Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Las Vegas: When you build a city entirely around appealing to the worst in people, that's usually what you get

I am an extrovert, so why shouldn’t I like Vegas? Isn’t Vegas an extroverted city?

Well, not really. Vegas is extroverted the way a mugger is extroverted. Despite the unceasing hustle and bustle, the shows and the food and the endless displays of human endeavor – I mean, there’s a show dedicated entirely to demonstrating one’s skill creating soap bubbles, for crying out loud -- Vegas doesn’t really like people. This is, I think, the most cynical place I’ve ever been. Common courtesies that you take for granted elsewhere are frequently absent here. People either behave differently while here, or this place attracts a certain kind of person.

I started noticing this on the plane from Phoenix. The three of us were seated apart – each of us in a middle seat. We approached the flight attendant and asked for help getting one of us seated with The Kid. Usually we have at least one aisle or window seat to barter when this happens, and it’s easy to get the seats arranged. We knew it would be harder this time, but a five-year old shouldn’t be required to sit between two strangers on a plane, sorry.

“These are our seats,” snapped a woman who looked like she’d swallowed a lemon. The flight attendant explained the situation. She looked over at me, sneering. (Me, of course, never Mr. T – it’s always the brood mare on the receiving end of the hostility in these situations). “Well, he has to have an aisle seat,” she spat, pointing at her partner. “Fine,” I said coolly. “Only one of us needs to sit near him,” I observed. “So it’s either that,” I said pointedly, “or you have an unattended five year old between the two of you.”

She cast me another withering glance, and addressed the flight attendant. “I hope you have some comps or something for this,” she sniffed.

At first I thought this might have nothing to do with Vegas per se – there are assholes everywhere, and this is hardly an unusual event when you fly anywhere with a kid. But after spending some time here, I noticed the same sort of attitude again and again. We were walking down the hall to look out the window near the elevator one morning. The elevator had arrived and there was someone in it. They must have mistakenly assumed we were coming to board the elevator. Well, the occupant of the elevator was courteous enough to hold it, but not courteous enough to be patient.

“HURRY IT UP!” she bellowed. I ignored her, appalled. Apparently we were unforgivably delaying the loss of all her remaining money on nickel slots.

In sum, I find the attitude of many people here ranges from indifferent to nasty. I suppose that’s what you get when you combine greed, desperation and soullessness.

Next: This would be a great city if they got rid of all the casinos.

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