God’s Reception Area

You know the old saying about Florida – that it’s God’s waiting room.  Well, if that’s true, then Laughlin is the reception area to God’s waiting room.  The entire city is populated with bus loads of seniors from every retirement community in Phoenix, Mesa, Sun City and Tucson.  They come in buses, RVs, car pools and  mini vans.  Clutching their Player’s Club cards to their chests, they dash, so to speak, into their casino of choice, knocking over other seniors in their quest to get to their “lucky” slot machine or favorite bingo chair.  In a nutshell, the demographics of Laughlin can be described in three words – over sixty-five.

The aisle and paths that wind around banks of slot machines are narrow, and yet walkers, wheelchairs and scooters navigate relatively unscathed like battleships maneuvering through war games.  The number of nose tubes and oxygen tanks rival most large city ERs and yet the casino’s gaming floors remain one of the last bastions of smoking-friendly establishments in the country.  And, unlike Las Vegas, which comes to life after dark, Laughlin nightlife is pretty tame.  Venues include former greats like Tony Orlando and Kenny Rogers and Kool and the Gang, as well as a myriad of Elvis impersonators.  Casinos offer line dancing or two-step lessons, but most of the guest are asleep by 9:00.  They need their rest so they can get up early  to wait in line at 6 AM for the $4.99 breakfast buffet.

The first time (and last) time Bill and I went was four years ago when we were visiting Mom and her then husband, John the Nazi.  He managed to bully his way to two free rooms, gloating to us on the trip up in the elevator how he never pays for a room in Laughlin and damn well shouldn’t what with all the money he spends here.  We had enough time to dump our bags, open a window to air out the musty smell of old, then do a quick visual survey of our accommodations and conclude the room was worth the price.  Minutes later, John the Nazi was pounding on the door so he could give us a brisk walking tour of the hotel, two  restaurants, and casino.

Once we were on the gaming floor, he dragged us into the Keno room where he ordered himself a double shrimp cocktail and vodka tonic and proceeded to explain his ‘system’ to us.  Since there is a 10 minute break between each Keno draw, we had to wait for John’s results for two separate drawings before he forced us to play a couple of times to make sure we got it right.  We managed to escape and found Mom happily playing a poker slot, glad to be free of her overbearing spouse for a couple of hours.  After wandering aimlessly and  dabbling (and losing) at a couple of slot machines, we planted ourselves at a Blackjack table and dribbled away $30 over the next 3 hours, while taking full advantage of the free drinks.

We spent two fun-filled days and nights and left minus $100 in gambling money, plus a tee shirt that said “Colorado Belle – We’re Game If You Are” and vowed never, ever to return.  That was four years ago during another life.  Yesterday I caught Bill looking online at Laughlin hotels.

“What are you doing?” I exclaimed, looking over his shoulder at the list of hotels.

“I don’t know,” he said sheepishly.  “I just thought maybe we could get away for a couple of days and its closer and cheaper than Vegas.”

“Are you crazy?  Don’t you remember our last trip?”

“I know, but at least the Nazi won’t be there.”

“Bill, we may be living in a senior community.  We may be living in forced retirement.  But I will not cave and become one with the Laughlin living dead!”

“Okay, okay, don’t get your bun in a tangle, granny.”

He’ll be out of traction in about a week.

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