“The Casino (Part 1)”
She has waited, tossing and turning, for hours, to hear her son leave for work and finally, she hears the front door close and his car startup and pull away from the house. She has not slept. She has not really slept for weeks and it takes all her strength to sit up. She is so tired, but her mind has been racing all night. “Must make this right.” “I am a bad person.” “Just make it right and I will stop. I promise!”, she thinks over and over and over again, like a tape machine caught in an endless loop.
She dresses slowly, moving slowly but there is no time or strength for makeup or food. She heads for the desk where her son keeps his checkbook and opens various drawers until she finds it. She hesitates for a moment but the loop in her head does not stop: “Make it right. Today can be my lucky day. I just need one good hit, one jackpot, and everything will be ok” and she looks at her son’s signature on various pieces of paper and traces over them, over and over again until she is comfortable she can forge it. When she wins today, she will replace all the money she is going to take out of his bank account and although a check will be missing, he will never know she borrowed the money.
“She is a bad person”, over and over again, it loops in her head. “Have to make it right.”
Her heart is going to burst out of her chest; it is pounding so hard, when she walks into the bank to cash the check. They do not know her there and it could be a problem but the teller does not question and hands over the $6000. “She is a bad person” loops as she walks out of the bank.
The trip to the casino seems to take forever. She has never been to this casino before but has been told by trusted friends that the slot machines pay off better than where she has been going and losing.
As she drives along, smoking one cigarette after another to calm her nerves, she thinks about the bankruptcy proceedings next week. $100,000 in credit card debt she will never pay. Oh, how it had hurt her husband and he never suspecting a thing all the time she was using up their savings, his savings. “Have to make it right. One good jackpot and I promise I will stop.”
Now and again, she cries from exhaustion and the tears cloud her vision of the road. Sometimes she thinks of just running the car off the road, maybe into a tree. “I am a bad person” the loop keeps running in her head.
Finally, she pulls into the casino parking lot and quickly is out of her car and into the bright, noisy, slot machine filled, casino itself. It is much larger inside than she thought it would be and she is immediately lost. “Where are the high dollar machines?” she asks the security guard standing by the door. He points and she is off, watching others play all the while, looking to see how they are doing as an indication of what she can expect. Not many jackpots it seems. “She must make it right.” “She is a bad person.”
She finds the high dollar slot area and frantically walks around and around looking at the various machines. Which one to play? Many are already in use by other players but she finds a $10 machine and sits down in front of it. Once more she prays. “Please God, let me have this one jackpot to make it all right and I promise I will stop. I know my husband says I need help, counseling, but I don’t. I just need one jackpot and I will stop. I can stop, I know it.”
She opens up her purse and takes out 5 one hundred dollar bills and feeds them into the machine. Luck. Just needs some luck for a change. It has been so long since she had a jackpot. It has to happen, just has to happen today, tonight, now. “She has to make it right. She is a bad person.”
The wheels of the machine spin and stop on a non-winning combination of symbols and she spins again and again and still the machine does not pay her anything at all. “This is good”, she thinks, "As if it does not pay out small denominations, perhaps it is going to pay out just one large one and I can get it, if I try and am lucky. I have to make this right.”
More bills come out of the purse and are feed into the machine and still the machine refuses to give her anything at all. Not one winning combination, much less the jackpot.
As she feeds more and more bills into the machine, she refuses to take the money out of her purse and actually count how much there is left. She knows by looking at the stack that it is going down and fast but it does not matter. Only takes one pull, one spin and it will be all better. The next spin perhaps or the next. The machine has to be ready to hit the jackpot with so much money in it already.
A cocktail waitress comes by offering free drinks but she does not have time for that. She stares straight ahead at the slot machine; spinning the wheels and watching them stop without giving her so much as a dime in winnings. More bills out of the purse.
Her heart is pounding again as she can sense the stack of bills in her purse really is not a stack anymore and she is beginning to panic. “What if I do not hit? What will I tell my son? What would she do if he kicked her out of his house as her husband had done? Where would she go? What would she do? I am a bad person. Have to make it right. Please, just one more and I promise I will stop.”
It is mid morning when the notion of going gambling occurs to him out of nowhere. He had not been to a casino in a while and could use the break from his usual routine; besides, he just might just get lucky. Sometimes he seemed to have luck and win but of late, luck has not been on his side.
