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From country to city, From farm to fireworks…Through marriage & children, Through employment & ownership, Life continues to be an amazing journey…

Tuesday, February 21

Be Kind To The New Guy

Video Sharing at DropShots.com

(This one turned out longer than expected…grab a cocktail & a cigarette :-)

Last night while blog surfing, I ran across a blog in which it was the year anniversary of the blog. I’m new to blogging, but thoroughly enjoy it so far. However, as with any new venture, a new guy is a new guy (or gal in my case), no more no less, and needs some training to get better. I feel that I’m catching on…I know enough now about HTML to only pull portions of my hair out when I’m challenged to use it for something new I want to do. I am catching on to the “blog lingo”, and learning the ropes well for my level so far I believe. This person last night had posted a cute list of “13” things they had learned over the first year of blog experiences. While I’m not much for memes, or some of the other “blog rituals” I’ve run across, I found this one interesting, and actually picked up some new information. It prompted me to tell this story.

More casino tales… I am a person that likes to be good at what I do, whatever that is. I take constructive criticism well, and strive for success. My 20 years in the casinos afforded me the time and pleasure to be really good at what I did. However, as with anyone else, it did not start that way.

I lived in West Texas in the 80’s eking out a living like everyone else in my small town when the oil crash took place. It was devastating to the people there. My husband at the time literally had a meeting scheduled in which he was to have been made a partner in the business where he worked. The meeting was scheduled on a Friday to take place Monday when the senior partner came back from a vacation in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Monday morning we awoke excited for the day to commence, as this promotion would change our way of life quite a bit. Like most people, we tuned into the local news on TV while getting ready for work. In Texas, it’s common (at that time anyway) to hear news on agriculture and oil every day, i.e. prices of oil per barrel, or cotton per pound for any given day. Friday, oil was $33 dollars per barrel. On that black Monday, the newscaster announced, “Today the price for West Texas intermediate crude oil is $9 per barrel.” We laughed and thought the poor guy had terribly misread his notes. NO…it was true, and the crash began. The promotion meeting was cancelled upon the news, as all business owners immediately knew life would never be the same in West Texas. We knew too, that leaving Texas was the only way to seek what we wanted in life. Long story short, off to Reno we were to seek the exciting life of casino dealers.

Green as could be, and naive beyond any comprehension I’d ever had of myself (I played the piano at a Baptist church and taught Sunday school, and we coached a Little League baseball team in TX) I entered the fast lane life of the casinos. We attended school, scored high, and landed good jobs. However, for all you who visit Vegas or Reno, those “cool” people in the glittery uniforms behind the tables deal with things on a daily basis you will never quite imagine from your side of the table. If the math and constant thinking about numbers while trying to entertain 7 people solid hour after hour isn’t enough, the humans that grace your tables will bring to your attention lifestyles and conversations you never thought you’d have with perfect strangers. And the money, my God the money that can fly around hour on end can be sickeningly phenomenal. And I, southerly stubborn to be one of the rare women to succeed was a bit more taken off than I could chew when I began this journey. I was one of only four women crap dealers (of 30 or so crap dealers) at the small casino where I landed my first really good job, and the other three were seasoned veterans and vipers at best.

(Another fact of the safe and kind Texas that I left was the wonderful hot weather, winters were mild and snow was something I’d only seen a few times and mere dustings most of the time.) On my first night that I had been considered good enough to be on the “big game”, some high rollers sauntered up to the crap table and proceeded to create a rain storm of hundred dollar bills upon my table like I’d never seen before. They came with a complete entourage of whores, large cigars, and attitudes from hell. Needless to say, I knew I was buried over my head. These guys made bets I’d barely even heard of, much less felt comfortable with, and it took them about 10 seconds to pick me off as the rookie, and they did everything they could to undermine me and have a really good time at my expense. I had started that day excited to show my talents and make the bosses know they did the right thing to promote me to the “big game”. I was astonished when showing up to work to find that my “box man” or “boss of the night” was the meanest, and most strict “by the book” man in the whole place. His name was Kit Carson (yes, like the Wild West hero), and he was built and looked just like Dick Butkus. He was mean, and ornery, and demanded perfection from anyone that crossed his path, and money like the money that was on this game only gave him a hard on for power. I stood stunned in the knowledge that I would be toast very shortly, and dammit, I only had a couple of hours to go on my shift before the “dirty dozen” showed up. I felt like I was in the show down of the OK Corral, or the last guy standing at Little Big Horn, an awful feeling.

I didn’t even notice in my stress that quite a blizzard had begun outside. I was just trying my hardest to multiply in my head such things in a split second like $535 x 12. Not good. All the formulas and short cuts to the math I’d learned eluded me completely. “Mr. Butkus” promptly stood up from his seat (never a good sign) and called another dealer over from a dead table to “tap me out”. And then, when I thought I was about to be fired in front of the heckling assholes, he handed me $3 from his pocket. I looked at him very confused, and he said…”You know, I hear it doesn’t snow much where you come from.” I said, “No sir, it doesn’t”. “Look outside” he said…”Just look at that beautiful blizzard. Take this $3 and go to the bar across the alley at Harrah’s and have yourself a shot of whiskey and take in some of that beautiful snow.” I looked at him like he’d had a total momentary lapse of reason (I’d never even drank a straight shot of whiskey), when he boomed…”Hurry up now, you only have 10 minutes, hurry up damn you and get back here!” Then HE, the BOSS in the suit tapped out my replacement and began to do my job.

I took my strange $3 and wandered out the door, went across the alley and asked the bartender for a shot of whiskey. He asked me what kind, and being a Texan, I only knew Jack Daniels. I tipped up my first shot, thought it was the most horrible thing I’d ever tasted, and made my way back to the casino not having any idea what to expect next, yet catching myself looking up at the falling masses of snow thinking this was like a dream, the most bizarre experience I’d ever had, and in a new city where I knew no one well.

When I got back to the casino, I went to my spot, and this nasty man simply let me take back over my spot and never said another word. Somehow, he must have had infinite wisdom of some sort, because I did better. The math came back to me, I gained control over the assholes and the whores, and somehow I knew that I had crossed a line into a realm of progressive accomplishment.

My night ended shortly after that, and I was pretty sure that I’d had my “15 minutes of fame” as a genuine Reno crap dealer. The other three accomplished dealers on my crew quietly left looking at me like they were SO GLAD they were not me, and quickly evaded the boss Mr. Butkus. I collected my belongings, and was trying to snake out the door when sure enough here came the boss. I was ready for my verbal bashing, and to my surprise, all he said as he shook my hand was, “Malinda, let’s make sure for your sake this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.” I assured him that I would try my best, and would get better. He walked away, and I noticed that as he shook my hand, he’d slipped a small piece of paper into it. As I walked out the door, I unfolded this paper rag, and saw these words scribbled in the penmanship of a rough cowboy. The note said…”I hope I never get so good that I forget what it was like the first time I was buried”.

I will never forget that night. It has shaped the way I think for many years. This man that I had seen fire people at a whim, and yell at until the point of tears had given me a chance. A real chance as a woman to make it in a hard core man’s world. He showed me respect in the face of adversity and challenged me to be a better person in a very unorthodox way. I kept that scrap of paper for years until the pencil writing was too faded to read. I suppose by the time it faded completely, I’d reached my goal. As a person, an employee, and now a business owner, I try to pay that forward every day. Be nice to the new guy. You never know, he might just become a real somebody.