I feel my ankles swell as I stand on the outdoor escalator gliding my friends and me into Bally's casino in Las Vegas, our home base for this trip. I am sure we have walked 10 miles today, having repeatedly fallen for the Strip's mirage that everything is so much closer than it really is. The air is heavy with dry heat and it muffles sounds in my ears, which feel like they're stuffed with cotton. We cross the hotel entryway and welcome the beautiful sight of glass doors. In Vegas, the other side of glass doors means air conditioning.
The coolness blasts my face and I am happy once again. The jingles and clinks of the casino instantly energize me and I decide to do a once around before heading upstairs to bed. The table games are fairly empty; only one craps table is open with a handful of subdued players. Most people sit mesmerized by the twirling reels of slots. Some players' eyes are nearly shut with sleep, others are wide with anticipation.
I come upon a very large video slot decorated like an Egyptian sphinx. A young couple is playing the $5 a pull machine. Their credit balance reads $27. A few others watch them and I join in, intrigued by the fancy animation and sounds of the big machine. The young man pushes the button while his girlfriend cheers him on. Three pulls in and the machine gives up nothing.
With $12 credit left, the young man tells his girlfriend to push the button. She hesitates, but with a kiss and a nudge from him, hits the spin button. The reels turn extra slowly, it seems. The couple leans forward, his arm around her shoulders. The first reel stops with a King Tut symbol on top. The second reel does the same. The third rests with another King Tut on the top line and the girlfriend gasps. The fourth and the fifth reel bring two more King Tuts to the first line and the machine explodes with sound. It plays the "Walk Like an Egyptian" song and all the King Tuts' mouths open and close with gold coins flying out. The win box says $2500.
The girlfriend jumps up and down and claps. Gasps and "Oooohs" come from the onlookers. The young man kisses his lady while holding her face in both hands, "I told you", he says to her. An attendant soon arrives, talking into a radio. He pushes buttons on the machine's panel and congratulates the couple:
Attendant: Who's the lucky winner?
Man: We both are! But she's lady luck on this one!
Girl: I was so scared to spin, but I'm happy I did!
Attendant: First trip to Vegas?
Man: Yeah, for both of us. Our first night here, too.
Attendant: Okay folks, that's great. May I see your IDs, please?
The young man quickly produces his wallet and while removing his ID, suddenly snaps his head to his girlfriend. She is frozen, biting her bottom lip, hands gripping the sides of her shorts:
Girl: Um, I don't have my ID with me.
Attendant: I cannot pay the jackpot to you without ID, miss. You spun the machine on this win, correct?
Girl: Um, yes, I spun it, but it's his money.
Attendant: Folks we can't prove whose money it is. Whoever activates the machine is the player. And we do have tape to verify that if it's unclear.
The girl's face reddens and her chin quivers as she looks at her boyfriend, who looks to the ceiling.
Attendant: Miss, I 'll leave the machine locked if you can retrieve your ID quickly.
Man: No. Forget it. She's 19. We're celebrating my 21st birthday here. I was spinning the whole time, doesn't that matter?
Attendant: Sir, I'm really very sorry. The young lady is under aged and I cannot pay the jackpot to her. The winnings are void if the player is not of age. It's the law.
The girl cries openly. Someone yells, "That's bullshit, man!" from the small crowd. The young man takes his girlfriend's hand and leads her away.