Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Sad Side

Here is a post I wrote around 8am morning after stumbling back to my room in a drunken stupor on the third night of my trip to Las Vegas last month. I had forgotten all about writing this post and really about this story until I was reading through my saved posts the other day, and when I saw it, it all came rushing back to me. This experience really weirded me out when it happened last month, and I remember being confused if I was just really drunk or if this guy was actually saying some effed up shizznot to me. Unfortunately, at this point I am pretty sure it was the latter.


Last night at some point when I went to check in the rest of the chips I had outstanding and get back cash, there was a hugely long line at the cashier's cage and of course it seemed like the dude in front of every single cashier line was getting a marker, redeeming some coupon, getting travelers checks cashed, etc., so none of the lines were really moving at all. I was pretty hammered and when I heard the guy behind me literally swear out loud, "GodDAMNit what the hell takes these fuckers so LONG?", I just had to turn around to ask him if he had a plane to catch or something.

When I turned around though, I saw this short old man, wearing a very obvious toupee and just generally looking very dishevelled, lowly, and just generally sad. Instead of the quippy line I had been all prepared to deliver, I just kinda shook my head at him like yeah, these lines suck what can you do. He then takes this immediately as an intro and starts talking to me about what assholes the MGM is for all the games they are running. I kinda laughed, since of course nobody is making him or anyone else play any of these games, and since people do things like smoke, play the lottery, etc. all the time that are basically really dumb decisions over the long-term but which people choose based on short-term gains, so really what's the difference anyways in the end. But he continued on, and this is where things started to get a little weird.

"These assholes", the old man commented to me, "they run these games that take your money, that ruin people's lives."

"No shit," I responded, "But then why do we keep playing?" My question was delivered lightly, jokingly, matching the tone I had read in the guy's first comment to me. But then he turns back to me, lowers his head like he's telling me a secret, and whispers to me very quietly, "I'm not kidding. I've been coming here for 18 years, and I've lost around $50,000, my house, my wife and my kids all because of the gambling."

"Hmmm. Fifty thousand?" I asked, hopefully. I mean, not that losing 50 grand at gambling -- or at anything, for that matter -- is cool or should be acceptable, but at the same time, 50 grand lost over 18 years of play, I mean that's only under 3 thousand a year, which is hardly enough to ruin someone's life, family, etc., and certainly should not necessarily be enough to cause someone to lose their home.

"No," he replied, "I said four hundred fifty thousand dollars."

"Wow. That's terrible" was all I could think to say. I was dumbfounded. Here was a guy, talking to a complete stranger in the literal middle of the night at a casino, and explaining just minutes after meeting me in line at the cashier that gambling has ruined his life. Literally. But then it got even worse.

He continued, "Now I have a marker, I owe MGM 8 or 10 grand now. After going through all that $450,000, after losing everything I had, now I had to borrow money from the casino, because of course I need to keep playing." That last part about needing to keep playing was uttered in a very matter-of-fact tone, as if it would make all the sense in the world to me why he wants to keep gambling after losing everything that mattered to him in the world. To me, it was one of the saddest things I could have ever learned about a perfect stranger.

"Anyways," he went on, "I have no way I'll ever pay MGM back the 10 grand I owe them now. I just got cleaned out again tonight, I don't have the money to satisfy my marker right now, so I'm going to clear outta here and head back home. If they let me borrow some more money, I'll keep chasing it for as long as I can, but as soon as they come for me, I know I'll never be able to pay back this money to the casino."

"So they why let yourself do it?" I asked, genuinely interested in the answer as, even though I love to play some poker and have spent hundreds of hours in casinos in my day playing any and every game they have to offer, I simply could not conceivably imagine of being in his situation and making these same decisions when faced with the choice.

"I got nothing else left," he told me solemnly. "This is all I have."

As I stood there, realizing maybe for the first time in the conversation just how dead serious this guy was, he went on with the most chilling part of the whole story, and the reason that I went right upstairs and made sure to write all this down, because it really spooked me.

"So when the MGM won't let me borrow any more money and eventually come for me to pay them back, I know exactly what I'm gonna do. I have a huge lake out back behind my house a ways, and I have the exact spot picked out where I'm gonna drive my truck right in, and end it all. I'll never let those bastards get one dime outta me after what they've done to my life. When the casino credit is gone, I'm gonna end my life and that will be that."

Now I know I was pretty sloppy, but I swear to you this guy was 100% serious. I could see it in his eyes. I'm not at all sure if he'll actually have the balls to do it when the time comes, but I am sure of two things: (1) the casino will stop giving him credit very soon, since has no means to ever pay them back, and (2) the guy definitely intended to kill himself to get out of his troubles once that happened, as he stood there in line at the casino cage at 3am on a random weekday late-night. He meant it, I assure you. He very calmly right into the eyes of a total stranger and matter-of-factly told me his plan to kill himself, one which he had actually put some real thought into and had been visualizing for some time.

As I mentioned I more or less blocked this whole conversation out of my head until being reminded of it when I read this half-written post the other day, so I thought I would get it out there while the memory is still fresh returning to my mind. It just boggles the mind that an activity like gambling that can bring as much joy as it does to as many people as enjoy it safely, can also be capable of leading to such fantastic and unbelievable ruination and despair in the hands of the wrong people or the wrong set of circumstances. Just how serious this guy was when push comes to shove, I suppose I'll never know. But I'll tell you one thing -- ever since I left Vegas, I've been afraid to look up news stories if anyone in the area recently drowned by driving their car into a lake, and I won't be performing that search anytime soon either.

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Blogger OES said...

Holy shit. bone chilling. It seems to be a common reaction, inebriated or not, to kind of dismiss crazy shit like that because most people don't really want to face what they just heard.

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When they have it planned out down to the last detail it's usually going to happen.

I bet this guy vividly visualizes it every single day of his life too between his thoughts of hopelessness and shame and all that other horrible shit that comes with being a degenerate gambler.

Hopelessness it truly a sad thing.

11:14 PM  

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