I am in Las Vegas right now and I am sad. It’s about fifty degrees warmer here than it is in my Midwestern town and I am sad. I am gazing out my hotel window at a beautiful purple mountain range that is silhouetted by the golden sunset and I am STILL sad here.
I am only here because I HAVE to be here. My company sent me here for a conference, so I am stuck in Las Vegas for the next 3 days. I’m not a liquor drinker because it’s physically bad for me and I’m not a gambler because statistically, gambling is analogous to flushing one’s money down the toilet. I don’t go to Vegas shows because they are overpriced and overcrowded – neither of which are appealing to me. Therefore, I really have no affinity with Las Vegas’ primary draws.
The irony, of course, is that most of my coworkers would absolutely LOVE to be sitting in this comfy chair on the twenty-third floor of a luxury hotel staring out the window as the lights begin to flicker and flash in “Sin City”. I, however, think that Las Vegas is the saddest city in America.
I had the relative misfortune of travelling to Las Vegas a few years back for another conference. It was sad then. It’s even worse now. Here are some of the reasons why I hold the opinion that Las Vegas is the saddest city in America.
- Many people’s lives are damaged or even ruined here.
You can call me cynical and narrow-minded if you want, but I’ve never been more right about anything in my life. During my half-mile trek from my hotel to the convention location I have seen all of the despair and ravaged lives that I care to see. I know, you’re thinking “Heck, I’ve been to Vegas a dozen times and everybody looks like they’re having a blast to me”. That’s because you’re looking at the surface. If you look deeper, you will see despair. It’s somewhat drowned out by the dinging bells and flashing lights and by the forced laughter of the people walking by, but Las Vegas is FULL of despair.
Take, for example, the girls that are forced to make a living by cramming their size 10 bodies in to a cleavage-baring size 6 bustier so they can serve too many drinks to the people playing the slots. Ever notice that those girls only smile when they’re engaged in their phony superficial chatter with a potential customer? Aside from that, they never smile. That’s because they are dying inside. They hate their lives. Many of them came to Vegas with dreams of glamour and money. They got neither. Instead, they took any job they could get in whatever obnoxious smoke-filled casino would hire them. I wonder what would happen if they ever told their manager that they felt like it was embarrassing and demeaning to have to flash their physical assets as their male customers openly ogled them. On second thought, I don’t wonder at all what would happen. Neither do you. We both know exactly what would happen.
And then there are the broken drunks. I’m not talking about “bums”. I’m talking about people that were a lot like you and me when they decided to take a little trip to Vegas for some “good times”. Well, a lot like you and me except for the poor decisions that they made when they got here.
I was up early my first morning here because I wanted to grab a good breakfast before heading to the conference. It was about 6:45 AM and I had to cut through the hotel’s casino to get to the restaurant. Although there were people in every direction I looked, the casino was relatively empty. Oh, there WAS the 30ish looking man sleeping at a slot machine and the 20ish looking girl passed out on a bench in the corridor. The girl was alone and it appeared that she had peed herself and had spent the night on said bench. “So what?”, you say. “They’re both adults. Sounds like they must have had a really wild, fun night!” Fun, however, is a relative term and a highly subjective one at that. If you are truly honest with yourself, however, you will not be able to think of a scenario in which either of the scenes that I just described would have a positive impact on either of the participants’ lives. Both situations were neither healthy, safe, life-enriching, useful, intelligent nor attractive. On the other hand, I can offer a plethora of negative scenarios ranging from stupid to life-threatening. Although, admittedly, we would both be speculating; I can definitely trump your assertion that either situation was a good thing.
Yeah, “what happens in Vegas STAYS in Vegas” – ha ha. People laugh when they say it. Maybe what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas because it hurt the victims too much to bring it back home. Maybe it’s not so funny when the college-age girl realizes that her so-called boyfriend offered to pay her way to Vegas because he simply wanted to make sure he had a guaranteed sex partner during his week-long drinking spree. Maybe she didn’t WANT to bring back the pain of realizing that he scanned a dozen other girls while they were there and he even hit on a couple of them when he thought she wasn’t looking. Maybe she was fine with leaving in Vegas the realization that she really meant nothing significant to him.