He gathers what he needs for the trip, planning to spend the night to make the trip, ride, easier and then heads to the bank to pick up cash. In the back of this mind, perhaps when the thought of gambling came to mind to start with, is the cute little cocktail waitress he has seen and talked to many times. How much he would like to sleep with her. Oh, not really have sex, just sleep with her. See her naked. Lust. Always the lust thing with him and he disdains it in himself. He is a fat, old man and she only ever gives him the time of day because he gives out large tips. Still, she has a certain sparkle in her eyes and if nothing else, he would like to just sit and talk with her for hours and hear her story. There is something about this girl, he thinks. “Can he do it this time? Actually ask her to sleep with him? How would he do it? How much money should he offer her?” He wonders what she will say or do and suspects she will turn him down and be disappointed in him. Just another horny old bastard like all the rest of the men she has to deal with every day.
As he drives along, he smokes cigarettes, listens to music and enjoys looking about the countryside. It had been so long since he had been to this casino that the season has changed and the farm country he is passing through has changed, is changing. But even though he generally is thoughtless, now and again, he can see the big jackpot winning combination come down on the pay line of the slot machine and him jumping up and down as he always does when he hits something really big. Maybe this will be the time. And maybe he will ask that cute little waitress to sleep with him. What is her name? “Lust. Always with the lust thing,” he thinks. “What is the matter with me?”
Finally, he pulls into the parking lot of the casino and is greeted by the valet parking attendants. They all know his name because of his large tips and he likes the special attention he gets when the goes to this casino. Nice to feel special now and again.
He checks into his hotel room and takes a quick shower. Could be a long session on the casino floor and he wants to start off smelling good. “Wonder if the cute little waitress is working tonight? She could be but not in the part of the casino where he will be. Should he try to find her? No, that would be really obvious that he wanted something. But if she is working his section and she shows her usual interest in him, he might, he might be able to blurt out that he wants to sleep with her and has a room for the night.”
He fantasizes about her being naked in his room as he showers and then he gets dressed in clean clothes and sits down in a large sofa chair and smokes a cigarette. At this point the possibilities are limitless. He has not gambled yet and thus neither won nor lost. A perfect score like in bowling before you roll that first ball. He wishes he could sense luck, when he had it and when he didn’t but he never has seemed to find the right combination of events, sequences which indicate yeah or nay. Once, when he was 15 and just confirmed in the church, he and his dad had gone trout fishing that afternoon and he caught the largest trout ever seen by anyone. Big enough to have mounted on a board and hung on the wall. Was there some connection between the confirmation and the fish? He really did not believe in praying to win money and never did. Just wrong to pray to God to let one win money.
smokes another cigarette as his smoking now has to hold him for a while as
there is no smoking in the casino and once again, she comes to mind. Bastard. "Please God, help me get
past this lust thing, please."
"Please God, help me get past this lust thing, please."
Finally, he guesses he is ready, looking around the room for some clue that he will have luck this time and heads out the hotel room door and down to the casino floor.
The casino is busy and as he walks along, he watches other players feed their money into the slot machines and get nothing in return. “Why do we do this?” He thinks. He goes straight for the high dollar section of the casino and it is pretty crowded too and the machine he would have liked to play, has hit on before, is being used, so he finds a $20 machine and sits down and begins the ritual of feeding $100 bills into it until he has enough credits in it for him to play awhile and test if the machine is going to pay out anything at all. Funny how sometimes, a machine will hit for a sizeable sum within a couple of hundred dollars of credits and other times, he can and has, feed the machine thousands to get no return at all. That is his downfall and he knows it. Staying with the same machine too long, thinking that since he has put so much money into it, it just has to pay off sooner or later. But mostly it is later when he is broke and long gone out of the casino.
all the initial credits gone, he pulls more money from his pocket and feeds it
into the machine. “Sure could use a
drink,” he thinks and begins to look around for a cocktail waitress. “Is she working this section? Is he brave
enough to actually ask her?
God, I am a bad person.
I have a wonderful wife and yet I have this lust. I wonder if just one
time would end it. Stop the lust cravings?"
God, I am a bad person. I have a wonderful wife and yet I have this lust. I wonder if just one time would end it. Stop the lust cravings?"
He presses the spin button and the machine continues to come up empty. “This is good,” he thinks as if it is not paying off small amounts, then it is building up to a large, fat, payout. He just has to wait and be patient.
