So I said the other day I might write about my fascination with casinos and airports and I guess today is going to be the day – because I can’t decide what to write about this morning. I woke up at 3am this morning and have been tossing around several ideas of things to focus on that matter – but I can’t bring myself to do it impartially or without anger – so I’ll wait till I calm down.
Casinos and airports are a sea of humanity. People from all walks of life, all races, all ages, all religions, whatever. You can find everyone at an airport or a casino. One of my favorite scenes in any movie is in “Dogma” when Matt Damon and Ben Afflack are sitting in the airport people watching – in case you have never seen it – here is the opening scene of the movie:
Now I love the movie for a bunch of different reasons, but the opening scene is always my favorite because that is some shit I would do; I have done; and will do again. When Loki (Matt Damon) is talking to the Nun he is testing her faith with a metaphor about the Walrus and the Carpenter – with a few simple words Loki convinces her to rethink her life choices. It is a point not about religion per say- it is about the fact that as human beings we are completely capable of ditching something we believe in if the right person poses the right argument at the right time. Bartleby (Ben Afflack) likes to go to the airport to watch people basically forget how they live in “real life” and focuses on the fact that an airport reunion can trump the fact that someone has been cheating. They will fight later – for that moment though, every transgression is forgiven or just out of their minds. That is what airports and casinos do. People are completely different in these two places then they are any other place in the world.
I have spent A LOT of time in airports. I call layovers, “Airport Purgatory” because that’s what they are. They are a stop in between actual destinations. Everyone there is in the same boat – they are waiting for a flight or waiting for a loved one or friend – but everyone is waiting. While waiting – everyone at that moment – in that space, has something in common. Waiting; and they are willing to talk to anyone about anything to pass the time.
In a casino it’s the same thing. Everyone is there for the same reason. To gamble. To take a chance. To play a game. The reasons people end up in airports and casinos vary, but the end result is the same – we are all there to try and get somewhere else. For me casinos are an escape. I don’t ever think I will win big (I won’t complain if I ever do- but that’s not the point) but I do love the suspension of reality for the time that I am there. I feel the same way about airports and layovers. In fact – I have intentionally scheduled flights to ensure I have a lengthy layover somewhere because I actually LIKE layovers. I get happy when a flight is delayed or cancelled. I know – I am not normal, I never claimed to be. 🙂
I have had some of the best conversations in my life at casinos and airports. I have met and conversed with billionaires and homeless people looking to get out of the rain. I had an intentional layover in Singapore where I met and hung out with a bunch of businessmen on their way to make a real estate deal that would net them all millions of dollars. At the airport though – they were just a bunch of guys waiting. I learned quite a bit of the German language in the airport in Munich because a man was waiting and had nothing better to do than teach me some key phrases in German. I was interested and he was bored. It worked out for both of us.
I am a part of hundreds of peoples memories and stories. Though I realize I am probably referred to as, “Some girl at the airport” or “A girl I played poker/gambled with” I don’t mind being nameless. I don’t remember the names of the people I have spoken to either. The names aren’t important to me (although I do always try to learn them at least for the duration of the conversation). One time in an airport bar a man and I were discussing micro-brews (before micro-brews were the beer equivalent of the Holy Grail). He gave me $50 dollars and his address to send him a six pack of a local brew I raved about – I told him it wouldn’t take $50 dollars, he didn’t care. I bought the six pack, sent it to the guy, kept the change and haven’t thought about him again until this post. I am sure he tells the story like this: “I met some girl in the airport, gave her fifty bucks to send me a six pack of beer and she actually sent it to me!” We are forever connected because we sat next to each other in an airport bar. That doesn’t happen with someone you meet at the gas station or supermarket. Only airports and casinos.
I have had people give me money to gamble with in casinos because they thought I was lucky. I busted out at a blackjack table once and said, “Well, it’s time for me to retire for the night” and some stranger sitting there gave me $100 to keep playing because he liked me. I played for a while, won the $100 and then some – gave the guy back his “loan” and kept playing. Where else would someone hand a stranger $100 for no reason other than they like your company? I suck at craps, but when I have the dice other people make money – so I have had people bankroll me just so I can keep throwing the dice. Superstitious people love craps and they will pay you to play if they think you will win them money. Whatever – I like playing and they like winning – I have no issue playing on their dime. When I lose (which is inevitable) it’s no big deal. It’s an amazing phenomenon to me.
Casinos and airports are the only places where conversations with strangers goes beyond the weather for the day. Stuck in an elevator? Waiting for the subway train? In line at McDonald’s or the grocery store? You talk about what a hot/cold/rainy/snowy day it is. In an airport or casino you learn about families, financial situations, children, professions, hobbies, and religious beliefs. It is an amazing amount of fun if you are at all interested in people and what drives them.
Do you talk to strangers? What circumstances have you found yourself in where you revealed information about yourself to a complete stranger? Were you in an airport or casino when you did it?