They don’t call it Sin City for nothing. When my husband earned a trip to Las Vegas for two and then decided to take me with him because his brother already had plans, I was concerned. I’d heard rumors about Vegas. The geriatric retiree-hounds who comprise the city’s Chamber of Commerce were the ones who came up with the, “What Happens In Vegas,” ad campaign. What chance did I have against the depravity?
I was determined to have fun in a sin-free way. I mapped out tour routes to the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam which my husband promptly shot down as the geekiest Vegas entertainment possible. The wildest and craziest item on my agenda was to swing by the Hard Rock Café and Hotel just long enough to add to my T-shirt collection. If things got out of hand, I might let myself have a third glass of wine. Don’t look down your nose at me, we were consenting adults.
After we arrived, I finally began to understand what all the movies were talking about. I knew there was a two hour time difference, so I brought my running clothes. That first morning I woke up at four am local time and headed out for a run. Vegas was still alive at that hour, but it was at death’s door. The lobby of one of the most expensive hotels on the strip was crawling with hookers. Not call girls, not escorts…hookers. Some of them had been working so long into the night that they were no longer wearing their shoes, instead they had the impossibly stilt-like heels looped through the straps of their purse-slash-overnight-bags.
I walked out through the front door and asked the valet where I should go for my run. I was completely prepared for him to smile reassuringly and say something ultra-touristy, like, “Anywhere along the strip will be fine for your sightseeing excursion.”
Instead, he sternly warned me, complete with ominously arm-waving-like gestures. “Stay on the left side of the strip and do not go more than five miles. Anywhere else and it gets pretty shady.”
If this was the safe part of Vegas, they must have been doing human body part farming in the other parts. Hapless tourists all over the city were at that very moment waking up from their nights of debauchery lying in bathtubs full of ice with a note tied to their wrists letting them know that they no longer had kidneys. Forget the drive-thru wedding chapels, this place had all-night blood plasma donation places and I don’t think they were paying off the donors with a cup of juice and an Oreo. I swear to you I actually ran past a sperm donation vending machine, thank god it was out of order.
I headed off in the direction I was told to and made sure to keep my eyes peeled. And I wish I hadn’t. I saw homeless people taking wallets off of drunk people who were peeing in the magical Bellagio fountains (I secretly clapped for the homeless people…stupid rampant pee-ers) and it all became clear to me. The National Language of Vegas is drunk. The National Pasttime is drunk. I swear to you the flag of Las Vegas is drunk. Everywhere I looked at any time of the day, there was drunk.
It’s like these people didn’t realize that this oasis resort city in the middle of the desert does, in fact, have running water. They bused it in years ago. It is not a requirement for hydration and survival to imbibe.
The only thing more in excess than alcohol was the prices. We paid $12 apiece for six inch sandwiches at Subway. Yes, we’re the only citizens of Earth who fly all the way to Las Vegas to eat fast food. Bottles of water were upwards of four dollars. The pair of flipflops I bought because my dress shoes were rubbing blisters cost more than the dress shoes that rubbed the blisters. We won’t talk about how much the band-aids to cover the blister set me back.
At the risk of sounding like the Mayor of Cowtown who turned up her country bumpkin nose at the lifestyle of the big city, it just wasn’t my kind of town. The billboards with full frontal nudity and the slot machines outside the arrival gates at the airport helped me figure that out.
There was one bonus to the trip: for the first time in my life I got to fly first class. I swear it’s not that long a story.
My husband, ever the devoted father that he is, booked us on separate flights. Yes, we vacationed by taking separate airplanes to and from our destination. It may have been a dampener, but his logic was sound: if one of our planes goes down, the children will still have one parent. I swear to you he looked me in the face and said those words. He completely missed the fact that we rode to the airport in the same car, travelling on one of the most statistically dangerous stretches of highway east of the Mississippi River. So I had a little fun with him.
“Hey, wouldn’t it be freakishly weird if the reason the plane crashes is because my plane smashed into yours in midair?”
“Don’t say that.”
“Or what about this, what if your plane lands on the runway, but then the air traffic controller is drunk (this is Vegas, after all) and he directs my plane to land on top of it?”
“Oh my gosh, what if someone realizes before take-off that my plane has no landing gear and they don’t realize that your plane is still a working airplane and they take the wheels off your plane and put them on mine?”
“Go away now.”
This went on for days. I must tell you there was never a point where it stopped being funny. This trip ended three years ago and I’m still chuckling to myself over possible two-plane collision theories.
I absolutely refuse to believe that our tickets were luck of the draw and that he just happened to get a seat on the good airline and I got stuck in the thirty-eighth row of the suckiest airline available that doesn’t change planes in Poland. Not only did we have no snacks, no drinks, and no in-flight movie for this four-hour game of Get-To-Know-Your-Seatmate-Intimately, it was Las Vegas’s NASCAR weekend. Guess what that means? Pre-drunk. These people boarded the plane drunk, which I thought was illegal, and then proceeded to get drunker throughout the flight, which is amazing considering there was no beverage service.
So when the time came to bid adieu to the bright lights of the Fourth Circle of Hell, I approached the ticket counter at check-in and was asked the most amazing combination of words I’ve ever heard spoken in English: “Would you like to upgrade to first class?” For the measly cost of dinner for one and half a bottle of water in town, I could put those drunken disappointed race fans and would-be black jack pros several rows behind me, separated from me by an opaque curtain festooned with color-coordinating swirls just like the ones on the flight attendants’ shirts. I would be one of the beautiful people.
It was worth every dime. From the glorious vista of two thousand to twelve thousand feet I was able to see the entire Grand Canyon all at once. I saw the Hoover Dam, although from that height I completely don’t understand what all the fuss is about. More importantly, I had my own arm rest and the person next to me was not drunk. He must be from out of town.