I could go on and on with this one, but I need to get to my second reason why Las Vegas is the saddest city in America.
- The excess and overindulgence in Las Vegas is literally sickening.
From my observations of the prices of just about everything in Las Vegas, the days of the quick, cheap weekend trip to Vegas are over.
It’s ironic that Las Vegas is crawling with millennials. As a generation, millennials preach minimalism, charity and conservation. They argue that their parents’ generation was greedy and selfish and they didn’t think about the people who had little or nothing at all. Not the millennials in Vegas, though. That’s a different story. I fought my way through droves of them while I was making my way between the hotels and casinos. Some had a drink in both hands. Others were riding in super-stretch limos that were so long they literally needed six wheels. Many millennials were staying in the same hotel in which I was staying, so I can only assume that they were spending close to a week’s income on the hotel room alone. And, I might add, a hamburger (at least in the area in which I stayed) costs about an hour’s wage for a lot of these kids. That is sad.
But it’s not just millennials – Las Vegas is full of excess from the young to the old. And there are plenty of both. And, by the way, who the hell takes their 4-year old to Las Vegas? Seriously. This is probably the saddest thing I saw during this trip. I saw so many little kids walking through casinos and past lit signs advertising strip shows and burlesque shows that I literally lost count. What are these parents thinking? I will leave you to speculate once again, but here’s MY guess: Mom and Dad wanted to go to Vegas, so EVERYBODY went to Vegas. After all, they only get so many vacation days in a year. They certainly can’t afford to go to Disney World AND Vegas. I’m sure the kids would choose watching filthy-mouthed comedians and thong-clad dancing girls over Mickey Mouse any old day. That’s not only sad; it’s the ultimate in selfishness on the parents’ part. Any level-headed thinker must admit that at the LEAST, the argument can be made that the parents are leading those little impressionable kids down a road of excess and wastefulness. How do you millenials feel about THAT? Remember, those kids are going to be the decision-makers when you are an old person.
As I mentioned, however, excess and overindulgence is not wasted on only the millennials. In Vegas, EVERYBODY gets a shot at it. From the morbidly obese people at the all-you-can-stuff buffets to the retirees that are throwing hundreds of dollars away at a blackjack table to the middle-aged couples that are paying over $100 per person for a 10-minute helicopter ride over the Vegas strip to the businessmen that are paying $50 for a three-minute limo ride because they don’t want to ride in a shuttle bus that can get them to the same place for $8 – there is enough excess in Vegas for everyone.
I won’t take the time to elaborate on these next few reasons that Las Vegas is the saddest city in America, but here they are for the record:
- A lot of foreigners come to Las Vegas and they go back to their respective countries with the impression that all Americans are fat, overindulging drunks with porn addictions. That is sad.
- The newest hotels and casinos in Las Vegas cost billions (yes, with a “B”) to build. Where do you think all that money is coming from? Doesn’t sound like the casinos are losing too much money paying out to all those big winners like you see in the movies.
- You are never more than a few yards away from something to buy. That means that the opportunists are trying to capitalize on the money-wasting that continually goes on in Las Vegas. Opportunists make me sick.
- Most people return from trips to Las Vegas and say that they had a good time when, in reality, they just lost money, got drunk and barfed a lot. Therefore, they are lying. Lying to oneself to convince oneself that one had a good time is sad.
- The girls that visit Las Vegas are apparently under the impression that they are expected to, or at least it is acceptable to, dress like prostitutes. That is a cultural tragedy and it is more than sad.
- I haven’t even SEEN the seedy side of Las Vegas. I have always stayed in the newer, more “respectable” part of town. I’m sure I can’t even imagine how bad it must be in those OTHER areas.
- Despite the waste, the excess, the overindulgence, the selling of sex, the loss of hard-earned money, the obscenely-priced restaurants and shows, the heartbreak, the treatment of women as objects and the gluttony; people still return to Las Vegas again and again. This ensures that Las Vegas will continue to prosper. With that prosperity will come the increased perception that Sin City is one of the most fun cities in the world. This will likely serve as a model for other cities that want to bring financial prosperity to their areas. Thus, the sadness will likely be perpetuated and multiplied.