at you to try and get your attention. Some even point at you, which is especially hard to ignore. Avoiding eye contact you find yourself looking at billboards with pictures of 90 foot tall nearly nude dancers in thongs, showing at least 25 feet of … well, never mind.
The first day here draws to a close and so far the only gamble I’ve taken was in getting across an intersection against the light. Okay, I know I’m sounding like a bit of a grouch, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Maybe tomorrow after I’ve had some rest I’ll try a few diversions. I admit there is a fun, funky kind of energy to the place as if no one is taking anything too seriously. And perhaps that’s the most insidious part of the entire enterprise. The motto you see everywhere is “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” as if there are no lasting consequences for anything that happens here. You can be sure, however, that about the only things that stay in Vegas are your money and the after-affects of the all-you-can-eat burrito bar.
In Vegas, just like anywhere else, you should gamble only what you can afford to lose – whether it’s money, your life or your marriage.