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Sunday, November 19, 2017

How Do You Spell Despair? C-A-S-I-N-O

Once a year for the past several years in and around November 20th(1) my wife and I venture forth from our home to that shiny beacon between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre knows as the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino.  This year was no different, and jaunt is mainly to get a good meal and walk around.  That's the plan.  Oh, and we waste about $20 in the slot machines, which for me consists of the following:

  • Insert money
  • Randomly push buttons
  • Lose money
  • Repeat

  • I genuinely do not know how to play a slot machine.  I really, truly don't.  You could sit me down side-by-side at a slot machine with a chimpanzee and we would pretty much be doing the exact same thing.  Now, this isn't a lacking on my part of the mental fire-power required to understand how to play these devices; spend any time in a casino and observe who actually does play slot machines and my point will be made.  No, this is what a complete lack of interest in gambling looks like.  I feel the same way about lottery tickets too, for the record.

    So why do it?

    It's kind of like that once or twice a year drink of alcohol I have...maybe it just serves to remind me that I don't like gambling, or drinking (alcohol) for that matter.

    Anyway, for me, the thought of the casino is always much better than the actuality of the casino.  I mean no disrespect, by the way, to the operators of the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino.  By all accounts and my personal observations, it's a clean(2), secure, friendly, and well-run operation.  It's just that I don't understand the underlying attraction, especially when you consider that this is a 24/7 operation.  What's more, there's just sometimes this sense of despair when you are at the casino.  I see these folks sitting alone at a slot machine, with a vacant expression of their face as they purposefully work the slot machine buttons(3).  I want to find a middle-aged lady who is sitting there alone and ask her "is that fun?".  Maybe it is fun.  Then again, people who play games of chance at any casino lose far more money than they ever win, which to me seems like the anthesis of fun.  

    Wratcheting this up a bit, remember that this is a 24/7 operation.  Yes, there are people gambling there at 3am in the morning.  I want to go, just one time, to the casino at 3am in the morning just to see this for myself, to prove that such a thing isn't just an academic construct or urban myth.

    One thing the casino is?  It's alive.  It's bright.  It's blinking.  It's a kind of modern glitzy.  Maybe for some folks, well, that's what the casino does for them: It's a place that's alive, and maybe that's something they really need.  Just writing that thought makes me think of despair though.  

    A final thought:  Casinos in Pennsylvania have a privilege that they...and only they...enjoy, namely that indoor smoking is allowed.  Within 10 seconds of entering the building...more than a hundred feet from the gambling floor...I can smell the tobacco smoke.  After about an hour and a half, I feel myself starting to get a horrible headache from it.  I wonder just how the workers there tolerate that sort of thing, well at least the workers that don't smoke.  That previous statement is a bit of a contradiction by the way, because if you work at the casino, even if you don't smoke, you are actually smoking.  The air is that bad.  That must be one heck of a waiver they must sign upon the start of employment.  

    (1) Why November 20th?  Well, it's something of a second anniversary, of sorts.
    (2) "Clean", as long as you don't consider the air.
    (3) Purposefully, unlike me.

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