I did not know her age, but she looked to be in her mid-fifties. She was weary and there were care worn lines in her face. It was hot despite the air-conditioning and her make-up was running. She had a huge pile of quarters in a casino bucket in front of her and she reached out mechanically to pick one up and feed it into the slot machine. Sometimes she pulled the handle but mostly she just pressed the button.
There was the constant kerplink as the wheels turned. Occasionally there would be a louder jangle and a pile of quarters would descend noisily into the coin tray. Wearily she would scoop them up and put them into her bucket. She never smiled and there was no joy in her demeanor.
It was 3.00 a.m. and I had been watching her for an hour. There were a dozen others like her – a few men but mostly women – doing exactly the same. There were plenty of unoccupied seats in the rows of slot machines. Las Vegas is supposed to be a fun city, but it did not appear that any of the people I watched were having any fun. They were more like automatons doggedly doing what their programming dictated.
It is a dirty secret of the gaming industry that casinos make a great deal of money from these lower end slot machines. Maintenance is low and customers frequently play for hours on end. The ones who do are addicted and casinos do what they can to keep them hooked. There are free salted peanuts and sometimes a complimentary drink as well.
It’s sad, isn’t it?
Are you shaking your head in agreement and perhaps feeling glad that you are not like that?
In fact, you are exactly like that. You just don’t know it and, if someone points it out to you, resolutely refuse to accept it.
You like the finer things in life. You enjoy going to the movies and love the theater. You have even grown to like the opera. You appreciate vintage wine and relish different cuisines in high end restaurants. You love traveling and visiting museums in different cities in the world. You are a person of the world.
You know you are not addicted. You can curtail any, or many, of these activities and you will be just fine. You know you are not like the slot playing woman I described.
The reality is that you are addicted. Just as addicted as the slot machine junkies I described. You may not be addicted to any particular activity, but you are addicted to having something beguile your mind and keeping it focused on some outside event. Your mind is unable to rest quietly by itself. It needs constant stimulation of one kind or another.
Don’t push back. Think about it. Recognizing your particular form of addiction is the first, necessary, step to curing yourself.