As he spins the wheels with no luck at all, he finally takes a look around the section he is in. First of all, he does not hear any jackpot bells going off, which is not a good sign. If no one is hitting then it could be a very bad night for everyone and sometimes it was like that. No machine wanted to pay off. Beside him, he notices a woman sitting up straight on the edge of her seat, staring straight ahead and pressing the spin button as fast as she can. She is not doing any better than he is. Nothing is coming up on her machine either. “Could be a tough night,” he thinks but “Only takes one spin, perhaps the next or the one after that,”
She does not even notice when the man sits down beside her and begins playing a $20 slot machine. Like her, he begins to feed in $100 bills with no results. For a while they are a pair in tandem. Bills feed in and wheels spun and nothing. Finally, she gets a combination, which pays $500. $500! She has put thousands into the machine and only $500! She says out loud to really no one at all, “$500. This is ridiculous.” The man sitting beside her hears her and responds, “Yeah, I know what you mean. Why do we do this?” and goes back to feed bills into his machine and spinning the wheels without any results.
“Bad person.” “Bad person.” “Bad person.” Each spin of the slot machine wheels brings up the same message, “Bad person.”
She reaches into her purse and pulls out the last of her money. $300 is all that remains and still no jackpot. In her mind, she sees the winning combination come down, hit, and she will use the money to win even more money and everything will be all right. It has to be all right.
In goes the 3 last bills and she spins and spins and spins and watches the credits in the machine go down and down until there are only 2 credits left. One last spin and she is in a full panic now. “This is the end. Where do I go from here? What do I do now?”
She presses the button for the last spin and once again, a non-winning combination of symbols comes up on the pay line of the machine. She sits there, just staring at the machine. She is so tired.
The man sitting next to her announces to really no one at all, “Well that is enough of this machine for me. Going to try another.” And he gets up and heads around a corner of row of slot machines. She sits a while longer but her nerves are frazzled and she needs a cigarette badly. She gets up and walks around the corner of a row of slot machines where the man who was sitting next to her seemed to go and sure enough, there he is sitting and playing a $5 machine. She walks up to him. “Do you mind if I watch you play for a while?” she says and he turns and looks up at her and says “Sure.”
After maybe 10 spins or so, up comes a winning combination for several thousand dollars and although he is happy about it, this lady, this Korean lady sitting beside him seems to be ecstatic as if it was her that just won. The attendants come and take all the information from him to complete all the paperwork needed to pay him his cash and he turns to the Korean lady, “I think I am going to slip out to the smoking lounge and smoke a cigarette while they get me my money.” “Can I come too?” she asks. “I sure could use a cigarette to calm my nerves.” “Sure, lets go,” he says and they get up and walk out to the smoking lounge and find two seats side by side at the far end of the lounge. He pulls out his pack of cigarettes and hands it to her so she can draw out her own and then he lights it for her. She takes a deep drag on the cigarette, exhales and then sinks back into the chair. “I am so tired,” she says turning and looking at him. At first, he says nothing. What can he do? What is he supposed to do? “I am John”, sticking his hand out and she responds with her hand and “I am Sue. Nice to meet you John.”
She is Korean, hard to tell how old but maybe mid to late 40’s, lean and really rather pretty but her face is tired and she is not wearing any makeup, which probably would help.
Others come into the lounge, have a quick smoke and then leave. They each start another cigarette when she turns to him and begins. “I do not know what I will do. I borrowed money from my son to come here and he does not know about it and now I do not have any money to pay him back. I just knew I would win today, but I didn’t. I am such a bad person.” “Your not a bad person,” he responds. “Haven’t killed anyone have you?”
She closes her eyes and lays her head back into the seat. He watches her for a moment and can tell that she is more than tired, she is down, depressed, out of hope and then out of nowhere comes, “Look, I know this is sort of off the wall, but I am staying the night here at the hotel and if you want, you can stay with me. No funny business or anything. Just a place to sleep that is all.” He is startled by what he has just said. God, she must think I think she is a hooker or something. She opens her eyes and looks at him and then slowly shakes her head: yes. “She is so tired,” she says again.
His mind does a back flip. He has been thinking of the cute little waitress all day and maybe asking her to sleep with him and all of a sudden, here is this woman, obviously in need of money and she has just said yes to spending the night with him. Weird how this might turn out good after all. She is not what he had in mind but perhaps, maybe, his luck has changed and she is just wild in bed. “Oh, crap. Dam lust. This lady is hurting and I am thinking of getting her into bed. Please God, let me get over this lust thing and help this lady.”
