Sunday, April 27, 2014

Story 29: Loser Takes None

            I can’t believe my loved ones staged an intervention for my gambling addiction.  Who do they think they are, anyway?

            I’ll prove it to those judgmental relatives: they’ll show concern out of the other side of their faces after I’ve won a BILLION DOLLARS in A.C., woo-hoo!

            I leave a considerate away message on my e-mail for them, and at 5:00 a.m. commence the ole pilgrimage down the GSP running through the state of N.J.  I then head over to the ACE going into A.C. proper (those from Jersey know what all these initials mean; those who aren’t, wish they could be this cool and in).  I had calculated that the tolls would be $20 round trip – the NJTA should all be arrested for the highwaymen they really are; however, they’re also The Man, and you can’t fight The Man.  I’ve been told you can’t fight The House either, `cause The House Always Wins, but I’m about to prove them wrong in spades.  And in hearts, diamonds, and clubs.

            I cut across five lanes of traffic to make the turn onto the City’s main avenue in order to maximize my time actually on the casino floor, and I gracefully screech to a stop at the hotel, casino, and resort’s valet parking.  A helpful gentleman comes to assist me with my luggage, but as I refuse to feel the need to tip any more than I must, I throw my 10 suitcases and overnight bags onto the nearest trolley and gratefully toss him a dollar for his trouble in parking my car.  I’ll be buying a luxury vehicle soon, so I really don’t care if I never see my piece-of-junk again.

            I wheel my trolley to the nearest elevator and proceed to the check-in counter; noting that check-in time is 1:00 p.m. and it is only just now 7:00 a.m., I mentally slap myself in the face for always forgetting this crucial fact in hotel operations.  Undaunted, I wheel my trolley to the always-open casino floor, the safe haven for me and my kind.  Security tries to give me a hard time, so I let them take my trolley and wiggle out of having to tip the nice fellows in the luggage holding area (you always have to look for the right angle when wanting to conserve your cash).

            Twelve hours later, all of the slot machines, card tables, and roulette wheels  have been a bust and the free drinks aren’t making me feel any better, so I check in at last, break my luggage out of Security – no bell hop, please, I am a grown woman – and I head up to my room on the 50th floor to collapse from the effort of all that losing I just did throughout the day.  The door is inconveniently situated in a corner, so I have to thrown my luggage in piece by piece before scooting the trolley down the hall and letting it glide to a stop – some random child or alcoholic can now have fun with it.

            Once inside, I realize something is amiss as I fall all over my stuff.  It takes a few moments to register the fact that I cannot see a thing: the curtains blocking the beautiful view of the other casinos have been closed tight.  I stumble over to the window and let in the natural light radiating from the boardwalk mall – ah, how peaceful the shore is.

            My toiletries are kept in four bags, so best to open them all now.  The bathroom has nice lighting and subliminal numbers on the wallpaper to keep us professional gamblers focused on our goal, which is very thoughtful.  I spread out les articles de toilette and notice that soap and shampoo have been provided, but tsk, no lotion – and what?  The towels are crooked?!!

            I go back to the main room to steady my nerves and try to find comfort in the other included amenities.

            They charge for movies?

            They charge for food?!

            They charge for phone calls??!!

            I collapse on the bed in despair; when I turn my head, I see it: some of the thread on the quilt is frayed.

            I can longer contain my anguish and let out a blood-curdling scream.  I then hear banging on my wall and my so-called “neighbor” telling me to shut the expletive up, for expletive’s sake.  Apparently, my monologue has not been entirely internal, but he needn’t be so rude about it, either.

            I find solace in one of the many hotel bars where the drinks are most decidedly not free, but I need to prepare myself for that evening’s high-stakes poker championship.  My nerves are steel, and my mind is as sharp as the razor that I carry with me always.  I also look forward to the preamble to the game, since I am always fascinated by the dealer’s opening patter and explanation of the tournament rules.  Watching them manipulate the cards in demonstration, I am convinced that casino card dealers are, in fact, frustrated magicians.

