I’m not a lucky person in any sense of the word. As a kid, I longed for the time I would finally be able to call into the radio station and win something awesome like the latest cassette tape or tickets to the concert coming to town on B-94 and then later on Power 102 and KLAQ.
I would listen to the radio every morning when we were supposed to be getting ready for school and again in the evening when we were getting ready for bed. I would practice dialing on the phone when no one was around to make sure I got the keypad pattern down so I could dial as fast as my fat little fingers would allow when it was time to win.
“Caller number 9 who gives me the phrase that pays will win a giver certificate to Music Warehouse for $100 dollars. Start calling now!”
I’d race to the living room and snatch up the phone and start dialing with a method to my madness: dial, pause, hear the busy signal and slap the receiver down. Repeat.
I would do this for at least 3 min straight because that would be about the length of the song before slowly hanging the phone up and walking back to my room, shoulders hunched because, alas, I didn’t win.
As I grew older, I gave up on trying to win anything. I never won anything in the class raffles or at the church bazaar when I played loteria. I bought lotto scratchers when I was of age and would win a couple bucks here and there but never anything of significance.
When I went to play cards, the story was the same. I knew I was going to lose my money and I resigned myself it was going to just be fun playing even if I was actually good at blackjack. Breaking even was a win in my book and I was totally fine with it.
That was unless I was with someone who won some ridiculous amount of money and then flaunted it in your face the rest of the time.
“Hell yeah, I won $1700, bitches,” a friend said one time as he fanned himself with a wad of 20-dollar bills.
Such an asshole.
I envied him and the others who seemed to have this dumb luck. I didn’t have it and it sometimes bugged me.
Then there was this Christmas. This year my luck changed.
Stephanie and I were flying to El Paso to be with my family. Many months before, we specifically booked our flights to have a layover in Las Vegas so we could have fun. And by fun, we said we would set aside a little bit of fun money to play the airport slots.
When we landed, Stephanie was very excited. We waked out of the plane, with our predetermined plan: check for our gate, got to the bathroom and then find the “slot machine I always win at, wheel of Fortune.”
Everything went smoothly and when we got to the machines, OSHA said, “Let’s take a quick walk around so we can get a good ‘feel’ before we sit down.”
I had only flown through Vegas once before with her and she was as giddy as could be, looking at each of the machines before deciding on one. I was looked as well and sat down close to her and decided after one pull of another machine, it wasn’t “the one.” I cashed out my $18 and gazed at the machine I wanted to play. It was out of order. I decided to hold off for a bit went over and watched her.
“We have to get the Spin to come up. C’mon Spin,” she said with such a focused excitement. Every time the Spin came up, a high-pitched woo would come from her followed by a sigh as the second or third Spin didn’t show. We burned through her money quickly and I sat at the same machine much to the same result: we lost. I figured it was apropos given my life’s luck at winning.
I had none.
We got up to go back to the gate when she said her sister Jen said to go play again. We looked at each other for a second before I said, “What’s another $20 bucks. Let’s do it.”
We agreed we would both find different machines this time and as I walked back to the same row, I was pleasantly surprised to find the machine I originally wanted to play on was just fixed.
“Do you mind if I sit her?” I asked the attendant while Stephanie walked to the other side.
“Sure, it’s just now working,” she responded. “Good luck!”
I put my $20 in the machine and on the second max play, I got three Spins to show. I was elated and started to look around like Humphrey the Bear and didn’t know what to do.
“Steph, Steph!! I got the spin!!” There was no response. I pressed the Spin button on the screen. My heart started to race. Was this what it felt like to win? As fast as my heart raced, my mind raced even faster with the excitement of possibly winning.
Then it happened. The arrow landed on 2000, the largest number on the wheel. My jaw dropped. The machine started emitting sounds of coins falling and I tried to calculate what my winnings would be on the 25-cent machine. I couldn’t think. Everything was a jumbled mess and my eyes got blurry. I just started looking at the number growing and I yelled for Stephanie again.
“Steph!!! I just won!!” I knew I needed to get up from my seat to look on the other side of the aisle but panicked at the notion I would leave the machine. I figured I would get up by stretching my legs as far as they could, leaving one foot by the seat, and looked around.
“Steph!!! I just won!” I was nervous and stepped back to my seat afraid someone would claim it as his or hers. I looked at the screen again and I had just won $500 dollars.
“Holy shit! Holy shit! HOLY SHIT! Steph, COME HERE!” I stretched out again and told her I won. This time her attention was on me. She walked over and the attendant came by, just as excited as I was.
“You got the spin baby, how exciting,” Steph said as she put her bag down next to mine. We were both giddy with excitement. She gave me the rest of her $9 from her machine when the Spin lined up again.
“Wheel … Of … FORTUNE!!” Steph sang as the screen changed. The number this time landed on 80 and we won another chunk of change. By this point we were at $550 and all I could do was laugh. Every time the first Spin landed, we both held our breath and exhaled when the second Spin didn’t land.
We kept laughing when I said we would cash out at $525. I didn’t want to lose any of my new fortune when the three Spin buttons landed for a third time.
“You gotta be kidding me!” I said as I laughed and Steph cheered. The attendant came by again and told someone else the machines had been lucky on Christmas. It had been a good day for people coming through she said as she stood by us.
As she was talking, I pressed the button again and gazed at the spinning wheel.
“No way, no freaking way. You have to be kidding me!! NO FUCKING WAY!!”
The number landed on 2000 again. The three of us cheered and laughed uncontrollably. My barrel chest moved up and down vigorously as I tilted my head back and closed my eyes. Steph gave me a big hug and we laughed even louder. I just won another $500 and was up $1050. Hands down, it was the most I had ever won in my life, let alone won anything.
Then a funny thing happened. When we all calmed down and the laughter subsided, I suddenly became nervous. Like a ton of bricks, I realized I was going to have to carry all this cash and I still need to travel to El Paso. Was I going to get a ridiculous wad of 10s and 20s? Was I going to be dumb and keep playing before the plane came? Would I lose it all just as quickly as I won it?
Man, was I paranoid!
Anxiety and all, when I looked up and saw Steph with a big smile and living in the moment, I relaxed. She has that effect on me. I smiled, laughed again and we played down to $1025 and I put my arms up and said, “I’m out, bitches!”
It was a good Christmas present to say the least and maybe, just maybe, my luck has changed.
I guess I won’t know till we fly through again in the future but hot damn, that was exciting as hell!