Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

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Lucky Me

Thursday morning I loaded our two lhasas for the trip to the vet's for boarding. I was heading out at three for a plane to a hearing in Los Angeles. My wife was heading from her work at three for a trip to Kansas City to visit her family. I drew the early morning lhasa apso shuttle service duty. About a mile down the road, I realized that my back right tire was completely flat.
I guess that the "procrastinator's way", continually re-airing a tire with a slow leak instead of just getting the tire fixed, had been found wanting as a life strategy. I impressed myself by figuring out the "so safe it's nearly useless" jack and put on the "we don't put a real spare in cars anymore, but here's a Ringling Brothers clown car spare instead" spare tire, and getting back on the road within moments. The dogs seemed vaguely amused by the whole thing, but our dogs seem vaguely amused often, so I'm not sure if I see their mood or a mirror. I got them safely off, got to my office for "can't stop for the tire repair" kinds of deadline-filled
"get this Fex Exed" type of work, and then limped my three wheels and a wheelette car out to the airport, making my plane with two entire minutes to spare.

I fly a lot for business, to attend court hearings which reschedule with some frequency. To keep the airfare affordable, I often fly one-stop rather than direct. Los Angeles is a usual destination for me, and stops in El Paso, Albuquerque and Las Vegas are not at all unusual. Another time I'll write about what great burritos they make in the El Paso bus station at 2 in the morning,
but this trip my layover was Las Vegas.

I am one of those people, I suspect my name is Legion, who sometimes does things of which I mildly disapprove. Seems like St. Paul has a tag about doing that whicheth I willeth not doeth, or some such. I don't mean the great moral lapses--I'm fairly immune to the conventional major vices. Instead, I mean those humdrum excursions into the banality of minor wrong. This brings us to the Las Vegas Airport slots.

When I think of gambling in Vegas, I don't think of going to New York, New York and playing at the 1,000 dollar baccarat table. I don't imagine getting comped for hotel rooms overlooking whatever it is one overlooks in Las Vegas. I don't even go to see Blue Man Group, much as I would like to. No sirree, my career as a gambler takes the form of Nickel and Quarter Slots airport layover gambling.

On that Thursday evening, my Los Angeles plane slightly delayed, that I found myself at a slot investing my hard earned twenty dollars in the hopes of turning it into forty. Soon, through intensely skilled pulls at the slot machine handle, I had amassed a solid fortune of thirty seven dollars and fifty cents. I am a man of principle. I have heard the Kenny Rogers song.
I know when to hold them, and when to fold them. I walked away, 148 quarters in my plastic coin cup. I felt good, I felt right, I had beaten the gambling monkey on my back tonight. Then I headed to the poker machines, a game of skill, really, not at all a real gamble,and promptly lost the entire small sum.

When it turned out the plane was going to be a bit later than even a bit later, I had time to kill. I had been reading Fred Chappell's All the Green Valley, a great novel that was enriching my inner life, about a poet in the Appalachia part of NC. One of those posh airport bookstores is in the LV airport, so I could pick up more books chosen by the NY Times or Oprah or those Booker prize people to enrich myself. More than Once I have told myself--look, you can spend your 20 dollars on paperback literature, and have a much longer, richer experience than pouring it down the Elvis machine that gives its biggest plays when the video of Love Me Tender comes on.

Don't ask me, therefore, why I headed to the nickel Slotto machine. It's one of those theological puzzles that only St. Paul would know. Slotto is a curious machine. One plays nine "lines" of plays, that is, virtually every horizontal, vertical or diagonal direction is a potential path to victory. One plays five coins at a time, so that roughly 45 nickels are at risk with each spin. The thing is all animations, of convenience store clerks, cups, blowhard announcers and a ditzy-looking, if unidentifed woman, not to mention the clown and the ape. How does one win? I have no idea. I have looked hard at the "pays" screen, and I still have no idea. I just know that one hits the "9 lines" and "play 5" buttons and the three strips of animation spin, and then the machine makes all sort of interconnections of seemingly scantily related things and awards a certain number of credits (or not).

I am attracted to the old Tao saying "if any man tell you that is the Way, then that is surely not the Way". Well, Slotto is kinda like that. One does not think about how to win Slotto. One just plays. An attendant showed me how I could choose when the animated lines would stop spinning. I tried it, but realized that stopping made no sense when I did not know the goals of the game.
Soon I was getting huge awards. The bonus screen in which the convenience store clerk let me "scratch off" lottery tickets for prizes was humming. The "slotto" when the numbered ping pong balls on the top pulled out a lottery like result soon gave me some 400 nickels. Within a matter of some half an hour, my twenty dollars had grown to 101 dollars. I tipped the attendant and proceeded to my plane.

Obviously, I had some skill and charm I'd never yet appreciated. I had that magic something, that nickel slots thing, that luck thing. I was the man. I was Elvis, doled out in nickel portions. I rode my plane to Los Angeles knowing that I had won, and I had
taken my winnings with me.

Today my hearing went well, and I boarded the one-stop back to Las Vegas on my way back to Dallas. I succumbed to Slotto again, and despite getting lots of good coins, I lost forty of my net sixty dollars from the day before. I thought to myself how if only I'd had more time, the luck would have returned.

When I got to the Dallas airport, the little clown car tire was quite low on air. I tried to limp the car to a convenience store to remedy this, by-passing fields of blooming flowers, but the spare soon gave way. I pulled over at a Jack in the Box hamburger restaurant,
running essentially on clown car rim, and called AAA. AAA helped me tow the car to the Coppell Goodyear. The AAA man was so nice, I gave him a 20, and told him "I won this in Las Vegas". As I sat waiting for my brother who runs the website and would never let a slow leak in a tire persist to come pick me up, and I watched the 16 year olds in the affluent neighborhood drive by in brand new cars, I thought about luck. I looked up at the moon, now bathed in inky looking black clouds, now shining bright, all seas or mares or craters or what have you. Despite the oncoming "good weather" cold afflicting me, despite seeing my Saturday going up in the flames of "would you like the 80,000 mile tires, or the High Performance Enzymatic" pep talks, I felt like a lucky guy. I felt like the man. I'll bet even Elvis, at his most Vegassy, never got to see an inky moon in Coppell, Texas.

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