“Look, I have to get back in the casino as the attendants probably have my winnings by now, so come along and then we will go up to the room and get some room service food and a key to the room for you and you will feel better,” he says and gets up and heads to the door leading to the casino. At first she does not move and he thinks perhaps he has been too forward with his suggestion and it is up to her, he does not care one way or the other. He just did not know what else to do.
He is right, the attendants are waiting for him when he gets back to his winning slot machine and they count out the thousands in his hand and suddenly she is there, by his side and without really thinking about it, he counts out $1000 and gives it to her. She mildly protests but he says “Look I just won it and sure can share some.”
“I am going back to the machine I was playing. It has to hit I have put so much money in it” and walks around the corner leaving him alone. Perhaps a scam artist he wonders? Sometimes people will come into the high dollar slot area and pretend they know you from some previous visit and hang around and hang around hoping you will share some winnings with them. She could be one of those, he does not know. Does not care really and begins playing the same slot machine again. If it hit for a win once, it could do it again as slot machines sometimes will do.
He feeds bills and presses the spin key over and over but nothing and then, there she is, at his side again. “Nothing. $1000 more dollars gone like that!” and she make a gesture with her fingers. “I am sorry”, he says and reaches into his pocket and pulls out another $1000 and gives it to her. This time, no protest at all. She is manic. He can see, tell, she is manic. Gambling to her is some sort of obsession, like a constant need for heroin or some other drug. “What machine should I play?” she asks of him. “I have no idea,” he says, “They are all bad, if you ask me.” And she turns and goes across the aisle and begins playing a dollar machine and he goes back to playing the machine he won on but is now just feeding money without any more results.
He is getting tired and needs to eat. He gets up from his machine and walks over to where she is playing. She is down to $20 out of the $1000 he gave her and she is frantic like before. “Look,” he says, “I need to go eat something and if you want to sleep in my hotel room tonight, let's go there now and order some room service and I can get you a key so you can come and go when you like.” “Ok,” is all she says and gets up to follow him.
makes his way through the casino to the hotel and she follows, half
watching the way he is going and half watching all the players and those
spinning wheels. “I am a bad person,” ,
the loop in her head louder than the sound coming from all the slot machines
, the loop in her head louder than the sound coming from all the slot machines combined.
Finally, he reaches the hotel elevator and they wait for it to arrive to take them up to his room. “You probably think I am a bad person for doing this,” she says. “No, I don’t think you are a bad person, just a very tired one. You will feel better after you eat something.” “No, I am not hungry,” she says and they step into the elevator and head up.
Slot machine number 13206 is a $20, double gold, 7’s machine. Slot machine 13206 is an evil machine as man has ever created, other than perhaps the atomic bomb.
Slot machine number 13206 hence referred to, as “Screw Them” as it likes to think of itself, is 4 feet tall, almost 3 feet wide and almost 3 feet deep. It has a glass panel on the gambler side at the top which shows the payout for various winning pay line combination of symbols, a coin slot, a paper money slot and a couple of buttons, to include “spin”, “cash out” and “bet max number of coins”. “Screw them” even has a pull lever on the right side if a gambler prefers to pull the lever over pushing the “spin” button.
Inside “Screw Them” is a hopper full of $20 tokens, a three wheel spinner, a paper money validator, various wires running here and there and like all modern slot machines, a very simple computer which contains computer code which determines percentage of, as well as, volatility of, payout. Embedded in the programming is also some code which watches play and tries to determine if the same player is playing more than a set amount of spins. If a gambler is playing too long, it means “Screw Them” has a real sucker on the hook and can take and take and take and never give up a dime as “Screw Them” knows that the more a gambler has “invested”, the more he is likely to believe the “machine just has to pay off soon” and keeps on feeding “Screw Them”. “Screw Them” loves to get a sucker player as he has so many tricks it can use to keep them playing and he can keep eating money. Old “Screw Them” loves to eat money.
“Screw Them” is evil because it has a very low percentage of payout, high volatility and an especially keen sense of when the same player has been on the machine too long. “Screw Them” is the acknowledged master of teasing gamblers into playing and loosing.
