Located in a resort-town along the Colorado River bordering Nevada and Arizona, this place had 1,600 rooms, four restaurants, three bars, two pools and a separate smoking and non-smoking casino. Not huge by Vegas standards, but certainly nothing to sneeze at out in the Mojave Desert. Summer and holiday weekends would find us and the other nine or ten hotels on the strip at 100% occupancy. That's a lot of people chasing the big one, lemme tell ya.
Those holiday weekends were something else. 15,000 people packed into the casino, wallets open, cleavage exposed, drinks in hand. Narcissism and a hefty dose of any one of a myriad of addictions coming together to create an energy like nothing else I've ever experienced. Standing in the heart of the casino floor, you could feel the electricity, always as though you were just on the cusp of something big. Something huge. Like something was about to happen if you just had one more. If you just rolled one more time. If you just let it ride. It was hard to not get swept up in it.
It was one of those holiday Friday nights, right in the middle of the casino floor when a man I admired spit on me and changed my life.
His name was John Jeurgensmeyer. (Needless to say, every time I saw him, I sang to him ... John, Jacob, Jeurgensmeyer Schmidt .... ) He was the casino manager on duty. I was the guest service manager ... and since the hotel manager had gone home for the weekend, John was in charge of the restaurants, bars, security and casino, and I had the hotel, bell, valet and the rest. I had looked up to him for years. He was intelligent, witty, funny, and darned good at his job. And this was the first time I was going to impress him.
Nights like these, you dressed the part. This night I was sporting my large and seriously in-charge early-90's hair, black eyeliner, dark lipstick, and a black business ensemble with high-heels ... all topped off with a red power-blazer. I am reasonably sure that blazer had shoulder pads. I. Meant. Business.
Fifteen windows open at the front desk. A line so long it was being worked by two cocktail waitresses. Bellmen sweating, valets running and anxiety running high. In the middle of it all, the GSM phone rings. In the middle of tracking down a lost best-man ("no ma'am, I can't give you a key to that hussy's room even though you know he's in there"), assuaging a man's fears about not being recognized as a high-roller, ("yes sir, $1,200 certainly is a wad of cash to have spent since Tuesday, but our high-rollers typically throw down upwards of $200k a weekend.") and trying to convince housekeeping to do something--anything-- to get 21866 back into service after that bride decided to pour champagne all over the mattress (wouldn't rose petals have been a better choice?), a clerk hollers, "Laura--John's on 6854 for you!". We make eye contact. She gives me the, "you're gonna wanna take this" call.
'Turns out we had a scammer among us.
This fella had been kicked out of every high-class, middle-class and scraping-the-bottom casino in Clark County, and now he was in our house.
It took us a while to figure it out, though. He hadn't been to our little town yet, so we'd only seen faxed copies of his booking photo. Remember, back in '93, fax was pretty much the only way to send a photo and laser printers must have been at about 8 dpi, even on a (then) state-of-the-art model.
This guy had tipped us off, though. He was a jerk at check-in and threatened one of my crew, had tried to tell the bell desk that they lost one of his bags, and goosed a cocktail waitress.
And now he is trying to pull a fast one on the boys in the casino.
Security has him downstairs, but he's spinning so many yarns that nobody could tell where the truth lie.
No hard evidence of cheating or card-counting, but all of the old guys had a suspicion. And when the house's money is on the line, a suspicion is good enough.
Back then it took two managers to 86 someone--John ... and me.
This is my moment. This is the story that will get back to the big boys; the guys that make decisions. I am going to show him that I can see the big picture. That I am a company
So John and I stand face to face on the casino floor. The band is blaring. The slots are ringing at an unearthly decibel. People are alternately laughing and yelling ... and usually not alternately. It's barely controlled chaos.
We stand inches from one another, otherwise we'd never hear one another.
As he's asking me, "Whaddya think? He's got no car and nobody's got a room for him. We don't have know that we have enough to call Metro and get him arrested. Do we kick him?" As he enunciated that last "do", it happened:
A tiny ball of spit catapults itself from John's Magnum PI mustache, travels in an arch and lands ... smack on my bottom lip.
It nestles into my L'Oreal Red Rhapsody lipcolor.
Holy sweet mother of what am I going to do now?
I couldn't wipe it. I didn't want to embarrass him. Besides, we're talking red lipstick on a lily-white face. The smears would be unbearable. I couldn't fake a thoughtful finger-press to the mouth--we were standing so close I would have elbowed him right in the solar plexus. And I sure as heck couldn't (barf) lick it off.
And then I realize something.
I can no longer hear the band.
The clinking of ice cubes in glasses, of watches and rings colliding with tables as die are thrown, of dealers barking out dollar amounts, colors and numbers, of cards shuffling, of slots spinning, of revelers laughing and losers groaning all slid away in a single thought-filled moment. I couldn't even hear John.
To this day, I have no idea what he said when I didn't answer. I have no idea how I replied. I'm sure we booted the jerk-wad out, but have no recollection of signing anything, being a part of the escort party or even the rest of my shift.
I don't know for sure it was that precise moment which slowed my charge for gaming/hospitality greatness, but I do know that shortly after that I just didn't see the point any longer. I know that in those last few months, it was all I could do to not start shouting at strangers and coworkers alike, "Don't you see we're feeding on the problems of these people? I am NOT making the world a better place by being here!"
Four months later I left and got a job at an eye doctor's office. I learned important office-y stuff like how to sit most of the day, how to read lens prescriptions and (possibly most importantly) about Kona coffee and the power of vanilla creamer.
Years have passed, and every time I gleek, I think of John.
Just today, in fact, I spit on someone.
I didn't get embarrassed, though.
I just told myself that maybe it was life-altering spit.