As I write this, I am keeping in mind not to make a victim of myself. I am fully aware that all of my actions to this point in my life are of my own doing. All of the decisions I've made have lead me to this. It would be very easy to blame the world, but in the end I and I alone am culpable for the situation I now find myself in. Sure today's world doesn't make it easy for anyone who struggles financially. The so called 'free market' has made victims of us all in one way or another, and rather than making life easier for the average person (a healthy, competitive market is supposed to be good for the consumer!), it does everything it can to push him down all in the name of making more money for themselves. Perhaps that is more cause for a post in Rants, but it does have a hand in what I am about to write, so please read on...
Late Monday night, I drove home a day early from a planned three-day trip to Atlantic City. I was running away from there in haste to escape both an impending snowstorm and my own twisted semi-addiction to gambling. I sit here now in the comfort of my home, trying to sort things out for myself. All I can say is it's a good thing I don't live nearer to the place, nor do I have much disposable income to spare. Otherwise...yikes!
I don't really consider myself a gambler. I hardly ever play the lottery and I only go AC two or three times a year. I never go expecting to win a lot of moolah, and I'm usually satisfied if I come home breaking even, or even just a little behind. I enjoy the atmosphere of the place...being in the casino playing KENO or sometimes slots, the nightlife, the shopping, and in the summer months, the boardwalk. Of course, it would be nice to win big...the possibility of winning is always a part of the allure of the place, but again, I never expect to win. This trip was different, though...
Here comes the hard part...
I want to preface this part of my story by stating that I am struggling financially. For the past seven years, I've been paying a mortgage and leftover debt as best I can on only one salary. I live paycheck to paycheck and have very little to spend on things other than bills and gas and food, and of course, just when the debt starts to go down, there goes a $400 brake job on the car or the boiler breaks. I shouldn't be embarrassed to admit it, but there is some shame to being so, um, poor, especially when I make a decent salary. I know I have no one to blame but myself, and even though I've become much much better with my decisions than in the past, I still err on occasion, like with this trip to AC.
Just this past weekend, I received a bit of financial bad news, one that will affect me for a long time to come as I stand to lose thousands of dollars over the next few months and into summer, which is always a worry for me as it is. It is with this mindset that I went to Atlantic City, and subconsciously I was aiming to win big to make up for the negative windfall. Big mistake!
I'd reserved two nights at my favorite casino, The Tropicana. People who gamble tend to stick with places where they've done well, and I have had luck over the years at Trop. My rooms were comped, and I'd been looking forward to being away from home for a couple of days.
The trip started out as it normally does. I'd win a little, then lose a little. I had brought around $500 with me that I had been saving just for the trip and by the end of the first evening, Sunday, I was down only about $100. That's really a good thing. It meant that I was gambling mostly with their money, but then came the morning, and a set of circumstances began to cloud my day, my trip and my psyche for a long time to come.
I mentioned before that I like to play KENO. For those of you who don't know the game, it's sort of like the lottery. There are 80 numbers in all and you can choose to pick anywhere from 2 to 10 numbers to bet on. What you can win depends on the amount of numbers you choose, and of course how much you bet. I like to play 7 numbers, a dollar per bet.
Keno on a good day!
What makes this game a good bet is that if none of your numbers come out, you win back your bet. This has saved me a lot in the past, as it makes your money last longer. And when your numbers do come out, you can win a decent amount of moolah. The catch, though, is that if one or two of your numbers come out, you lose. All of the machines I played on Monday kept giving me one or two numbers, and at a rate much quicker than I've ever experienced in the past. To boot, there were many times when the last of the twenty numbers drawn would be that one to make me lose. Twenty bucks disappeared in a matter of minutes, then another, and another. By noon, the $400 I'd started with that morning had already dwindled to about $40. I started to panic.
Now any of you who live in the northeast already know this, but we've been having a very cold winter, and on Monday the temps outside were in the single digits. This cold prevented me from my usual Atlantic City distractions of shopping or walking down the Boardwalk to another casino, which is what I normally do when things aren't going so good at KENO. Usually, these distractions prevent me from doing what I did on this day. At around 1:30, I made my first trip to the ATM. That is something I never do, and something that I will never do again. But that day all I kept thinking to myself was that I needed to win. I am a good person and I deserve it, and so things will work out. My desperate gambler's mind was churning.
Three hours later, the funds from that withdrawal were gone, and it was only 5 p.m. I still had the whole night ahead of me and the next morning, too. My panic worsened. I needed a distraction, so I went up to my room to watch Netflix, and maybe take a nap, which never materialized. What was I doing? After a couple of hours of Netflix, I suddenly felt the urge to smoke a cigarette, and since I was in a non-smoking room, the only place where I could smoke was back in the casino.
By this point I'd already delved into my mortgage money and my spending money for the next two weeks, and I only had about $100 left, I was going to win, but I needed to have more money in my pocket than what I had, so I hit the ATM a second time. My hands shaking, I slid my card into the mechanism. Pin. Withdrawal. Checking. $400...
Authorization Failed - You are over daily limit!
This couldn't be right! I dipped my card again. Same message. Suddenly I felt nauseous. I rechecked my balance on my phone to make sure the money I had transferred earlier had taken. It did. Shit! Think fast John!
I got it!
I had forgotten I had another ATM card from a different bank with a balance of about $350 in it. Bingo! Now I could get down to business! Cigarette and drink in hand, I headed back over to the KENO machines. For the next two and a half hours I sat there in a daze as, clicking the 'start' button over and over, lighting up cigarette after cigarette only to keep seeing either one or two numbers pop up. The machines were all tormenting me, popping those one or two numbers from the last few of the numbered balls that were picked. Winning hands were few and far between, and I hardly ever reached that comfortable win of five numbers at about a $50 payout, eeking out three or four numbers to win a buck or two.
By about 8:30, I was down to $30. I wanted to cry. I still had the whole night ahead of me and I was in the hole for more than double the $500 I had brought with me. Mortgage money...gone. Food shopping money. Gas? I knew I couldn't play that last thirty because I needed something to get home with.
Around the same time, I'd overheard someone nearby talking about snow. I looked at the Weather Channel app on my phone and sure enough, AC was getting hit with about 10-15 inches, starting at 9 p.m. I awoke from my panicked stupor and headed for my room. I texted my two best friends, Rich and Bobby, to let them know I was heading home. I wasn't going to beat KENO on this trip, but I was going to beat that freaking snow. I quickly packed my bags, checked out, and hightailed it outta there as fast as I could.
Get some DD's and put on some great dance music.
That was Rich, sending me a lil pat on the back advice before I headed home. He had to have known how I was feeling and he was doing what he could to ease my pain. Such a good friend! I took his advice and delved into an old dance playlist in the car and rocking out happily on my way home, not thinking about this latest lapse of judgement that was going to cause me double the worry in the morning. I made it home by midnight, poured myself a drink, and cuddled on the couch with my two kitties to watch some television.
And now it's time to start thinking about things...