If “Screw Them” has not had any play for an hour or so, when a gambler comes up and begins play, “Screw Them”, begins the trap by giving the player a small jackpot after a few spins of the wheels. “Ok”, thinks the gambler, “Finally, a paying machine!” But little does he know, old “Screw Them” is just beginning his game.
So after the first small payout, “Screw Them” takes money and money without paying anything but here is the key, “Screw Them” teases the gambler with “almost big time jackpot” hits. For example, if (3) double 7’s on the pay line pays out $100,000, (3) double 7’s may fall just above or just below the pay line over and over again, making the gambler think the machine is “ready” to hit the super jackpot, but it is only a tease. Old “Screw Them” has adjusted its programming over time and knows just how far to push each gambler before the gambler quits and actually walks away a winner, something “Screw Them” hates with a passion.
Modifying its own programming is not universal in slot machines. In fact, “Screw Them” is special in that just before it was shipped out to the casino, one programmer decided it would be fun to interject into the code a little snippet of code which would give machine number 13206 a tiny bit of artificial intelligence. Just for fun, mind you. The programmer was not planning on benefiting from the code in anyway but really did not understand the consequences of his actions and it has cost many gamblers plenty.
Anyway, “Screw Them” is constantly thinking about the game it plays with the invisible machine on the other side of the payout glass. Some “machines” are so stupid, playing so long that “Screw Them” can eat through as much as $5,000 without giving up so much as a single payout.
Because “Screw Them” is a $20 machine and it takes 2 coins to win the super jackpot of $100,000, it does not get as much play as the $5 dollar machines and even the $50 machines but on a Friday or Saturday night, “Screw Them” can eat through 20, 30 or even 40,000 dollars and maybe give up $3,000 in payouts. Oh, he is the master for sure.
So, on this particular day, “Screw Them” has had some limited play now and again, but has not paid out anything so far and is looking for the first sucker to hook. Suddenly, “Screw Them” gets feed (5) $100 bills and begins to think, “Is $500 enough to go ahead and pay out a little and try to hook the gambler or should I just take all the money and without paying out anything?” He waits to see how the gambler is going to play: using spin button and max bet each time and hitting the spin button as fast as he can. Oh, “Screw Them” loves this type of player. Good chance “Screw Them” can take the $500 and the gambler will just feed in more money, “investing” as “Screw Them” understands it. Just the thought, “investing” makes “Screw Them” laugh. One time he laughed so hard, the bill validator got all jammed up and had to be repaired putting “Screw Them” out of play for 2 whole days and he hated that, not being feed, so now he tries to restraint himself when he thinks about “investing”. “Keep on your game,” he thinks as he serves up one loosing combination of 7’s after another, with a teaser jackpot combination “almost” on the pay line now and again. “Screw Them” sure knows how to tease. “Something which can not be taught,” the thinks, “Gott'a have the gift like he does!"
John gets nothing for his first $500 and reaches into his pocket for another $500. “Sometimes, it takes a while for a high dollar machine to begin to pay off", he thinks and feeds the hundreds into the bill validator. Spinning again, “Screw Them” smiles to himself. “Don’t have to payout anything this time either as he is going to keep feeding me for a while, investing.”
As John hits the “bet max credits” and the spin button, he looks up at the payout schedule and stares at the super jackpot of $100,000. God he would love to have that combination of 7’s land on the pay line. Take care of his losses and then some for the last several years.
As he continues to spin and watches the credit counter go down with each spin, he hears the woman sitting next to him sigh. He has not even noticed her when he sat down and she is feeding a $10 triple diamond machine as fast as she can with no more luck than John is having. For no good reason, he hits the spin button and says to her and him, “Why do we do this?”
“Screw Them” eats through the second $500. Now he is not sure if he should pay out something or keep taking. This gambler might be one of those. Give a little now and again and take 3 times as much in between.
Again, “Screw Them” gets fed another $500 and decides to eat it all without a payout and then waits for more but more does not come. “Well not as much as I could probably have gotten if I had paid out a little bit, but $1500 is not a bad way to start and night is still young. “I love my job.”
Mike sees it all. From behind the bars of the cashier’s cage, he watches night after night, the gamblers as the come in an out of his “high roller” slot machine area.
