Just a thought… How people treat you is their karma; how you choose to react is yours. [Unknown Author, tranquilwaters.uk.com]
I have saved one of my favourite travel – or life – stories EVER for today’s journal. I hope that you get a chance to listen to it, as I’m straining to put into words here what excitement and awe this chance encounter brought to Rob and to me. So give it a click.
I hadn’t mentioned where Rob and I went on our vacation last week, not because of privacy issues or anything like that; we flew to the US southwest and, because we spent some time in Las Vegas, I kept it to myself. The reasons have not to do with you, but me: I feel more than a bit of guilt spending time and money (albeit in nickels, as you’ll see) as I know there’s just so much judgment about Vegas in general and gambling in particular.
All I can tell you is that Rob and I enjoy the ride and the mindlessness. We have never made enough to cover a trip, but we’ve also never spent more than we felt we should. We love the ever-present possibility that something wild and wonderful will happen. And it did, but not at all in the way that you might think.
There we were at a casino in Summerlin, a neighbourhood northwest of Las Vegas. The last two trips we’ve rented a car and gotten a condo away from the hustle – in every sense of the word – of the LV strip: that way, if we choose to spend a few hours where the limits on the video poker machines are a little too high for our blood, we can go for a quick visit, but we’re not trapped amid the yard-long booze cups toted by loud drunks, and those painfully wobbling stilettos that doubtless provide one of about five major regrets for their wearers the next day.
At this casino in Summerlin, Rob and I were sipping our free coffees and hoping that, with a well-paying hand, a wheel above would be activated and we’d add to our credits. Next to us sat a neatly dressed woman who looked to be on autopilot as she also hit the MAX button, except that she was playing with a lot more determination, speed and money. She was spending dollars – 21 of them per hand – something I spotted and then silently nudged Rob and nodded in her direction so he might take notice, too.
As I glanced furtively every few minutes, I could see her bankroll rising up, up, up: its highest point (that I saw) nearing 1,000 dollars. I kid you not when I say the next time I looked, it had plummeted to 145 dollars. That’s how fast the Triple Wheel can be: if you don’t get into the wheel bonus and then hit something better than its lowest offerings (which, of course, happens most often) you sink faster than the Titanic dishes on display at the Luxor back on the strip.
So, things are not looking good at the Sun Coast, where this woman now holds a little piece of paper and a ten dollar bill in her hand. She was just about ready to cut her losses and retrieve her car from the valet; that is what she told us later. Just then, something big catches our attention. As she raises her hands in delight, three hands all deal 2’s, with a “kicker” (a special smaller card that can quadruple the winnings and more). She had just won SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS!
Suddenly, that serious demeanor changed and she was – while not jumping out of her skin – very happy. But then Rob shouted, “You still spin the wheel!” Sure enough, her big four-of-a-kind deal guaranteed her a shot at the gold wheel, the highest-paying of three wheels of fortune that the game offered. With Rob and me standing behind her, she made invisible circles with the pads of her hand on the tabled video game screen, and the gold wheel began to spin.
As it slowed and came to a stop, we saw what any of us who has ever played that “bonus” kind of game dreams of: she hit the highest amount that the wheel offered: ten thousand dollars! Rob and I screamed and leapt in the air – yes, finally, we were those people in the casino who yell and cheer (something that playing nickels just does not provide, I’m afraid) – and she jumped up and hugged us. We were all laughing and yelling, and two other women across the aisle came to look as the machine began its crescendo of digital music excitement, filling our small part of the sprawling casino with the happiest of noises.
We laughed as she said she was just about to leave when it hit and then, while we waited for what seemed like forever for the hand pay attendant to come and give her that $16,000, I peppered her with questions, including, what about the IRS? She gets a slip of paper and reports it on her taxes against losses at the end of the year. (I don’t know who keeps track of their losses, but I suppose some say they do.) Does she get her picture taken for casino publicity? She could, but she says “no” – another sign this was not this woman’s first trip to the Winners’ Circle.
Then, the most unexpected thing of all happened. After the pay attendants came and she handed them both money as a tip, the woman smoothed her blouse and got ready to go. Then she reached over and gave Rob three $100 bills, and gave me three more, handing still more bills to the two people across the aisle who’d also been cheering on this middle-aged black woman.
“Wait, no,” I said, “We can’t take this!” But she was insistent.
“You just enjoy it. Spend it however you like. It’s yours.”
“Can you tell me your first name?” I asked her.
“Well, Evelyn, we are going to enjoy this and think of you every minute.” And we did.
She left the casino (after we asked if she needed an escort) and it seemed lots of the staff knew her well. I noticed that the zippered black banker’s bag I saw at the side of her machine wasn’t something a slot attendant had left behind, but her own “purse.” This is what Evelyn does – or at least has as a very successful hobby. Or, it sure was that day.
Later in the week, when I had my own lucky day (I won $400 on one multiple hand that gave me two Royal Flushes), I found the lady who had been wiping games and emptying ashtrays around us. I asked her if she could take money from me and handed her a $20 bill. I think she wondered if I wanted her to make change. But Mariela soon caught on when I told her that I’d just won and wanted to share it, and she was delighted. On her next trip around the machines, she thanked me again.
Her happiness was nothing compared to what I felt: just a bit of an echo of Evelyn and the impression she made on Rob and me that no Royal Flush or Four Deuces could ever leave.