Saturday, March 1, 2014

May the Casino God Smile Upon You

Here I am on the last day of February 2014; almost to the last minute, as it is now 11:52am, writing my first post for the year.  Already two months into the year and it seems like just yesterday I was telling about a horrendous traffic jamb on Thanksgiving day.

Between then and now I was fired from the bus company for actions completely my fault. I am not proud of it, and in fact was only slightly amused when my youngest imperiously cried out  "she lost her job again?" I was terminated two days before Christmas but somehow (with a lot of help from our village) managed to have a pleasant holiday without too much disappointment. I spent half of December and all of January posting resumes and submitting applications to just about any job - qualified or not. By the end of the month I was finally called to interview for a job located 65 miles north of home. I interviewed to drive the tour bus for Casino Pauma.

The whole process was invigorating and a boon to my ego in that it was evident they really wanted me. When I discovered, to my dismay the job was only part-time, I actually stopped the interview half through and told them there was no way I could travel that far every day for only part-time hours. I must have done something right because the interviewer immediately called her HR manager and they began looking for other positions.

Finally in February I was re-interviewed at the casino; this time for the position of slot attendant.  Despite the images of scantily clad playgirls dishing out change and blowing kisses on players' dice, I accepted the position. Fortunately, the uniform is comfortable, unisex, and simple; and I'm not expected to blow on anything.

I've been working now for about three weeks; just enough time to study repetitive behaviors - after all, it is said "it takes 21 days to form a habit." I work the overnight shift which brings in a curious collection of characters.  I am astounded at the many folks who have the means to spend all night, every night, plunking coins into a machine that seldom gives back.

Gaming with slot machines is not a social activity, and although it is difficult to have fun while losing, there is a perception fed by Hollywood that people actually enjoy watching the reels spin; all-the-while praying to an unseen Casino God to line up the symbols in their favor.  But unlike the media images of loud, gay chatter and gamblers hitting the big one, most of the players at slots have a disinterested gaze as they mechanically push the buttons. Any other expression than "blank" could be simply described as "apathetic." They may as well be popping balloons on Pogo.

Granted, there are those who go to casinos for the thrill of chance. They are the worshipers of Casino God.  Like all other faiths, Casino God is, at times, elusive. Followers have developed intricate  theology requiring detailed rituals and bargaining prayer to invoke favor.

Bargaining prayers range from the simply "please" and "thank you" to the outright demands of "I've pledged and tithed all that I have... you owe me!" Casino God is a selfish god though, and once a congregant has won the big one, he demands it all to be plunked down again... perhaps in the next machine, but often into the same one that just belched "winner!" and fueled the room with renewed hope.

As the bells and whistles sound, a murmur slowly spreads through room igniting the ritualistic believers who perform detailed motions intended to bring on Casino God's favor.   Most perform a mystic wave across the screen as to infuse the reels with "juju" so that they line up. Some knock on the screen, while others massage the glass. Regardless the method, it is faith and hope that keeps them returning night after night. "Who knows? You could be next."

I don't know about Casino God, but I am blessed in my new venture.  Despite my prejudices and judgements, the job is fun.  I never considered myself to be gregarious or outwardly social, but I love people watching. In just three weeks I've acquired a few favorite guests and miss them when they do not arrive on time. I learn just enough to hold polite conversations; and without jiggling or blowing kisses, help them enjoy their visit. I suppose that if this truly were a temple, then I'd be a teacher of the faith as I guide them on their journeys to Gamblers' Paradise.

May the Casino God smile on us all and we find our own wealth and happiness.