Casino Shuffle

Ode to the little, gambling, old women. To the shrunken, old ladies that can no longer walk, instead merely shuffling, scooting across the slick walkways between the carpeted spots, trying to 7-7-7 their way into heaven. To the old men with tube socks stretched up to the knee with sandals and fanny packs. To their large-bellied wives with even bigger frowns impaled by burning cigarettes. To the pretty waitress who’s worked every Saturday night for the last 25 years, inhaling lungful after lungful of the stale, smoky optimism of a card full of points to be used at the 2-star restaurant masqueraded as a 5-star. To the $6 piece of pizza and the free mini bottle of water.

Jutting up from the sandy riverfront sits this lighthouse of adventure, spacious parking garage attached. Sparkling lights of many colors run up and down the façade, and the ceiling of the casino makes the player feel as if she’s in the clouds. Messages abound, reinforcing a winning attitude and imposed never-say-never style. The magicians of psychology provide a place to disengage from reality; a hole to crawl into with new, fancy graphics and playful noises offering regression.

Couples exit hand-in-hand from the icebox that is the casino floor, out into the humid heat of the still-sunny day. They’re exhausted by vigorous slot play and flavorless buffet food, but pleased because they used old points for the food and won new points from the slot play. They’ve only won money once and have been coming for years, but that’s not really the point anyway. Plus, they will win, eventually; it’s only a matter of odds.

A lonely middle-aged man returns once a week to touch the new car sitting in the lobby. He has many a selfie with it now and is fairly certain the woman he’s been cyber-stalking is starting to believe it’s his. Nearby, the almost-middle-aged woman reveals slight disappointment when the guard does not ask for her ID. It wasn’t that long ago she was carded every time she came. She sighs to her friend, reminiscing about the day she was feisty enough to be escorted out of the casino.

Some of the employees remember when there was live entertainment every weekend, and when long, silver arms operated the slots, but now are just utilized for an extra sprinkling of luck on the spin. Here comes the hopeful couple, excited to win, but mostly happy just to be together for the night. By them sits the addict, unable to pull away even when he knows he doesn’t have anything left. And on his right is his good, loyal wife who comes along just to people watch, quietly biding her time with a few sips of beer while her life savings is gambled away.

Intrusively blocking the walkways is the wedding party posing for pictures at their favorite spot. They smile with pride, having just married, and at being clever enough to leverage “hitting a jackpot” for high quality Facebook posts – they’re going to get so many likes. In the restroom gathers the girls’ party who “oh-my-gosh”es this and “no-he-didn’t”s that, and then pauses for long breaks to scroll through their phones, their men patiently waiting just outside in the hallway.

To the risk-takers of life, uncaring that the world goes on around them, happy with the knowledge that they are actually doing something to change their destiny. Tonight’s the night – can’t you feel it?

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