WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS

         Since I acquired my first desk top computer about ten and a half years ago, I have made forays into dating woman I have met on line. I don’t want to brag but some of them actually stayed and talked after meeting me face-to-face. Others even invited me back after meeting me front-to back. Yet, hard as it is to believe, given my charm, intelligence and physical perfection, some of these meetings were….uh hum….slightly less than successful.

              The main way I established these “relationships” was by signing up for web dating sites. They carried such names as “Desperate Males Craving Companionship”, “Perverts R Us”, and my personal favorite “All Our Female Members Are Blind Deaf and Dumb”.

               There was one particular exception to these computer generated matchups. Charlene was a woman who lived in Woodland Hills, California, and was addicted to Slingo, an online game part of AOL. Slingo was a game similar to Bingo, with a “card” five-by-five, each square numbered or with a special reward or penalty. It sort of operated like a slot machine where the computer generated a “spin” every thirty seconds and the display would change in each square. the players had limited time to click on the squares which would advance then toward filling the card.

            That’s really more information than you need unless you want to visit AOL and download Slingo to play at your leisure. But one of the attractions of the game was that online chats could be conducted among the maximum of ten players in each “room”. The chat ranged from teeny boppers probing for personal info to match up with like minded mutants, to witty repartee. Naturally the latter was my forte.

               Well, Charlene and I had several quick exchanges in one game and we and some other players hung around for subsquent games. We seemed to have an instant rapport and while not wanting to continue play, we had an option to go to a private chatroom which we exercised. We traded email addresses and remained in touch after that evening, frequently managing to be in the same Slingo room at the same time.

            This went on for months and we gradually revealed more about ourselves. She was divorced with two adult kids and had removed herself from an abusive husband. She worked in the back office of a bank.

            I, of course, was a fabulously handsome, rich, sensitive and thoughtful man of the world. (The key to that sentence is the root of the word “fabulous” which is fable.)

           We had complementary senses of humor and enough common intellect to discuss various topics, large and small. We sent emails often and after several months even had a couple of live telephone conversations.

           But, aside from minor flirtations there were really no romantic insinuations at play. Finally in August of 2001, during one long instant messaging chat away from Slingo, and after I had bantered some small innuendo concerning my….ahem…prowess…she told me to “put my money where my mouth was”. What did that mean I asked. Charlene proceeded to tell me that on the holiday weekend coming up in October I should fly to meet her in Vegas while she drove up from L.A. Puzzled I inquired about what holiday she had in mind. It turned out to be Columbus Day which that year would be observed on Monday, October 8.

          Well, being as I had a real job, not employed by a bank that closed even for St Swithen’s Day, I had no automatic vacation day attached to that date. Charlene further informed me that would also be her birthday.

           Since I had to jump through hoops at my job to get time off, I told her I was interested but had to coordinate the particulars. We left off with me agreeing to make my best effort.

           Long story short (What? You protest it is already too late for that?), within a week or two I managed to arrange time off, make airplane and hotel reservations and prepare myself for an adventure. So it was set. We would meet sometime the evening of Friday, October 5, in Las Vegas, Nevada and spend the weekend together till I flew home Monday morning.

                  The world shattered a couple of weeks later on 9/11. Of course there was some thought to cancelling or greatly limiting commercial flights much longer than what actually happened. So my trip was in semi-limbo for a time and frankly, like most people, my personal desires were overshadowed by the tragedy that unfolded that day.

            But as things returned to a semblance of normalcy I began to eagerly look forward to meeting Charlene.

            The last day or two of work prior to my departure found me excitely reporting my approaching adventure and Thursday night before I left, I slept fitfully. But early Friday morning I awakened, completed my packing, jumped in my car, drove to the Pittsburgh Airport, in fact to an off-site long-term parking area which provided a shuttle to the terminal.

           Of course I had to reach the airport long before my scheduled flight, but passenger volume had nowhere near returned to normal levels, so I encountered no delays and had time to relax before I boarded. Aboard the plane I cast a suspicious eye around me, but seeing no boxcutter wielding infidels, I took my seat, buckled myself in and we took off.

         My flight did have a one hour scheduled layover in Dallas which became over a two hour delay. Eventually we were back in the air and soon we were landing in Vegas around 9:30 p.m. local time, 11;30 back home, and about 18 hours since I had risen that morning. from McCarran Airport I phoned the hotel where Charlene awaited me, having already checked in. I explained I would be taking a shuttle directly there and would be seeing her shortly.

