Its easy to bemoan a casino career; after all it is overwhelmingly a "dead-end job." The odd-ball hours of shift work and missing out on holidays, and family functions leaves most of us with a irreplaceable psychological divot. Plus, the job is physically grueling (standing in place and making repetitive motions), unsafe (second-hand smoke) and is set in a hostile atmosphere (serving customers who are losing their money and drinking...who can become disorderly and threatening). If that wasn't enough, the staff constantly fears corporate cut-backs, diminished benefits and/or lay-offs.
Nevertheless there are a few dinosaurs like me, who have endured beyond the unofficial 5-year "burn-out" expectancy for casino games personnel and have made a decent living at it. For such an accomplishment, we should all be put in a mental institution or given a commendation! And there is no better time recognize such a feat than Labor Day.
For those of you who never gave it any thought, Labor Day recognizes over 99.9% of us...the workers. Whether you are rich or poor, nearly everyone over twelve has been a worker in one form or another. And it is in honoring all of us, that Labor Day has become a national DAY OFF...unless of course you're in a service industry such as casino gambling...then instead of barbecuing, you were on the job GETTING fried.
Somewhere out in Las Vegas is my BFFL, Frank. The length of our casino careers are virtually parallel. We remain close because in the early days we served as each others wing-man during my five years out west. Many of our adventures were inspirations for my short stories.
One such episode occurred during the first week of January 1979. Our gaming school's job placement service hooked Frank up at one of the worse dealing jobs in Las Vegas; the Slots-A-Fun Casino. In terms of prestige, Slots-A-Fun was the E-Coli trapped between the bottom of your shoe and the dog crap you stepped in. In terms of financial re numeration (grossing about $150.00/week)... it was far worse.
SLOTS-A-FUN NEVER LOOKED THIS GOOD IN 1979 !
Frank was already working there six weeks went I hit town and you guessed it, I was placed there too. I looked him up and Frank graciously let me and this other guy John, sleep on his floor until we got settled.
I woke up that first morning and felt a sore throat coming on. I told Frank and his roommate Bill and they poured me a shot of generic scotch...for medicinal purposes...in a reddish, brown stained glass. As you may know, I am easily skeeved so drinking from a glass I couldn't see through wasn't going to be easy. Frank, Bill and John saw me hesitate so I made a lame excuse that it was ten in the morning. Outside the newspaper slammed against the front door. Frank retrieved it and I thought I was off the hook. But he came back and led the others into shaming me over my medicine. When I brought the cheap hooch up to my lips, I stopped. Impatiently, Frank grabbed my elbow and lifted it up. The scotch burst into my mouth and I gagged. After coughing my head off, I slugged the dose down like a champ...whatever remnants of my childhood that still remained...died at that moment.
Frank started reading the paper and suddenly burst out his front door. He came back a few seconds later after stealing his neighbor's paper. He tore out a coupon from his paper and then did the same from the neighbor's. He then asked to borrow John's car while he worked. Later, we dropped John off at the Nevada Club, an equally crappy break-in house.
Frank gave me a guided tour of the city. Back downtown, Frank crossed Bonanza Avenue and said, "Now we're in North Las Vegas. They have casinos too. Let's have lunch at the Silver Nugget, I hope you like chili."
Sitting on its own separate lot, the Silver Nugget seemed bigger than most of the downtown casinos. Its large, empty parking started in front, wrapped around both sides and extended out back. Inside, the place was a ghost town. The coffee shop looked empty too except Dixie the hostess...who should have had "BITCH" tattooed on her forehead...was lecturing several employees at the cash register. Behind her back, our waitress Ynez sneered at Dixie as we were led to a table.
Ynez was friendly but her face lost its glow when Frank set down the coupons for; a bowl of chili and a 16-ounce draught beer for a quarter. Frank took off his glasses and cleaned the lenses with a napkin as we waited. After eating, we lingered for a half hour as Frank rattled off one horror story after another about Slots-A-Fun . In that time, we also watched Dixie snap at the other workers between seating five other parties.
Later, Frank picked up the check and said to me, "Fifty-three cents! This check is ridiculous, if I was you, I'd refuse to pay it." We were laughing when a busboy carrying a palette of water glasses accidentally knocked a pepper shaker on the floor. Dixie made a federal case out of it and called Ynez and another waitress over to witness her go off on the poor guy...the damned thing didn't even break.
Frank said, "Its time to dine and dash."
Of course I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Shut-up, let's go and get ready to run."
Outside, we high-fived each other over beating the joint for a 53c check.
I was waiting for Frank to unlock my door when he said, "Oh shit, I left John's keys on the table." I waited as Frank slithered back in.
A minute later, he came back out and said, "That #!@#?! bitch (he didn't actually say bitch) Dixie was waiting for me. She was twirling the keys and said, 'Forget something buddy?' I panicked. I handed her a fin, grabbed the keys and ran out. As I was leaving she called me every name in the book. Then, just as I got to the door she said, 'Hey low-life, sure you got everything?' I turned around and that piece of shit had my glasses."
Three days later, I started my casino dealing career and haven't stopped telling stories about it yet.