            I return to my room at 2:00 a.m., not the billionaire I had planned to be by that hour but still ahead thanks to the pockets I was able to pick on the boardwalk after the game.  Those people can afford to cancel their credit cards anyway – I just want the cash and the cute grandbaby photos.

            I can’t sleep with all this racket, but good luck turning off the Atlantic Ocean, `cause I’ve tried.  I turn on the television to drown out (pun intended) the noise, but only get partway through an excellent sales pitch on diamond vacuum cleaners when the wall-banger starts in again, this time with even more off-color language and topped off with vague threats to my person.  I choose to ignore them, until a door-banger turns out to be Security yet again, promising me eviction lest I turn off the television during non-prime-time hours.  I ask that he instead move my neighbor to a new room, but my reasonable request is denied.  It isn’t as if the hotel’s booked to capacity – oh, snap!  So, I turn off my white noise and suffer the grating sound of waves gently crashing onto the shore for the rest of the night.

            By the time the sun rises and is shining in my eyes, I decide that I have had enough thrill and magic of the casino to last me for another week, so I go downstairs to check out.  At the counter, I express my displeasure with my room’s temperature, in that I would have had to adjust the thermostat when it should have been at a proper level all along; that meals were not complimentary to reward me for my presence; and that I was not guaranteed to win anything in the casino when the establishment’s slogan clearly states that guests will “have a winning time”.  Along with the aforementioned complaints, I also challenged the “Room Assessment Fee” listed, since the room should have been assessed after it was first constructed and I should not be forced to contribute to the consequences of any poor decision-making on the hotel’s part.  The concierge then comes over to me with Security – oh, that bothersome Security – and reads off a list of my supposed offenses during my stay there, banning me for life before turning me over to the City police for my “shopping spree” on the boardwalk the night before.

            As I am led away in handcuffs, I find some comfort in knowing the joke’s on them – in my discombobulation this morning, I forgot to leave a tip for housekeeping.  Maybe my jailer will let me mail it to them with a note.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Story 28: Life in the Slow Lane

            Traffic, that cursรจd organism with a mind of its own, literally inches forward in the daily parkway ritual of lane closures, accidents with their inevitable offspring of rubbernecking, backed-up exits, backed-up entrances, and nowhere else for the imprisoned participants to turn.  In short: Hell on Earth.
            The regulars know their parts and resignedly play them.  The most intricate of the routine is the maneuver dubbed “The Waltz of the Sedans” which, when properly executed, is a thing of beauty.  It involves two or more vehicles simultaneously swapping lanes, akin to synchronized swimming and producing much the same awe to any observer who can steal a glance.  Those who stumble in this pas de automobile wipe out spectacularly and earn the sudden horror and subsequent wrath of their fellow travelers, followed by pity when the tragic results are seen.  The ones caught in the wake hours later settle for wrath because it’s easier.
            The amateurs – the out-of-staters, the vacationers, the student drivers, and the fools who just do not know any better – invariably either drive at the speed limit (aka the suggested starting speed) in the far left lane, or never know when or where their exit will show up.  The regulars do their best to go around and beyond them, but one sap always will be trapped behind an amateur trundling along with its right blinker on for the past five exits, hoping the next will be “the one”.
            Rush hour usually is rush day, except between the hours of 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. every other Sunday.  If you are lucky, the DUIs race past you with only your car rocking in the slipstream as evidence of your narrow escape.  The state trooper not far behind is planning the next phase of his career: race car driving, with its dangers of crashing and burning making it the infinitely safer life option.
            To avoid this horrible, convenient roadway, it is best to memorize the myriad backroads to your destination.  The journey will be just as long if not longer, but the advantages are that you will be in motion the entire time rather than idling; you pay for just gas rather than gas and tolls; and the scenery is better.  A few of the downsides include traffic lights and the pedestrians who step into the road just as you approach because they want you to hit them.  They are a wily bunch, tripping you up by crossing against lights, walking in non-people-designated areas, and appearing out of thin air as your car is in mid-turn.  Don’t let them succeed in their suicidal goal: stop short, blast your weak horn, shake your fist mightily, and shout a blessing that they have long lives in spite of their self-destructive tendencies.
            To avoid this nice, inconvenient roadway, take the parkway.  Yes, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, but sometimes one must just endure it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Story 27: The Call During the Movie

