4 January 2004

Vegas Day 1: Getting there

Our journey takes us via Newark’s “Freedom International Airport”. Since we’re not expecting more than a snack on the upcoming 6 hour flight to McCarren Airport in Las Vegas, we decide to get some food.

We stop at a place called the Garden Diner. This is no cutesy diner-themed cafeteria; everything seems to come with fries. In fact, I notice that there’s an entire section of the menu devoted just to fries of various kinds. I order a tuna melt, with fries of course. As we’re eating I notice that across the concourse from the diner is a prominent red sign indicating the location of an emergency defibrillator. They think of everything in New Jersey.

A lot of airlines have stopped serving food. Continental Airlines has come up with an even more annoying lark—they allow you to special-order food, but they won’t actually provide anything to order. Of course, they don’t tell you this beforehand; your ticket says Vegetarian or Kosher or whatever, but when you’re on the plane they give you a ham sandwich or a beef sub and say take it or leave it. I left it. Perhaps I should write to Continental and suggest that they save even more money, and just flip off their customers instead of serving a snack.

By the time we arrive at the hotel, it’s dark outside. The concierge asks us if we’d like a high or a low room, and we opt to be near the top of the tower, on the 27th floor. After the usual half-hearted minimal unpacking, we get the elevator back down to the casino level to find food.

We end up in a restaurant which was (according to the hotel guide) a French bistro called “Rouge, Blanc, Bleu”, but which has been hurriedly renamed “Red, White, Blue” and subtitled “Eat American!” Like most other decisions made by the casinos, it’s all about maximizing the amount of money they’ll rake in. I’m not expecting anything different, so it doesn’t bother me.

After some food and a little coffee, I start to take in my surroundings. It’s the first time I’ve ever been inside a casino. It’s strange to see green baize tables, roulette wheels, and other things I’d previously only seen in movies.

There are waitresses wandering the floor, dressed rather like Playboy bunnies minus the ears. They fetch drinks for the card players, many of whom are smoking. It’s like the 90s never happened.

The casinos are actually very useful, if you bear in mind their motivations. For example, there’s no trouble at all getting hold of cash—every casino has ATMs which will take any credit, debit or bank card you’ve ever heard of. There are even notices explaining that they have a simple procedure for allowing you to withdraw money even if you’ve exceeded the daily limit on your ATM card. Generous, huh? This information is presented next to a small print suggestion from the state of Nevada that you be a responsible gambler.

Another nice feature of casinos is that they all have clean, well-lit, usually gently fragranced lavatories and washrooms. Attendants seem to work 24/7 to make sure they stay that way. Again, it makes perfect logical sense—the last thing the casino wants is for people to go back to their hotel rooms to answer a call of nature; if they’re in their hotel rooms, they aren’t gambling.

An unfortunate corollary of casino logic is that the TV channel selection is poor, and the reception fuzzy. There’s the pay-per-view option, of course, but they seem unenthusiastic about it, probably because it’s less than a hundredth as profitable to them as gambling.

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