Night at the Casino

It seemed like a good idea two weeks before, but as the clock counts down to 5.00pm on Friday evening, all I want to do is finish processing what feels like the millionth customer application that I have dealt with for the day, shut my computer terminal down and escape from the office and from work for two whole precious days which I intent to spend indulging in wine and watch pre-owned DVD’s brought the week before from C.E.X. Unfortunately I had agreed to a night out at the casino two weeks before when it seemed like a good idea, and so had Emily, Peter, Jason and Joanna, plus the numerous other colleagues from different departments in the office.
‘Your still going aren’t you?’ Peter asks for the umpteenth time that day as he breezes past my desk on his way to check that everyone who said they were going to the casino had not changed their mind. Peter had been periodically checking up on us every couple of hours since work began that morning. I don’t answer Peter’s question as I attempt to finalise the final application with no errors so that I can shut my terminal down and end my work week.
‘Rose.’ Peter persisted.
‘Yes Peter I’m coming. I snap at him irritated. ‘Peter, I’m just finishing up I’ll be as quick as I can.’ I finish my reply on a calmer note.
‘Good.’ Peter says barely allowing me to finish my sentence as he strides away leaving a whiff of stale body odour and deodorant in his wake. I wrinkle my nose, Peter does not carry a pleasant smell, and it lingers long after he has passed. At least it’s not summer, that’s when Peter’s body odour issues becomes everyone else’s issue as it dilutes the breathable air to near toxic, but Peter is such a nice guy that no one wants to tell him that it would be wise if he actually had a proper wash before he doused himself in deodorant and left his house to mingle amongst clean honest people Top lip pushed up as far underneath my nose as is physically possible I finish my work, file away the completed application and begin to shut down my terminal. As I wait for the machine to shut down I change out of my shiny black work shoes and into my all black Nike Air trainers, which drops me a couple inches in height, but I have no intention of hobbling around the West End of London on a Friday night in the pursuit of fashion. Minutes past five and the five of us are making our way to the bus stop, anticipating a fun night out with lots of beginners luck on the roulette tables. The rain is drizzling persistently, it has been all day, but we do not allow the lousy weather to dampen our spirits. It’s Friday night and it’s pay day, one of the very few and best calender days in the year after all, it would be very hard not to be in good spirits. I laugh and I joke along with my colleague as we discuss the drama’s that took place at work that very day. The hot topic of discussion was centred around Nicole from finance who was a very plain looking blonde about five foot two, dull eyes, dull skin but the most amazing head of hair you could ever imagine. Thick strong blonde tresses that hung gracefully to the centre of her back which bounced and swayed gracefully with her every movement. Her hair was definitely her most redeeming feature, in fact she was nicknamed ‘the hair’, though no one ever called her that to her face. I imagined that her hair it did not look so great when she was being shagged by one of our senior managers, Mr Flipping Matthew Parkinson from head office, in his office at lunch time. I mean, he had enough money, why not book a hotel room, was the question most of the work force had asked once his secretary had walked in on them. Apologized and profusely swore that she would not repeat what she saw to a living sole, before promptly telling her story to anyone in her vicinity blessed with ears and the ability to hear words through them. It’s amazing how an office of two hundred people can know a secret about one person, and that one person does not have a clue, that her shame is the biggest open secret, and the cause of inept gossip which helped the day to go so much faster. Thank you Nicole.
‘She’ll be promoted in like a couple of weeks, bet you’ Joanna exclaimed as we boarded the bus that would take us into the city, slapping her oyster card on the reader recklessly so that the machine did not read it.
‘Ha you have no money on your card.’ Jason laughed out loud. ‘You’ll have to walk.’ His outburst raising a few titters from the passengers already seated.
‘Shut up fool.’ Joanna responded, touching her oyster card to the reader with more care, the loud beep sounding to her relief as she stalked proudly into the bus fare finally paid.
