Who are these people? These faces!
Where do they come from? They look
like caricatures of used car
dealers from Dallas.
And, sweet Jesus, there are a hell
of a lot of them at four-thirty on
a Monday morning. Still humping
the American dream, that vision of
the big winner somehow emerging
from the last minute predawn chaos
of a stale Vegas casino.
-Hunter S. Thompson
Ah....Reno. The above quote sums up my experience nicely. Now I remember why I don't really like hanging out in casinos. While there, I saw more than my fair share of strange people, all with deeply lined faces, staring like zombies at the soft glow of slot machines and video poker. Most of them seemed like they didn't even notice the throng of humanity seething around them like blood cells in an artery. Many of them were drinking at 9am...they didn't look happy.
My experience in Reno was as a ghost....unnoticed. This trip had it's highs and lows, but mostly lows. There I was (My god!, There I am.), amongst 900 of my coworkers....and it seemed like nobody wanted to talk to me. The worst was the concert/banquet. It felt like high school all over again. Everyone was mingling and eating. I wandered around trying to find people I knew. Everytime I found someone, they were already engrossed in a conversation. I would walk up to them thinking I would be included, but people would just go on talking like I wasn't there. After an hour or so of that, I gave up and went back to my room. Hanging out on the casino floor was a little better. Usually I could find someone bellied up to the bar to talk with. I found that my coworkers tend to fall into 2 categories: the ones that like to talk theory and design, and the ones that like to talk money. I fall into the first category, so my conversations with like minded people generally went well. When speaking with someone who likes to talk money, I felt like I was talking to a used car salesman. I would leave these conversations feeling like I needed to take a shower. We definitely have some sharks in the business. The funny thing though, was that work was all people seemed to talk about. I like talking shop as much as the next person but, my god, after 3-4 days of it straight it gets very old. One good thing that happened was that I ran into a lot of people I knew from either school or the KC area. Again though, the conversations were awkward for the most part as I hadn't kept in touch with these people for going on 3 years.
Oh well, onto other experiences. My flight to and from Reno was eventful. I started out at 4:50 on Tuesday Morning. Our flight out of St. Louis was delayed 3 hours for repairs, so we missed our connection in Denver. I ended up spending 5 additional hours in Denver to catch a flight. They still let you smoke in that airport, but you have to buy a drink in the one smoking bar or they kick you out. I didn't get into Reno till after 7pm their time. On the way back I had to get up at 4:30 to catch a 5am shuttle to the airport. My flight was at 6:20am. I waited in line 30 minutes to check my bag. When I got to the front of the line, the guy said he couldn't check my bag outside and asked if I was on the no fly list. I thought I was going to have to stand in another line for 30 minutes. Instead, he went inside and took care of it. My bags were checked and I figured it would be a short time later before I was on my plane. I was wrong. Ahead of me was a security line with about 200 or so people in it. Long story short, I made my plane by less than 10 minutes before takeoff. I later found out that had I missed this flight, I would have been stuck in Reno for 2-3 more days since they didn't have any open flights. The rest of the day was uneventful, and I made it back to Columbia by 5pm.
I was surprised by how little I drank while I was there. Last time I went I played Blackjack and drank from 5 to 2am everyday. I guess it was because I lost a lot of money quickly that I didn't have the urge to gamble. That left conversations, and we all know how those went. So, I was in my room early most of the time. Overall this was a good thing, as I actually learned quite a bit in my classes.
There were two positive aspects of my trip. The first was the view. My room was on the 22nd floor. There were two windows that were about 15 feet wide by 5 feet tall. It was like having a panoramic view. The mountains were absolutley stunning. The second was gambling. I managed to lose about 16o in 2 hours or so at the blackjack table. This was only on the second day. I gave up on gambling until Friday. You could only get free drinks while you were playing, so I went to the bar and put 5 bucks in the quarter video poker machines. About halfway through that, I hit four of kind, which paid 75 quarters. I lost all that money while I was sitting there. I still wanted to drink, so I put in 4 more dollars. I was down to my last 13 quarters and I was dealt a royal flush....which paid 750 quarters. I cashed out 190 bucks and called it quits. So, overall I was up 30 bucks for the week. Some people were much more lucky than I was. My boss walked away with over 700 bucks. Some guy wanted to bum a smoke from him and paid him a dollar for it. My boss refused and the guy told him to take it and play it in a specific slot machine. He won 200 bucks off that one dollar on the first pull! Some people weren't that lucky. A coworker of mine lost about 400 bucks.
I was very glad to get home yesterday. The convention was a very surreal place to be. Many people there were amputees and it felt like walking around a cyborg convention. One girl had an arm that was ipod white with neon blue lighting on the inside...very strange, like something out of Star Wars. They even had a prosthetics/orthotics fashion show where they paraded horribly disfigured/disabled people out on stage and had them pose just like a real fashion show while an annoucer commented on what parts they were using in their devices. It was something you had to see to fully understand how degrading it was.
Well, as they say...that's the long and the short of it.