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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Strangers in the Night, Slot Buddies

by Jody Worsham

All rights reserved for oddities

            There is something about being confined with strangers for a lengthy period of time that makes you lifelong buddies, even if you never learned their names.  People trapped in elevators for a few hours might end up exchanging Christmas cards the next year.  It happens to people waiting in line for three hours at Wal-Mart on Gray Thursday.  And if you happen to run into those people several weeks later you might, as I was, be greeted with “I appreciate your teenager entertaining my two-year-old in the freezer line.”  But nothing bonds people together faster than a few drinks on New Year’s Eve in a casino around a bank of slot machines with a common “enemy”.

            Over the past few months at our favorite casino donation center, we have repeatedly encountered two people we have dubbed “The Odd Couple.”   The Odd Couple seems to have staked an imaginary claim to four of everyone’s favorite slot machines and no one else should ever play them.  If you do, they will stare at you, point at you, and frown if you win any of “their” money.  The maximum donation is $1 if you hope to ever hit the jackpot.  However, the Odd Couple will only play their system which involves keeping a thick notebook, using several player cards, allowing the machine to periodically rest,  having their spouse sit on the opposite machine so no one else can play it, and change up their bet ranging from 1 cent (yes I said 1 cent) to 20 cents and rarely $1.00. 

            Other people have come to recognize the Odd Couple as well, knowing them by various other names, of course.  I am not sure how it happened, but Carol and Sandra (we learned their names several hours later) and Dr. Hubby and I managed to occupy their four favorite machines at the same time much to the chagrin of the Odd Couple. 

As we were being entertained by the spinning slot wheels, the Odd Couple began to circle.  They pointed.  They stared.  They whispered.  We kept playing.  Dr. Hubby’s system involves “talking” to the machines so when Carol would go to the bonus round, Dr. Hubby would begin calling for more doubles, or bonuses, rather loudly.  When Carol got them, we all shouted. People gravitated to the excitement expecting to see a great win only to be disappointed at all the excitement over a $1.32 cent Jackpot.

 It seems, I am ashamed to say, the more the Odd Couple frowned, the louder we got.  To keep my playing money from running out too quickly, I would take frequent potty breaks.  The longer we held onto the machines, the odder the Odd Couple became.  Sandra said “I’ll play a penny at a time before I let them have my machine.”  After a couple of trips to the ATM machine, Carol vowed “I’ll outlast them even if I have to mortgage the farm.”  We learned later that she didn’t have a farm.   

As it got closer to midnight, the champagne began to flow even as the Odd Couple continued to circle.  Sandra wanted to go to her room and put on her warm pajamas and come back, but she was afraid one of the Odd Couple would grab her machine.  After a few glasses of champagne, referred to as “this kerosene stuff” by our new friends, one leaned over to me and said “If I was a drinking woman (I didn’t count the number of empty glasses) I might go over there and whip her butt.”  By this time my butt was numb and Dr. Hubby was hoarse from talking to the machines.  Somehow this had turned into an endurance battle, us four against the Odd Couple.  There was a sign on the wall with a 1-800 number to call if you had a gambling problem.  I think we had an Odd Couple problem.

At exactly midnight, 2015 arrived and 2014 left as did our Odd Couple. We won!  We were broke, but we had won. “Thank goodness.  I was about to run out of money,” said Carol.  “Now I can go to bed.  I have been wanting to for the past two hours,” came from a very tired Sandra.  Heady with our victory, we all smiled, wished each other a Happy New Year, exchanged addresses and I think secretly promised to meet back next year.  Strangers in the night no more.

 Odd, isn’t it?

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