A man approached my empty roulette table with a dejected, whole-body expression. He came from another table across the floor. I’d seen this scene a thousand times before. Guy loses his shirt on one table that’s “gone cold.” He thinks he will “get it all back” on a different table.
Men, women, seniors, young adults, rich, middle-class, and the poor. It makes no difference. Gambling is an addiction. It will prey on anyone.
The despondent man tossed 4, $25 chips on the table. His “Change please” was barely audible.
I slid 100, dollar-value chips towards him. I offered an insincere, robotic, “Good luck.”
As a casino dealer, I am constantly exposed to the ugly side of people. Alcohol, tobacco, and gambling addictions. Anger management issues. Lack of self control. Desperation. Greed. I have had to learn not to care about people. Not to get wrapped up in their sagas and their, what I consider, self-inflicted dilemmas.
It’s an ugly business. I fake sincerity. I stereotype people. It makes me ugly! I am not comfortable with “what I do” for it is not “who I am.”
“So, how are you Peter?” the man asked me with the demeanor of Eeyore.
“I’m doing great.” I lied. “You’re not having a good day I take it?”
“Good day? Not having a good couple of weeks. I could use some good luck.”
Here we go. Another poor bastard who is about to tell me his sob story of pissing his money away. I don’t care.
I told you, this job makes me ugly.
“Oh. Do you come here often?”
“No, hardly at all. Just had to get away. Lots of wakes and funerals lately.”
“Lots? That’s not good. I’m sorry to hear that.”
I was curious and a bit compassionate.
“I live in Sandy Hook. Got 2 girls. A second grader and a kindergartner.”
Holy shit! Here I am thinking this guy is just some gambling junkie. I’m an ass. What do I say to this guy?
The silence was deafening above the droning roar of slot machines. I spun the ball. The man stared into the spinning wheel, while he fiddled with his green NewtownMemorialFund.org bracelet.
I announced, “27. Red. Odd.”
“Hah. Figures. Right between my 6 and my 11. My girls’ birthdays.”
He lost. I felt sick to my stomach as I swept his chips off the table. The man already had a piece of his dignity stolen from him. And now I was taking his money too. And, I had the nerve to wish him, “Good luck.” I hate my job.
“Excuse me for asking, but are your girls okay? I mean the kindergartner… Is she…” I was going to ask if she was alive. Somehow.
“Yeah, they’re both fine. Well, not really fine. But they are still with me. It’s been real tough. Just had to get away you know. Came down with a friend last night. Spent the night. “
I did the only thing I could think of: I did my job. Other players came and went which alleviated the awkardness of having to “entertain” the depressed man. Maybe, that was exactly what he was looking for. Maybe he was tired of talking about the tragedy. Maybe, he just wanted to be comfortably numb. He won some money here and there and escaped living in “that world” for a little while.
I was glad he chose my table. Or maybe, just maybe, he was led to my table. Maybe, he had to teach me to stop judging books by their covers.
To the Sandy Hook man, “I’m sorry. Better luck to you. Thank you for the tips!” This time, I mean it!
Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.