Viva Las Vegas

I recently took a trip to Las Vegas. First of all, you have to realize that I am not a big fan of the city. I used to go there every January for a work event and I left feeling exhausted and sad every time I went. On each of those trips I worked long days, entertained clients for both breakfast and dinner every day, and I found the casinos more depressing than exhilarating.

Despite my negative feelings toward the city, I agreed to meet a friend there for our annual girls trip this year. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not muster up any enthusiasm for the trip. I tried to keep an open mind about going, but it was kind of like looking forward to going to the dentist. Actually, my dentist has become a friend of mine, so I probably look forward to seeing her more than I looked forward to that trip.

I made my reservations in early July and started working on turning my attitude around. It didn’t help any when in August I received a notice that my 2-hour direct flight had been changed to an all day ordeal with a 5-hour layover in Las Angeles. It wasn’t until I was checking in for my flight to Vegas that I noticed there was very fine print at the bottom of the email telling me that I could have contested the change.

Oh well, I need to sketch and write more often; I decided I’d be sure and pack my sketch pad, drawing pencils, and my computer so I could occupy myself during my layover. That was a great plan and I actually began to look forward to what I could get done while in LA.

Except I forgot to pack all of the above. I was halfway to the airport to leave town when I realized my computer bag was empty and my sketchpad was AWOL. Since I’m not the type of person who leaves time in her schedule to turn around and drive back home when I forget things, I had no choice but to keep driving. I had a book in my bag and I decided to make the best of what I had.

Arriving in LA I walked around the terminal to see where I wanted to eat. After checking out all of my options, I elected to eat at the café that was located directly across from my gate. While I was waiting for my food, I asked the (very hot) waiter if there was anywhere I could pick up some paper and a pencil. He thought for a moment and asked me to give him a minute. Upon his return, he handed me a beat up order pad and a pen.

So, with his kind help, the layover that had me rather peeved turned into a quick sketch session. I sketched any poor soul who happened to sit facing me. A few of the sketches were pretty good and I was able to catch my victim and hand them the sketch I’d done of them. This not only kept me entertained, it fascinated the wait staff and, hopefully, pleased the people who received their sketch.I eventually arrived in Vegas and had a great time with my friend. However, because of my distaste for the city, I hadn’t been there in a long time. Food had become way more expensive than I was prepared for. We had promised ourselves a really nice meal on our last night in town, but the costs were making me a little nervous. I kept reminding myself I was on vacation and not to sweat the money. I am a firm believer that if you have faith, the money will come.

Neither my friend or I are gamblers, but one of the main draws of Las Vegas is the gambling. With the flashing lights, and the allure of winning “free” money, people flock to the city in droves hoping to make that big win. For myself, I prefer to have something to show for the money I spend, even if it’s just a few extra pounds on my hips. Nevertheless, the whole trip I kept reminding my friend that we had to hit the casinos at least once during our long weekend.

On the very last day, we walked to one of the nicer casinos to spend a few bucks and a minimal amount of time at the slot machines, just so we could say we did it. I didn’t have any cash, so my friend loaned me a twenty and we sat down at some penny slots. I watched the balance on my slot machine get lower and lower as I kept pushing the button to try again. I told myself that I would cash out when I reached a limit I had mentally set. It didn’t take long to get to that limit, and I had already started looking for another slot machine when I punched the button on the last roll.

I won that line and the machine kept going, playing more and more winning games while I sat there watching in amazement. I finally got my friends attention and pointed out the new balance that was being tallied. She was quite impressed when she thought I had won $15. I had to point out to her she was looking at it wrong; I had won over $150. Our big dinner out was paid for!

We had a lovely dinner out that night with absolutely no concerns about the cost. I knew that if we went over the $150 I had won that the overage would be less than what we had been spending on ordinary meals. I had steak, sides, wine, and dessert and relished each and every free bite.

We caught an early flight to our respective destinations the next morning. On that flight, as I thought about our trip, I could not get over how things had turned out. A long layover became an opportunity to interact with people and to offer them a small token to make them smile; a destination I was not even slightly excited about became a lot of fun because of the company I was with; and an upscale dinner that I was nervous about being able to pay for came to me as a free meal.

Am I eager to return to Vegas? Not particularly. Am I grateful for all the fortuitous things that happened on that trip? Absolutely. From planning the trip, to taking the trip, to coming home I made conscious decisions to roll with whatever happened. Those decisions brought delightful experiences that I could never have planned if I tried.

So, you know what comes next, right? Try and keep an open mind and sometimes, the things you dread can become the things you’ll remember with a smile for years to come.


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