Mostly, gamblers are singles with an occasional couple coming in only for a short time. Men, women, some are regulars he sees everyday, others regulars every month or so and then there are those he has never seen before and always seem confused how everything is supposed to work. Everyday, he sees Martha, a 50's something, matronly, who stops by before work to play an hour or so and sometimes makes some money but mostly not and then there is Mr. Williams the matchstick thin black man who always comes in around 10PM, dressed in a tailored suit and nice silk tie and plays only the $100 machines. Gus, the 30 something in a wheelchair who seems to make the machines light up no matter the machine. Perhaps some compensation for his disability? Obese women in wheelchairs being pushed around by a daughter or some elderly grandmother escorted by a son or daughter. Old folks on canes and Orientals which always talk in their native tongue and who get excited at any sort of win at all.
Mike wonders where any of the gamblers he sees, Mr. Williams for example, gets the money to feed the one armed bandits. He gets $10 an hour and some benefits and is glad to have it but no way could he play a $10, 20 or $50 a spin slot machine, yet he sees players spin after spin on a $50 machine night after night. The ill regulars are there own breed. Most come casual or even looking like they don’t have a dime to their name although occasionally, there is the obvious sports star or drug dealer all dressed to the “9’s” with lots of bling bling and having a big wad of bills in their fist. Henry comes about once every 4 weeks or so and tends to play the same 2 machines for some reason. Henry has hit now and again for some big money but mostly, he will be there on a slot machine stool one moment and Mike will turn his back and Henry is gone for the night meaning he has lost all his money again. Other times, the ill regular gamblers have come to spend the night at the hotel nearby and they will be the only ones on the floor, in his area at 2 to 4am.
Mike works the night shift: 8PM until closing at 4am and most nights he is the only one in the cashier’s cage which is fine with him. Never much to do except count and bag coins or count and recount the paper bills. He has only been off the count once since he started working there and now makes sure it all comes out right each and every time.
To him, there seems to be 4 types of gamblers: (1) The ones who pick a slot machine, sit down and play till they win something and then immediately move to another machine. (2) The ones who pick a slot machine, sit down and maybe win a time or 2 but play the winnings and all their other money back into the machine in hopes of hitting the big jackpot. (3) The ones who move around constantly, walking up to a machine and inserting a coin or bill or 2 and seeing if the machine will hit and if no payout, the gambler moves on to the next machine and (4) Those who will come in, sit down and watch and watch for a player who has lost all his or her money in a specific machine and then, after the loosing player has left, this watcher will go over and give the machine a try. No matter which type of gambler, Mike knows that what he sees most often is people loosing money, night after night. He wonders about the attraction of gambling and since he cannot gamble and work for the casino at the same time, has never played one slot machine in his life.
Sometimes, someone will hit a major jackpot and there is always a celebration of those in his area. Every player likes to see a winner, as it seems to mean to them, that perhaps, it will happen to them. Perhaps on the next spin of the slot machine wheels. Mike knows better.
Besides celebrations and funny how every time a machine actually pays off and the “winner” bell or music begins, how other players have to leave their machine for a moment and go and look to see what the winner has actually won in dollar amount, Mike has seen a man punch his fist through the glass at the top of the machine after another “almost win” combination of symbols came down on a spin and he has seen woman leaving in tears after loosing way too much money. He has seen gamblers get so drunk they fall off the stools attached to the machines and he has seen groups of men come in all drunk to start with and be loud annoyance to everyone there. Usually they do not stay long or are asked to leave.
Besides the gamblers, which come in all sizes, shapes and races, there are also the hustlers who come in, sit down and watch for a winner. He has seen it many times and although casino rules say that anyone in his area is supposed to be playing to stay there, the rule is not enforced. So, these hustlers sit and watch and pick a “mark” and approach. “Hey, old buddy, good to see you again. Having any luck?” Annoyance can pay off for a hustler. Gamblers, in general, are a pretty serious lot and someone beside them talking away, can be a real distraction, annoyance, and eventually, the gambler may hand the hustler some cash, just to get him or her to go away. Mike has seen it happen many, many times. John, the old black guy, Mike thinks lives downtown, is here every night, hustling up maybe a $100 on a good night. A professional annoyance. What an occupation!
There are not any real prostitutes here or any regulars he knows of but that does not mean relationships between women and men are not borne here. Mostly, beautiful woman come in on the arm of a man but not always and these attract attention as much as a “winner” bell or machine playing its “winner tune”. Gambling, a beautiful woman, enough alcohol and eventually he will see the 2 head off to the hotel part of the casino. Sometimes one or the other comes back and sometimes not or at least during his shift.