‘What you looking at?’ Joanna directed her question at a small old lady in a bright blue coat which had a large colourful coat on the collar. The woman who was smiling at Jason’s outbust quickly turned her face away, suddenly interested in the queue of damp passengers bustling to get on the bus. (Whatever happened for forming an orderly queue to get on the bus)
‘Come on Joanna, leave her alone.’ Emily reprimanded following Joanna onto the bus and up the stairs. The men followed noisily after them, with me following behind like a tired mother.
‘I bet you her hair stayed in place.’ Peter mused as he touched his oyster to the reader.
‘Whose hair?’ Emily questioned
‘Nicole’s of course while she was…’
‘Ok Peter that’s enough.’ Emily laughed loudly.
‘Is he still on about that? Pervert, I told you he fancies her.’ Joanna’s voice sounded from half way up the bus stairs.
‘No I don’t.’ Peter argued explaining that he was just being silly and that we should not read anything into what he had said about Nicole’s hair while she was shagging Mr Parkinson.
‘Noisy lot your mates.’ The bus driver smiles as he comments on the disorderly behaviour of my colleagues while I touch my oyster to the reader. Through the protective plastic and underneath a blue woolly hat I see a kind looking man, small lines around his eyes, laughter lines, rough skin like he has spent too much time relaxing in the sun without any protection or moisturiser, unshaven, at least for two days.
‘I know, they are embarrassing.’ I reply smiling thinking that I would like to see what he looks like without the silly hat on his head and that huge blue puffa coat conceals any indication of what his body looks like. Why am I standing on the bus holding up the queue thinking about the bus driver’s body? My brain wakes up and snatches my thoughts out of the gutter.
‘Bye then, better go and make sure that they are behaving up there.’ I reply hoping that he was not some sort of London for Transport mind reader.
‘Have a good night.’ The driver calls to me as I head up the stairs.
‘Thank you, you too.’ I call back quickly heading up the stairs. On the top deck of the bus we meet more people from work, who had gotten on the stop before us having headed to the chicken and chip shop first and were busy feasting on the bus. Suddenly I am hungry, when I had no thoughts of food in my mind before. I sit in a corner sit behind my group of rowdy work colleagues on my own and stare out of the window watching people go about their lives. It’s amazing what you can see from the top deck of a bus when paying enough attention.
The bus journey into the heart of the west end was pretty uneventful; the bus wove its way through the busy Friday evening traffic. I spend the majority of the thirty minute journey staring out of the window wishing that the bus was taking me home. As time goes on and the rain begins to fall heavier beating against the window of the bus, I regret agreeing to a night out., all I really want to do is head home, get my wine – and some chicken and chips which I now fancy as the smell of the food wafts stinking out the whole of the upper deck My work colleagues are becoming louder and rowdier as the minutes past, chicken bones have become air borne and are in danger of crashing into other passengers. One bone thrown by Peter meant for Joanne lands dangerously close to a middle aged man with a huge bald spot, and what is left of his thick dark brown hair trimmed short and neat forming a semi frame for his shiny head. The man turns and gives Peter a dirty look. Peter is humbled enough to leave his seat and retrieve all of the chicken bones which have landed in the aisle of the bus, apologising to the bald man before he returns to his seat and resumes his throwing of the retrieved bones with more care at his squealing colleagues who are attracting looks of frustration from other passengers.
‘I could understand if they were kids.’ I hear someone say, but when I look to see who had made the disgruntled comment I notice that the few people on the bus are all sitting by themselves. Maybe the comment was my own thoughts shouting out loudly. They are all still enjoying themselves in their foolish joviality when I check in case someone is giving me a dodgy look for speaking my mind out loud unintentionally. I lean my head on the window and close my eyes trying to block out the noise and relax. None of my colleagues seem to notice that I am not joining in with the horseplay and banter, well they either don’t notice or they don’t care. I don’t care, I am happy to be ignored for a while I think as I feel my mood becoming darker and darker, for no particular reason other than that I want to go home, and though no one has forced me along for the trip to the casino, I feel like I am being forced to attend. I know it does not make any sense, its just how I feel. I close my eyes and sigh loudly at the sound of Joanna squealing as Peter tries to retrieve a thrown chicken bone which has some how landed in her bra.