            I may have omitted that we knew what each other looked like, having traded photos some time back. That she remained interested displayed an uncommon courage on her part. As for her, though certainly no beauty, she was attractive and obviously took pains with her appearance and I had no apprehensions regarding her looks.

          My shuttle reached the hotel, I  walked to our second floor room, knocked on the door, it opened and Charlene and David were facing each other for the first time. Neither regurgitated.

           I had mentioned to her some time ago my preference for Bacardi Rum. It and suitable mixer were present  and she prepared a nice strong drink for me. Our conversation was pleasant though not deep and she suggested, as I had not yet eaten dinner, that we take her car for a spin around the Strip and find an amenable restaurant. We did so, had an enjoyable meal again with effortless conversation, and returned to our room perhaps two hours after we had left.

           My day had stretched to way past twenty hours and I said I’d like to get a shower and retire. When I exited the bathroom in a much fresher state, Charlene had donned her nightwear which, while covering vital areas, did so none too agressively. We cuddled and had moments of pleasurable physical contact, the exact nature and duration of said moments being none of your damn business. Although assuredly not my usual routine in such situations, I soon fell asleep, exhausted.

             Now our plans for Vegas included not only exploring casinos, but also a number of local attractions, big and small, that we could enter  for deep discounts thanks to internet coupons. Charlene’s car would enable us to get to more venues than some Vegas visitors. Friday night we both spoke favorably of what lay ahead and getting to know each other better and maybe even winning a few shekels

                I awoke Saturday morning, the head still a little fuzzy mostly from my long day but a tad due to Mr. Baccardi also. As I became fully cognizant of my surroundings, the room seemed oddly quiet. No TV. No morning greeting from Charlene who was not next to me. And now puzzling to me, no luggage in the corner where Charlene had stashed her belongings Friday night.

                  I had though she may have slipped out to smoke a cigarette. Our room was smoking but I don’t partake and she had gone outside to smoke as a courtesy to me. But that was a short distance, no need for luggage. I got up and looked around. On the counter in the small kitchenette that was part of the room was a piece of paper which turned out to be a note from Charlene. She wrote that she was getting a cold which she had noted last night and was driving back to L.A. She had paid for the room.

               I was dumbfounded. Surely the nature and duration of the previous night’s moments could not have driven her away. Oh, that’s right, her car drove her away.

                Well I was stuck, obviously without transportation to see much of what was planned. Moreover our hotel was not on the Strip though it did have a shuttle that could take me there. Terribly incongruously our Best Western was on Paradise Road. Hell Road is more like it.

                 Even if I wanted to leave, I had purchased my ticket through Priceline and could not change anything at that late date, so I was stuck till Monday morning. It’s my own fault for having anything at all to do with William Shatner. Never again, BILL!!!

                 When I finally motivated myself to take the shuttle to the Strip I tried to make the most of it, casino hopping and sight seeing. The Bellagio fountains are amazing. But alas, when $20 left my pocket into a slot machine it immediately transformed into confetti, or so it seemed. After a decent meal I decided to save most of my money and some of my dignity and return “home”, hoping to have better luck on Sunday.

                That bright thought was obliterated when I got up Sunday morning, turned on the TV, and watched wall-to-wall reports of our invasion of Afghanistan. My displeasure of that farce is apparent elsewhere on this blog.

                  That afternoon I did the shuttle two-step again, with essentially the same payoff, less net worth and more frustration.

               Well, I had an early Monday departure, having to be at the airport before 6 a.m. I repeated the layover maneuver of Friday though this time at Chicago O’Hare, where I transferred to one of those commuter planes. You know, the ones bigger than a breadbasket but tinier than the SS Enterprise. (Damn that Shatner again!!)

               I was back in Pittsburgh mid-afternoon feeling incomplete from my excursion. When I picked up my car though, inspiration struck as to how and where I could achieve completion. I had met a nurse on one of my dating sites and we had met for a mucho fun time. She lived in Butler, north of Pittsburgh and when I called, she had the day off and said she would welcome a visit. I drove straight there. What happened? Hey, don’t you know that what happens in Butler stays in Butler?

Epilog

       When I got home on Tuesday, an email from Charlene awaited. I immediately deleted it without reading and have had no further contact. By the way, Charlene is not her real name though they share some of the same letters of the alphabet. And I finally consoled myself with the realization that I escaped having to purchase a birthday gift for her.

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