Our family was on vacation at Las Vegas for a couple of days back in the mid-90s.
Much as Las Vegas is the so-called Sin City or City of Dreams, where gambling and gaming are the main business, there are numerous entertainment centers for children. Pop and Mum can try their luck at the tables or feed the One-arm Bandit, hoping to strike the same symbol three or five in a row, while children can have fun with video games and other carnival games of chance, where the casino pay you in tokens, exchangeable for toys, when you win.
We stayed at the Mirage Casino Hotel where at night the volcano sited outside the main lobby would start to erupt every hour. On the first night we took the mini-rail from Bally and went to The Excalibur Casino Hotel, a place where I would not like to miss as King Arthur was my favorite hero.
At the Children’s Entertainment Center, William, my youngest son spotted a 5 foot stuff toy dolphin and he wanted it. That cost US$250 if you purchased it outright, but if you could win enough tokens at the electronic ‘Table Games’ or at some carnival games, you exchanged the tokens for your toy.
The kids tried their hands at various games but all they got were some miserable magnetic kitchen stick-on Las Vegas souvenirs. The eldest daughter was determined to get that toy for William so she paid a dollar for three tries to scale a gradual sloping suspended ladder, aiming to touch the board at the end of the wall, which was not that far away. She couldn’t even get a quarter way when she fell on the cushion cover. The slack ladder would twist and turn when she got onto it.
Three strikes and she was out. Humpty Dumpty had a big fall.
They tried to ‘hook a fish’ or threw 3 ping-pongs onto a bath tub with floating dish and if the ball landed onto a colored dish, you got first prize. Hard luck, even when the ping-pong hit smack onto a colored dish, it bounced out.
Ha Ha, I couldn’t help telling them that a casino always maintained odds against players.
So William asked his brother, Calvin, to shake some money from Dad’s pocket so that he could have his favorite toy. William was always the brain while Calvin was always the brawn and the doer.
They got it wrong. Probably if they asked My Excellency nicely she would have paid for it, but me, that was 250 bucks! Two and one half of Benjamin Franklin bill!
But we were on vacation, so it was unkind to turn that kiddo down as he seldom asked for anything in his 9 years of life.
I bundled them together and said, “Now you kids listen good. Two hundred fifty is a lot of money. But I am going to give you a chance. All of you will have a pool of Thirty dollars and you look for something easy to score. If you can’t make it, then it’s too bad.” I almost giggled out loud as I knew that they didn’t stand a snow ball of a chance. But they must be given a trial.
“You got two hours and you fellows come to look for us at some coffee joints when you are done.” I flashed a V-sign with my two fingers emphatically.
So off they went.
An hour later, the three of them found us. My eyes nearly popped out as each of them was carrying a big stuff toy each. A Bugs-Bunny, a Goofy and a Dolphin, all 5 foot length and all three of them had a big flashy smile on their face.
“What did you do? Hustle the attendant lady?” I asked. I too was quite excited to know how they did it, cheating was not on my mind at all. I knew them well.
My eldest daughter said, “Dad, There’s a sucker born every minute.”
“Quote unquote.” I remarked. They were puzzled, I continued, “That means you are quoting from someone.” The kids often picked up my colloquial English or proverbs easily while they could not remember the history lessons they had to memorize by rote.
“No! Pop” Calvin interjected, “Three suckers are born every second.” Now this one was surely from him.
William, who was always reticent, hugged his Dolphin closed to his chest and was as pleased as Punch.
So they related their encounter.
“William spotted the opportunity. He saw some tokens sticking out of an Electronic Gaming machine and he pressed the button.” Calvin was already jumping around, “Out comes a bunch.”
Calvin continued, “So we went round each of the games tables. We hang around each machine, put a quarter in to play when we saw a small ticker head stuck out and presto!” He raised his arms as if to receive some kind of a benediction, “Some machine spit a lot. We did it slow and easy so as not to be spotted by those attendant men in black and ladies in red.”
And the three kiddos high-fived each other and did a small jig. They may be more sober, prim and proper back home but in the Good Old US of A, outward expression of elation was allowed.
“Now we don’t call them suckers,” I said. It was time to drill into them the proper usage of sayings and quotations. “Those who left the tokens behind are just not alert. A sucker is one who has been duped.”
“We still have twenty bucks, Dad.” My daughter said. “So we ain’t no suckers!” Now where did she learn to speak like this, the English that they learned in school was the Queen’s English, as spoken by Professor Henry Higgins from England.
Thus, we walked triumphantly to MGM Hotel, took the mono-rail back to Bally and had a hearty supper of McDonald buggers.
Yucks! But it was their favorite.