           The perils of the modern age: bright and noisy electronics have invaded that sacred hall of darkness and silence, the movie theater.  All it takes is one user to distract an entire audience from the awesomeness happening on the screen.
            One afternoon, a theater in the heartland of the U.S. of A. had only eight people in it, since the current blockbuster was already in its third week on the marquee and therefore almost dead.  Half of the attendees had seen it at least once and were still trying to figure out when exactly the villain had tipped his hand before they even knew he was a villain, the sly devil.  Sixteen eyes were staring at the flickering screen, blinking only if absolutely necessary, when the jarring beep-beep-beep-boop-boop-bip-beep-beep resounded.
            The response was a mix of “Argh!”s, “Ssh!”s, and kernels of popcorn thrown at the sound.  The siren call could not be ignored, however, and was answered in a whisper.
            “You saw a what?!”
            “Take it outside, man!”
            One repeat viewer didn’t mind missing a boring scene to drag an usher in and bodily evict the caller, who was struggling out of his seat and down the row, blocking the view of people behind him, and dodging more popcorn.  “Don’t kid about stuff like that – I don’t believe an actual alien spaceship has just landed next to Stonehenge.”
            This got everyone’s attention.  Those with super phones consulted the oracle that is The Internet for confirmation of the news.
            “Holy crow, a spaceship just landed next to Stonehenge!”
            “This has to be a hoax.”
            The caller covered one ear as an usher with the helpful audience member came up to him in the aisle.  “My friend’s over there right now – ” He glanced at his phone.  “She just sent me a picture of it!”
            Everyone got up from their seats and ran over to see.  The spaceship looked like a cross between an aircraft carrier and a tugboat, and was coated in a strange shade of mauve.
            The usher yelled up to the projectionist.  “Hey Mark, get down here, you gotta see this!”
            The caller put the phone back to his ear.  “Is anyone coming out of it?”
            “Put it on speaker!”
            “It doesn’t work.  Someone’s coming out!”
            “What does it look like?”
            “A… slug?”
            “What’s it doing?”
            “Does it have a ray gun?!”
            “It’s looking around… it turned around… it’s sliding back into the ship….” The sound of a roaring engine was heard and the caller had to hold the phone away from his ear for half a minute until it was done.  “Brenda!  What happened?!”
            “Oh no, the invasion’s beginning!”
            “I knew something like this was going to happen today!”
            “It left?”
            “To where, New York?!  They always go to New York.”
            “They never go to New York, there’s not enough room to land.”
            “No, she said it went straight up into the sky, back into space.”
            Phones were consulted again.
            “It left!”
            “That’s it?  No war of the worlds, no insight into the mysteries of the universe?”
            “Brenda, what’s happening?”  He listened and hung up.  “She had to give her phone to the G-men.”
            Everyone looked at their phones.  “Hey, the photos were taken down!”
            “I can’t find any of the discussions I was in the middle of!”
            “They can’t wipe out everything about this, can they?”
            “Who’s ‘they’?”
            “You know, ‘they’.”
            “You may never see Brenda again, you know.”
            “We need to fight this!  We can’t let them get away with a cover-up of this magnitude!”
            “They can’t find out that we know what really happened!”
            “We have to go underground – I have a bunker!”
            They all followed the usher in determined panic after he said this.  The house lights came on as the credits rolled.
            One attendee turned back.
            “Hey, they made me miss the end!”