‘Come on Rose.’ Jason prods me. I am suddenly awake, unable to believe that I had fallen asleep on the bus, amongst all of that noise, and that no one bothered to wake me up until we were getting off the bus. It is a good thing they had to walk past me, or they’d probably have forgotten me there, my thoughts of embarrassment try to disguise themselves with anger. I can’t believe I fell asleep on the bus, in front of everyone. Did I snore?
‘Oh and Rose, wipe the drool of your chin.’ Jason laughs as he makes his way behind the others off the bus.
‘He is joking.’ Joanna reassures me. I call Jason a pig, but when I think that no one is looking I wipe my chin anyway, just in case. It was a short walk to the casino. We made our way in a splintered group down crowded pavements, with space limited even further with scaffolding holding up buildings which seems to have had working being done to it for years. The huge building on the corner of the street across the road from the casino has scaffolding running all the way from floor to roof. The building looked dangerous, as if it was going to topple over at any moment, it was huge, intimidating, for some reason I could not stop staring at it even though to look at it even though it made me feel uncomfortable.
‘Seriously Rose, you act as if you have not seen scaffolding before.’ Joanna scolded me when I fell behind the group because I was staring up at the monstrous building that loomed over the casino. How was I supposed to go in there with the thought that the hideous building would fall and crush the casino at any moment? I grumbled at Joanna for berating me for no reason before I followed the group into the foyer of the casino and thankfully out of the cold drizzling rain, and away from the sight of the scaffolding. It is funny how stepping through a door completely changes the environment that you are in. The foyer of the casino is warm and cosy, light blue patterned carpet is soft and comfortable beneath my feet, smoke glass panels adorn the walls to my left creating the illusion that the foyer had more floor space than was actually available. Everyone had rushed ahead of me to the counter, taking out their membership cards eager to be scanned in before heading up the red carpeted stairs to the right of the reception area into the bar and casino. Peter, Jason and Emily and the guys we met on the bus head up the steps eager to get their Friday night started. Joanna waits with me at the counter as I sign up being my first time there. The receptionist behind the desk looks slightly flustered as there is a customer for the hotel jabbering away to her from the other side of the counter rather than waiting until she has finished completing my membership.
‘One moment please.’ She says to me with a heavy polish accent.
‘No problem.’ I nod; the receptionist gives me an apologetic smile before she leaves the desk to deal with the bothersome customer, who must obviously be a high spending customer, because the receptionist swipes his membership card as she and apologizes to him for the wait. The man grunts his gratitude for her allowing him to jump the queue, gives me and Joanna a haughty look before he takes his stout bullish bald self and ill fitting tweed jacket up the red carpeted steps. You shouldn’t be gambling, you should be spending your money on a jacket that actually fits. I want to say, but I don’t. Typical me, if Joanna had harboured that thoughts she would have had no problems in saying it to the man, instead I make small talk about it being my first time ever at a casino, and that I have a ten pound spend limit, and when that’s done, I’m no longer gambling.
‘Ten pounds, is that it. You might have well had gone home and brought a lottery ticket love.’ I open my mouth to speak but no words come out. For me ten pounds is a lot of money, especially when it is not going towards travel, food, gas or electric. I have no intention of losing more than ten pounds.
‘What is your budget for tonight then?
‘Fifty, I swear I’m not going over fifty pounds spend tonight, and I intend to win before I lose that much anyway.’
‘Fifty, oh my god.’ I exclaim feeling like an amateur even before I have even started. Joanna smiles at me.
