She’s a stuffed bunny rabbit I bought for Gabi to go along with her chocolate egg after our harrowing Easter in Las Vegas. She’s also one of my new best friends.
Permit me to explain.
You see, Gabi and I have a certain taste for casinos. The chance of winning, the lights, sounds and endless supply of oxygenized air and stimulation – it’s a bit of a thing for us. Uncle Wes introduced us to the pleasures of Foxwoods and we’re even proud owners of Dreamcards, the frequency program that gives us lots of $10 free slots days and sometimes free accommodations when we’re there to play.
This taste for Vegas-style slots – we’re not big into table games or high-stakes nonsense – has led us into a few casinos along the way since we left Massachusetts. Yesterday, we took a break from the road in the Mill Hotel and Casino near Coos Bay, OR, where we sought refuge from the endless stretches of breathtaking Oregon coastline to bask in the fake lighting, get reacquainted with the one armed bandits and, we expected, lose a few bucks or – at best – break even.
After making quick contributions to the local native American tribe, Gabi and I were headed for the door when I spotted a “Wheel of Fortune” game which had the outlandish betting limit of $5. Double your bet for a chance at the big bucks, so I pumped $40 into the sucker and told Gabi I was going to drop only that amount before we leave. “No,” she corrected me. “You’re making a $40 investment.”
Set straight, I punched the maximum bet key and let ‘er rip. Within seconds, I was staring at two double diamonds and a lucky 7, all in a row.
Now, for those of you who might be unfamiliar with casinos in general and slots in particular, the latter typically make a big deal when you win as much as $1, spinning, whirring and belching out all kinds of obnoxious sounds and music. And when something like double diamonds line up on the payline, happy days are generally here and all hell breaks loose. This one was completely silent.
Gabi and I looked at each other with disappointment.
“You’d think that would win at least something,” I whined, then glanced at the digital display that was softly flashing on the screen.
“See attendant for service. Hand pay $1600,” it read.
“Omigod, Gabi, I just won $1600!” I whispered, though I can’t imagine why. After telling her to “not touch a thing”, as if messing with the machine’s karma would somehow reverse my good fortune, I went to find an attendant for help and – most importantly – my money.
“Oh, yeah, they know,” he smiled when I told him I’d hit it big. “It’s all on the computers.”
Within minutes we were joined by a senior floor supervisor and a security guard who were charged with taking my identification for tax reporting purposes (all winnings over $1200 must be reported to Uncle Sam in the form of a W2).
The supervisor disappeared to process my winnings, explaining that he’d be joined by a third staffer who would actually fork over the dineros. Process, auditing and triple checks seem firmly in place for big payouts, and these guys had it down.
I looked at my pal the machine and noticed that I still had $30 from my original bet on the balance. “Oh, what the hell,” I said, and gave it a pull. Nothing. Did it again.
Cha-ching: $100. I cashed it out and handed the slip to an attendant who shook her head, and then settled in to wait for the big money to arrive. After having 16 $100 bills pressed into my somewhat sweaty palm and having a winning photo taken with the casino staff, Gabi and I let it out in a war dance of a victory celebration.
I looked back at the machine, then at Gabi and said, “aw, what’s $100” and slipped a crisp bill into my Wheel of Fortune buddy.
Two pulls later I’d won another $225, believe it or not, and redemption from our nasty time in Vegas had arrived in style on the Oregon coast. Talk about going green on Earth Day.
I sent the photo, unexplained, to my daughters and niece in Portland, with whom we had dinner plans last night.
“I can’t imagine the story behind this,” Corinne wrote back to me, “but I take it you’re buying tonight.”
This was the first time that either of us have won something like this at a casino, where people stream into lose, where the drinks are free but watery, and where the house always wins.
Yesterday, however, the winnings were ours and dinner on us, and, as Emme texted to me last night: “What?? $1,600? Haha! Screw Vegas! You’ve got Oregon.”
I owe it all, of course, to Jackpot’s good karma and positive influence, and it seemed only fitting that I give her her props by prominently displaying her photo here.
Today we’re off to walk Portland, see a bit of the city’s sights, then head up to Seattle to see friends in the area.
While I was waiting for the laundry to finish the dry cycle early this morning, however, a pamphlet in the laundry room rack caught my eye…
“Stay and play in one of Southern Washington’s best casinos…”