Perhaps lazily, perhaps cynically, I tend to imagine the collective Las Vegas tourist experience as some unremarkable tapioca smoothie of midlist peccadilloes involving a little too much to drink, a little too much to eat, and a little too much gambling, topped with a flimsy halo of overstimulation — calibrated, regulated, test-tube misadventure for a bovine mass sensibility. Yeah, like I said, cynical. Maybe it’s from bumper-nosing down the Strip one too many times, despairing upon hearing the warrior-bro warble of “Vegas, baby!,” or maybe it’s the attitudinal residue of living among the gleaming gears and pistons behind the Sin City fantasia, knowing what an admirably efficient machine it is. How can the fun be real when it’s so scripted, calculated, engineered?
Well, of course the fun is real. (That's the TL;DR takeaway, tourists: We can manage your experience, but we can never own your fun!) Also real is the pain, the dismay, the fear, the uncertainty — those elements of the Vegas tourist experience that aren’t accounted for in the brochure. That’s why I love me a good Vegas tourist story that breaks the buffet-stuffed trope of merely a little too much. And there are some good ones in the Quora thread, “What are some of your best and worst experiences in Las Vegas?” (Note: These quotes are airlifted raw and real straight from Quora, so mentally insert your own [sics].)
There’s the cinematic dance club sucker-punch that comes out of nowhere:
So I was at the front of the dance floor with my crew, grooving to the music and having fun. Out of nowhere, this big motherf**ker ran up and slugged me in the face. Uppercut straight to the jaw. He hit me so hard I was knocked off my feet. I flew backwards and hit the boards at the bottom of the DJ booth. I imagine that while floating through the air from the punch, for a split second I looked like Brad Pitt in Snatch.
(Rumble ensues? Not so fast. It has a surprising denouement.) There’s a, well, actually, kinda nerdily cute (!) story about a tourist who methodically loses money at the every hotel-casino on the Strip for Just So I Could Say fodder:
I entered each casino, walked around and took a few pictures, getting an idea of which casinos would be worth revisiting with my girlfriend. And then, in each and every casino I put a dollar into a slot machine. If Iost, I left. If I won, I put the winnings back into a machine. In key casinos I played a hand or two of blackjack.I worked my way from the Mandalay Bay to the Stratosphere tower. It took about seven hours. The pedometer I borrowed from my girlfriend reported that it required 17.8 miles of walking (28.6 km).
Others have down-and-outer stories that go from dim to dark:
I won't go as far as saying that I ever went to bed hungry, but I didn't always have enough to eat. Many a nights I found myself on my knees or in the prone position asking to be taken away. To have my existence come to an end. I wanted so bad to stop the hurting, the suffering I was going through but more importantly the suffering I was causing. I asked my Heavenly Father to deliver me, and he did.
There are others — about improbable strip-club wineries, $100 cab rides for a mere 20 feet, even suicides. I draw your attention to the thread not as huffy counterprogramming to the slick Vegas of glossy mag ads and LCD monoliths beaming sushi, sex and oblivion through pleasure. Rather, it’s a reminder that Vegas can promise fun, but the ludic principle bears, always, the seeds of entropy: That fun may also contain life.