‘Rose, a ten pound limit is fine love, ignore me, I need to practise more self control me. I lost a hundred and fifty when I came her last month. My Carl went mad at me I tell you, I won’t do that again.’ Joanna nudged me none too gently winking.
The receptionist returned to her post, apologising again before she completed my membership which included me having my picture taken by one of those web cam things that sit on the desk. The receptionist doesn’t show me the picture, I want to ask her if I see it but I don’t, yet I have no doubt that it is hideous, especially as Joanna pulled a stupid face just as I was going to pose causing me to smirk like an idiot. Membership done, and armed with my blue plastic membership card, I finally take to the red carpeted steps up into the casino. The first thing I notice when I step onto the casino floor is just how quiet the place is, music is playing softly in the background, and though there are television screens on the wall and fruit machines placed further back in the hall it is as if there volumes have been turned onto mute because they do not make a sound.
‘It’s quiet.’ I whisper to Joanna who pulls a strange face at me and walks off to the roulette table to join Peter and Emily who are both seated with a pile of plastic chips in front of them both, which I can’t help but to see as a pile of pound coins coloured blue and red just to fool the gambler that they are not really throwing their money away, just plastic chips. I reprimand myself for being negative and I fume at Joanna for her reaction to my comment. She knew it was my first occasion at a casino, there was no need to give me a look like I was an idiot just because I expressed surprise that the place was quiet. My only previous experience being what I had seen in films, the most memorable being the casino scene in the Percy Jackson film which shows the place being full of loud music, joviality, hostesses handing guests lotus flower laced snack on trays, people giggling and happy. I look to my right there is a large bar, the bartender is busy cleaning glasses as he looks up at the quiet TV screens in front of the bar. The one he is staring at is showing a re-run of the Chelsea v Wigan match of 2010 where Chelsea put eight goals past Wigan’s unfortunate goal keeper. I decide to walk around the hall a bit as I see Joanna putting £20.00 on the roulette table, and the hostess dressed in a long low neck ruffled front dress pushing a pile of red chips towards her direction as she takes the money and stuffs it in a slot on the table with a plastic block thing. ( I have no idea what it is called and no other clue how to describe it). As I move around I notice that all of the female staff are wearing the same long black l dress with a ruffled knot just under the low plunging neck line, which could not be worn with dignity by any woman with an ample bosom, maybe that was why all of the females working at the time were skinny my tired brain concludes. However my brain does not manage to work out why all the women that are working there are white and from their accents, none of them are from the UK. Then I ponder why am I even noticing these things, I should be having a good time, throwing my money down slots in brightly displayed machines and believing that this is a good night out. This is the reward for all of my hard work for the month. A celebration. I marvel at their dresses thinking how great it would be to have to wear a lovely dress to work every day because it’s part of the uniform, then I notice a customer at the poker table paying more attention to the hostesses chest rather than the cards that she is dealing, I touch the top of my turtle neck jumper, my perspective on the lovely uniform changing immediately. There is no dress code at my work place, so we can dress up or slum it. Suddenly I am very grateful, it’s the small things in life that makes life bearable at time. The hostess turns her back to the customer for a few moments, I notice the relief on her face when she turns back and sees him walking away, she begins to look after the remaining customers around the table all waiting to put their plastic chips on a number marked on the green felt table in the hope that the while ball on the roulette wheel will land on its equivalent, and give them a return on their foolish investment.
