The Gardens - In the Beginning

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Woolworth Casino

When I was young, the concept of growing old never occupied my thoughts.  I was invincible; I would live forever. Of course, I wouldn't always last, but I was so removed from those decades I assumed would follow, that I never felt compelled to imagine what might lie ahead.  I was what life had chosen me to be, and life had a marvelous way of ignoring my desires and wants, and strapping me onto a lifelong roller coaster ride that would rise to heaven and plunge to hell without warning.  Woe is the idiot that gives fate full reign of their mortality.
Escaping the limitations of my small home town, I managed to remove myself to one hundred and twenty nine miles away.  With no car and only a small amount of money, I traveled by bus keeping myself well within the safety zone of mom and dad, in case I ever had to hightail it back home.  Stayed with my younger sister in her college dormitory room, then a month later moved into a rooming house where we all shared a kitchen with Skitzo Lady.  I use the word lady kindly.  Constant arguments with her imaginary friend or enemy, who knows, she helped herself each day to whatever eats were in the community fridge. She was allowed to continue this practice forever because we all valued our lives more than she did.

The name of the first casino escapes my memory, most likely for the simple reason I was fired from my job there.  One of those hiring agencies that get you a job you could have gotten yourself if you only knew sent me there, and I began work as a switchboard operator.  The hiring agency kept my first paycheck as payment. A Greek matriarch owned the place and every member of her family was employed there.  One of her gorgeous sons, a bartender, flirted and talked with me all the time, but I'm sure he was a big flirt with all the ladies.  His mom was always calling the switchboard and leaving me instructions on how to handle all the family calls each day.

To shorten this blight on my working record, let's just say I made the mistake of following her instructions on a day when I should not have followed her instructions.  The next day when I entered that building the hotel receptionist whispered that I had better leave like two minutes ago if I valued my life as Madam Greece was out to kill.

The sole supporter of my life, I was left no room to feel sorry for myself.  I needed a new source of income fast, thus began my second job far from home.  On the Graveyard shift in a smaller, older establishment someone once called the Woolworth of all Casinos, I was machine rolling all those blasted coins that the clueless emptied out of their pockets each day into the slot machines, and the casino collected each evening to make sure I had steady employment rolling them back up again to reuse. Simply stated, the job sucked!  I jumped at the offer of working in the credit-check cashing-cashier department without hesitating.  I really should have looked for another job in a non-gaming industry, but I didn't.

If you're under the delusion that the average John Doe is civilized, then you have never met a desperate tourist who has gambled away every penny to their name, credit card rejects, personal check insufficient funds, gas gauge on empty, nowhere to go with family in tow...they become blasphemous werewolves out to kill the world that is trying to 'get' them.  I've had every cuss word in existence thrown in my face and the back of my head, hairy arms shooting over the counter trying to grab me and I presume drag me over the counter-top if I had been slower on my feet, threatened, lied to, spit at...I quickly developed a healthy loathing of the general gambling public.

There NEVER was a sighting of me at a casino in that biggest little town out west on my off days unless I was dragged there kicking and screaming (not really) by a visiting family member or friend out to have a good time.  I worked for an old tyrant connected with the mafia and his two buck teethed bratty schnauzers who would drop in from their living quarters upstairs any time of the day or night to survey their dominion like sharks out for the kill.

To say circumstances were stressful was putting it mildly.  Tons of Excedrin tablets became my friend as I tried to stave off one headache after another for the next seven years.  I was considered exceptional, and we all know how exceptional is rewarded; we get the joy of twice as much work because we can do it in twice the less time than others.  Always in fear of losing my job, no sick leave,  no vacation time, no holidays, and a once a year small bonus to either collect (which I did) or use for the equivalent of vacation leave...the glamorous life of the glittering neon boulevard was only a myth.

The job was killing me.  A wedding was stuck in there somewhere, and my marriage was killing me.  While neither snow, rain, heat, nor gloom of night kept me from walking the five miles to work and the five miles home again each working day; husband always managed to have a car with no remorse for my plight.  When enough was enough, I started over again with not much more than that first day I stepped off a bus all those years ago all wide-eyed and hopeful.  This time I was determined to be more in control of my destiny, but sometimes determination just isn't enough. Sometimes one has to actually understand why they do the things they do.


  1. It is difficult to always understand why we do the things we do. Half the time I don't get myself so I surely do sympathize.

  2. Well, you can't say it wasn't interesting! You are telling me that the two times I've been to Reno I didn't stand a chance? I had no clue I would end up being this old, tired and sore. I am from that generation that didn't trust anyone over thirty! As you get older you just learn to not trust anyone.

  3. Those last couple of sentences - so true. No one gets a dress rehearsal for life.


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