Many years ago I planned to make a weekend “pilgrimage” to my favorite “temple of the gambling gods” in Primm, Nevada; the Primadonna Hotel. I had my ideal trip in mind. I would save money on a Vegas trip by staying in Primm and driving to Las Vegas (since Vegas was only approximately 40 minutes away) to see shows and to walk through the many elegantly decorated hotels. During my visit to Primm, I would also take the monorail over to Buffalo Bill’s and ride the log ride there (I pass on the roller coasters!) after which I would see a movie. All of these grandiose ideas came into my head, but what I planned and what actually happened were two different things.
When I arrived at the Primadonna Hotel at approximately 6pm, it was dark and cool and I headed straight for the hotel lobby. I noticed that there was a big line at the front desk, so I thought I would kill some time in the casino while I waited for the line to go down . I played my favorite game, which was video poker, and I did incredibly well, lasting for several hours. Unfortunately, I did not know at the time that I was a compulsive gambler and, when you are compulsive, you can never leave the machine with as much money as you had when you began. In fact, most of the time you never leave the machine with any money, which is exactly what happened to me. After my disastrous encounter with the video poker machines, I found myself broke and without any means for paying for a hotel room. Not only could I not afford a hotel room, but i didn’t have any money to fill my car up with gas so that I could make it home. I couldn’t even buy anything to drink or eat. Talk about being in a pickle!
I knew that at about 9am or so the next morning my deposit would be posted to my bank account so I somehow had to make it through the night. I didn’t want to sit on a bench in the hotel all night and have a security person ask me what was up, so I decided to see if I could manage to sleep in my car at the nearest rest stop (provided I had enough gas to make it there!) I went back out into the cool and frosty winter evening, and I got into my car. I managed barely to reach the rest stop, and I pulled into the parking lot. I locked my car doors, climbed into the back seat, and pulled my jacket over me like a blanket. I tried to sleep, but I kept tossing and turning. it was just too cold in the car to sleep, so I finally decided at around 4am to go to Buffalo Bill’s ( I don’t remember why I chose that instead of the Primadonna), where I could at least stay warm until I could get access to the money I needed to return home.
As I sat on a bench watching the more fortunate people who were playing and having fun, I saw that two of them won jackpots. Boy, was I jealous! Not knowing that I was a compulsive gambler who could never win because I could not stop gambling until the machine took it all, I couldn’t understand why I had such bad luck when others won. I became very cranky and out of sorts!
After a long night of watching others gamble and waiting for my deposit to post, the morning finally came and I took the money I needed to get home on and to eat. I was starving and thirsty after the long night, and nothing tasted better at that moment than the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder meal. After lunch and after having filled my car up with gas, I headed back to Glendale where I was living at the time, and so the worst trip I ever took came to an end. I did learn some things from this experience, however.
The first lesson that I learned was that I am a compulsive gambler and that I should not be in a casino at all. Obviously, running out of money that I needed to have a safe trip was an early indicator that I had the gambling disease, though I didn’t recognize this as such until much later. Another very important lesson that I learned was how horrible it is to live on the streets even for less than 24 hours, and that I should never take anything for granted such as having a place to live, having enough food, and having those around who love me. Because of this experience, I try to share what I have with others, because I can appreciate now first hand after sleeping in my car what it is like to be poor and homeless. The final lesson that I learned is that I should never run away from my problems, because I will always make them worse and never better when I do.