9.07.2005

Eight Fifty for a Fucking Miller Lite?

Sunset on the Strip
What gets my goat in the end, when I do end up taking a rare trip to Las Vegas, is how utterly shameless the fleecing is. And how many levels of it there are. And how many people have their hands out for gratuities when they're already compensated once on the auto-grat (when they add an automatic 18% gratuity to the tab) checks.

Las Vegas has its moments and then it has its reality.

The moments are fun, those instants of craziness, those bonding moments, the happy moment when the dealer does not get yet another hard 21, the moment when your last chips are scooped up by that dealer and you're done gambling. The moment when you step outside for the first time in a day and realize just how oppressively hot it is outside. The moment when the stimulus finally ticks from too much to way too much and I've gotta go find a dark room to sit in for a little while and not see blinking lights and hearing slot machine bells.

The reality of Las Vegas is that it is, fundamentally, a pathetic place. Not completely because absolutes aren't useful in describing an entire city (one of the fastest growing cities in the nation too). Its filled with desperate losers dropping their last buck into a slot hoping to cash in, its filled with scammers looking to pickpocket dumbasses from the flyover states, its filled with broken dreams and a class society, its a service oriented city where enough money can get you, literally, anything you want.

If you've got the duckets for it, yes, you can hire two midgets to take on one girl in an oiled up wrestling match. You can hire someone to put you in a diaper and let you toddle around like a newborn, yes, even crapping your pants and they clean you up, sure, it costs extra but why not splurge? You can make believe anyway you want to, so long as you've got the money to pay for it all, they'll even pretend you're not a sick monkey freak.

What gets me isn't the incontrovertible fact that Las Vegas is all about money, the part that gets me is that they want every single penny you have. From the asshole low level pit bosses at the $10 blackjack tables to the bartenders who take a very long time to come back with your change after buying yet another incredibly over-priced beer. Las Vegas wants you to leave without a penny to your name, hell they want you in debt. Hell, they want your future earnings, your children's earnings and maybe their children's earnings too.

The greedy appetite of the city is voracious, insatiable and cruel. And it smells, bad. Like stale cigarettes, body odor (no clocks or windows means people gamble all night and sometimes well into the next morning which means they get stinky), disinfectant and that peculiar subtle smell of air conditioners. The sensory assault also attacks the sight and hearing as well as smell, luckily there's not much touch overload (unless you take one of those handout hooker cards and get a papercut). But the sights are flashing lights, low ceilings, complex rugs and tired, hollowed out eyes from being awake too long and being subjected to flashing lights for far too long. The sounds are bells, whistles, whirs, the click-clack of a dice tray, the call of a "All bets in", the siren sound of lady luck trying to convince you to lay down your lunch money on the table so they can scoop it up and add it to their ever-growing coffers.

One thing I do have to say about most of Las Vegas, they know what good customer service is. At least some of them do, some of the people there bend over backwards to keep you happy, some folks understand that a moment or two of small talk helps people like me feel they've earned a tip. The club we went to was filled with people who knew how to give excellent service, except for the bouncers who look like their rehearsing your trouncing in their head when they look at you. Hawkers realize that, in this city, everyone is selling something so you've gotta have some game to get attention and those wonderful bills in all those pockets cruising by.

Don't get me wrong, I had a good time. I enjoyed the company of my friends. I enjoyed meeting and making some new friends. I enjoyed playing at the tables when the mood struck but I did so in the full knowledge that I was being manipulated into putting my money into a slot machine or buying chips to lose quickly to another hard 21. It was fun and I'd do it again, just not anytime real soon. Though I would play some poker with my pals again, its more fun that way, I think. The beer is cheaper too.
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