Mike lives in a strange world and he knows it. Night after night, he watches more than anything. Oh, there is the occasional player wanting to turn a plastic bucket of coins into paper or someone wanting to break a large bill into a smaller one but mostly, he just stands and watches it all. He is not sure he is not going deaf from the place, as it is always so noisy in his area, even when there are no players there. For some reason the high dollar machines all make noise even when there is no one playing and add that to the background music which is always playing over the casino loud speakers and sometimes he can hardly hear what a player wants, when a player comes to the cashier’s cage. Cage. He is in a cage and sometimes it gets to him. Like being in a prison except all the "prisoners" are out there losing their money and he is in here with a ton of money.
And so, tonight is like most nights. Pretty quiet out on the floor with very few players and even fewer bells or jackpot winnings. Some regulars, some ill regulars and some strangers to him.
One of the ill regulars has struck up a conversation with a Korean lady he sees now and again and he wonders if this is going to go anywhere. He does not know the man’s name although they have talked many times and the fellow is friendly enough and a good tipper but Mike has never seen him leave with any woman. Will this be the first time?
A player comes to the window and wants to cash in coins and Mike proceeds to pour the coins into the counting machine and pay out the resulting bill amount and as he looks up from the cash drawer, he sees the Korean and the friendly guy head off through the casino to the hotel. Well, I be damned, he thinks. Maybe old friendly is about to score a “jackpot” after all.
Chapter 6 (Written 18 May 2005)
Angie has seen it all. As she slips on her shoes for another shift in the casino, she swears again, she is going to find something better and soon because taking crap from people here is getting old. She has been yelled at, had her butt pinched, boobs fondled, had beer spilled all over her, been propositioned too many times to count by gross old men she would not give mouth to mouth respiration to if they were dieing in front of her, had gamblers run into her and have her spill her entire tray of drinks and the player not even say they were sorry. And the old women, rude old woman, who act like she is dirt and don’t even give her a tip. Tips! Yeah, that is why she stays. No tips at McDonalds and although some nights, tips are nothing and she will go home with only minimum wage and $20 in tips but then, now and again, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, she might take in $100 or even $200 if she is lucky. Lucky! She is treated like dirt by most of the women and eyed like some sex object by all the men and yet, there they sit or stand just throwing their money way into the stupid slot machines. She will never understand it. How can people just come to the casino, time after time and lose money and know they are going to lose money and yet, come back again and again. Too hard for her to make a dollar to put it into one of those machines.
Only 10 waitresses on the floor tonight and although the crowd is small, she knows she will be busy with no time to sit down and let her feet relax. Some nights when she gets home at almost 5am, her feet hurt so badly; she cannot get to sleep. She has bought and tried so many kinds of shoes but nothing seems to help. “Just too much time on my feet!” She thinks. 8 hours. The start of another 8-hour shift.
She shuts her locker and lock its and heads out of the employee lounge. “Lounge,” she thinks, “Wonder why they call it that? Who gets to lounge around here?”
She stops at the waitress end of the bar and picks up a tray and takes a moment to say hi to Karen and Ruth, who are both busy getting their drink orders filled. “Light night and lousy tips,” says Ruth. “Yeah and there is guy over in the quarter slots that thinks he is god’s gift to women and I ought to go down on him right there on the casino floor! Bet he would not even stop playing!” Both Ruth and Karen have been here longer than Angie and are older. Angie hopes she will not be here when she gets to be their age. “Something better,” she thinks again. “Nice older rich man would be nice”.
So out on the floor she goes. She initially starts in the dollar slot area but all waitresses rotate every hour or so around various sections of the casino, partly to make the time go by faster as each area is different and so too the players and partly to let the waitress have a even chance of getting some decent tips in one area or another. The dollar slot area is not bad for tips and it appears that there is a decent crowd in her section as she walks through and begins her cry “Cocktails, coffee, complementary beverages”. Some waitresses do not ever say a word and are just waved down or yelled at, or grabbed when a player wants a drink, she prefers to yell it out, let them know she is there, hear her voice, remind them, she is a person rather than some robot to be mistreated.