The dim lighting and soft music created a relaxing atmosphere, the furnishings amongst the gambling tables and the games machines were plush and obviously expensive. The empty sofa’s placed around the casino seemed an elaborate waste as none of them were occupied. People were gathered around the gambling tables, most trying to win back money they had lost I imagined by the looks on their faces. All had the same look, the look of trying not to look bothered when the hostess swept away piles of plastic chips which really equated to the hostess clearing away piles of their money into a small hole at the edge of the table once the small white ball had landed on a number that no one had put a plastic chip on. Or when the machine they were throwing their money into digested the coins that they were never going to see again once another game had been lost. I walked to the end of the hall where there were another three roulette tables in a row, each with a small crowd of people around. I spotted Jason at the table closest to the bar. He had a small smile on his face, which he explained when I approached him was because he had just won twenty pounds. He later went on to explain that he had gambled fifty in order to win the twenty, but a win was a win and that was the whole point of the casino. I didn’t agree with him, he call me boring as he placed another chip on number eight rubbing his hands together as he watched the hostess straighten his chips and those of the stout man who had pushed in front of me and Joanna in the reception earlier. He had a determined look on his face as he placed chips on a variety of numbers, in piles of twos and threes. I tried to see how much money he was actually gambling in one go by attempting to count his blue chips, but by the time I had counted the sixth pile, the roulette wheel had been spun and the little white ball had fallen on black 32. That square on the table was one of the few that was empty; the man had a pile of five chips on 31. The hostess scraped those chips along with all the others that was on the table away into the little hole at the end of the table. I began to wonder how much customers money actually went into that little hole. It was no wonder the casino could afford such plush furnishings. I stood with Jason for about ten minutes watching money exchanging hands for chips in colours of green blue and red. In those ten minutes I saw the man change fifty pounds three times for chips. He won what looked like a substantial amount on one occasion, but he simply put his chips back on the table for another gamble.
‘That is the whole point of the casino.’ Jason reminded me when I muttered my disapproval of the amounts of money that was simply been thrown away down slot machines and in holes in tables. When I have to plan and budget every penny of my wage to make sure that I have money enough to see me through to the next pay day. I rue the day that our company went from fortnightly to monthly pay. And then to watch people just throwing their money away, but then who was I to judge, it was their money after all. I still could not help that it grated on my nerves. I watched as Jason put half of his remaining chips on the board on various numbers. I watched as the stout man pulled out another fifty pound note of his roll and throw it on the table in an arrogant manner.
‘I’m gonna get a drink.’ I murmured as I walked away from the roulette table and climbed onto one of the high seats, where I ordered a large lemonade with no ice which I did not get much change out of five pounds from. I stirred the drink with a straw slowly as I looked about myself trying to wonder why I did not make an excuse for why I couldn’t come out for a night at the casino. I closed my eyes and listen to the soft music that played above me deciding that once I had finished my lemonade I would cry sickness and head back home.
‘Are you ok?’ I looked up to the bartender who was giving me a look of concern. I smiled back at him and nodded.
‘Yes I’m fine thank you.’
‘Not your scene.’ I shook my head slowly.
‘No not at all, I’m going to head home soon.’
‘Not too soon I hope.’ Both me and the bartender looked around to see the owner of the intrusive voice.
‘John, I haven’t seen you for ages.’ The bartender said to the stranger who stood in a dark blue wool coat, slightly unshaven with messy brown hair that needed a comb pulled through it. I stared at Johns face as he replied to the bartender that he had been busy working, before he ordered a rum and coke.
‘Have we met?’ I question John, and I sincerely hope that we have met because the man that is next to me is completely gorgeous. I sit a little straighter on my stool and waited for his reply.
‘We met not long ago.’ I tilt my head to the side and when he smiles I recall the smile of the bus driver that had driven us into town.
‘Off duty then I say with a smile.’
‘Off duty, and very glad I popped in here. I see people all day every day, I don’t often get the chance to see them again. Must mean something special; that I’ve run into you again, so soon after our first meeting.’
‘Maybe.’ I say as I take a dainty sip of my lemonade. ‘My name is Rose.’
‘Nice to meet you Rose, I am John, can I get you another drink, something a bit stronger than lemonade maybe.’
I smile as I sip at my lemonade again, the bartender winks at me as he notices my mood has lifted considerably since John appeared and I no longer seem to be in a hurry to escape from the place. For the first time since I had left work that night I was glad that I had decided to have a night out at the casino.

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