I was in the Caesar’s Palace slot machine area, playing the penny slots.

Press the button.

No winnings.

Lots of lights. Lots of noise. I remember the carpet was soft. Close by was the entrance to the mall, which has a ceiling painted with blue sky and clouds, so that it looked like daytime even if it were pitch-black outside. Not that it’s ever pitch-black on the Las Vegas strip.

Press the button.

I got a penny back.

I was killing time and killing money before my acquaintance Steve was going to come pick me up on the Strip and take to his place outside the city for the weekend. I couldn’t afford a motel anywhere in the area, let alone the hotel that The Company had put me up in for the convention. I had booked a return flight with my boss, who wasn’t coming back until that Monday.

Press the button.

No winnings.

Two weeks earlier, I’d made my last payment to my lawyer for the reckless driving offense. They’d successfully pled it down to a standard speeding charge. So I’d paid David L. Parker & Associates $500 and the county of Augusta $250.  I’d also just moved out of my Blacksburg apartment to a Christiansburg house. Though my parents shouldered the majority of that burden, I’d had to squeeze some expenses to pay for initial deposits and utilities.

As timing would have it,  I now had to partially fund a trip to Las Vegas to come with The Company to our major show in Las Vegas, as the guy in charge of the booth. The Company had had the foresight to give me my per diem ahead of time, rather than reimbursing me afterwards. One of the problems was that they’d left out a day of work in my per diem, but I didn’t ask them about that until later.

The convention was over and I was down to my last $20. I’d used $10 of them on this penny slot machine. I don’t know why. I have absolutely no faith in gambling. But I figured having $10 was the same as having $20, so why not have a Vegas experience.

Press the button.

Quadruple GOLD.

I had just made a net profit of twenty dollars.

I’d eventually use most of that to take the bus and cab back to the airport so I could return to southwest Virginia.