She has not gotten 10 feet into her section when the orders start coming and soon she is headed back to bar on her first trip of which there will be many in an 8 hour shift. Beer, water and soda over and over again on the tray and then off back to the players. Sometimes the players move while she is getting the drinks and she can have a hard time finding them and then they always, always, complain it has taken too long for her to get the drink they wanted, so no tip. “I would rather get no tip than a penny,” which she gets sometimes from the rude old women. Some remind her of her grandmother but her grandmother would never act like these women do. The blacks are not so bad as most are rather friendly and happy to be served and she does not mind them so much, even if they do not tip. But those old woman who just seem like they losing money is her fault and yell at her because of the way she looks or how slow she was getting the requested drink or something. Once this old lady even had the gall to tell her, “If I had a child like you, I would have drown her at birth!” Sometimes, she has to fight so hard to keep from smacking a player, a gambler, be it some guys talking crudely or some old, wicked, woman.
“Cocktails, coffee, complementary beverages”, she bellows out again as she begins another round in her section. Down one isle of slot machines and then another and she is always amazed how most of the gamblers are so serious. Sitting up straight in their chairs in front of the their machine, hypnotized in some way, staring straight ahead at the spinning wheels or video screen of one of the new, multiple symbol games. A couple of beers, water and 2 diets and she heads back to the bar.
“Damn feet, already hurting. Going to be a long night,” she says to Ruth who is at the bar again having a drink order filled. “Honey, you could be in the quarter slot section and they are not tipping shit out there tonight! I got maybe $5 in my pocket from tips! God I hope there is somebody back in the high roller section when I rotate in there and maybe I will get one decent tip.”
The high roller section of the casino is every waitress’s favorite section. Usually not as crowded as other sections and most of the people are nicer and the tips are always better. Angie has even gotten $100 tip now and again for delivering up a diet coke to some fellow or another and some regulars will do $5 a crack which is fine with her.
Angie delivers her last drink order in the $1 slots section and is told to rotate into the high dollar slots section for an hour. “Oh, man!", she thinks, “It is early in the shift and should be some gamblers back there. Maybe this will be her lucky night.”
With an empty tray, she makes her way back to the high roller section of the casino and begins again, “Cocktails, coffee, complementary beverages”. Not too many gamblers in the section right now and she makes a complete run of the section without one drink order, serious gamblers in here tonight.
Another round through the section and there on a stool in front of a $20 machine is John. John comes in now and again and always looks like he does not have a dime to his name but every waitress knows John. He is friendly, never talks crude or tries to touch a waitress and best of all, gives out $100 tips regular like. She slows as she approaches John and bellows out your call again hoping he is not too into the game to not hear her. His head pulls away from the spinning wheels and says to her, “Yeah, I am ready for 2 diets”, and hands her a $100 bill. “Thanks,” she says and asks him how he has been, his wife, all the small talk they always have and he asks the same of her. John is nice. “Wish he was not married,” she thinks, “Nice rich guy.” John is like Mr. Williams. She just does not understand where they get all the money they play. She has seen both Mr. Williams and John play hours on a $20 or $100 machine and each must go through $10,000 or $20,000 dollars while they are there. “Who can afford to gamble like that,” she wonders again as she takes another order or 2 and heads back to the bar to fill the order.
When she returns, she looks for John first, always does, as he is the tipper of the night and desires her attention but he is not at the machine he was sitting at when he placed his order and so she moves around one isle and then another and finds him sitting at a $5 machine but this time, there is a Korean woman at his side and apparently they have struck up a conversation and the Korean woman has her hand on John's shoulder. “What could this be about?”, Angie wonders. Not many prostitutes ever come here and the Korean woman is not all dresses up to attract “customers”. She hands the 2 diets to John and he thanks her but it is obvious that he is into his machine and this woman at this moment and has no time for more small talk with her. No problem, he has already given her $100 tip and maybe in the time she last left in this section, before she rotates out, he will need another drink and another $100 tip.
“Cocktails, coffee, complementary beverages”, as she walks around and around the high roller section and finally gets a full tray order and heads back to the bar.
Just as she is entering the high roller section to deliver her order, here comes John with the Korean woman in tow and they are headed for the hotel. “What is this all about?”, she wonders. “John going to cheat on his wife? John? Men are such pigs!” and she delivers her drink orders and sighs as no more $100 tips are going to come her way this night with John gone. Maybe Mr. Williams will come in later. At least he is a regular $20 tipper.
God her feet hurt.