It's CES Week on the Woot Blog! We're kicking off the festivities (and killing time while we actually fly down there) with a dissertation on Las Vegas, the human condition, and how to cope.
Being assigned to cover CES is a bittersweet moment: sure, there's the glitz and glamor of an electronics industry trade show, all kinds of cool blogger parties I can pretend I was invited to, and blowing my per diem on Ring Dings. Unfortunately, there's the slight inconvenience of the location:
If you've never been to Las Vegas, you might have visions of Rat Pack-era casinos full of tuxedo-clad fellas with slicked-back hair playing Baccarat or asking the sexy dame on their arm to blow on the dice before they throw Craps or downing a martini and polishing off another cigarette before ducking back into the lounge to negotiate some mobster business while taking in a show. Well, take that image out of your head and behind a seedy diner and put a bullet in its head, because there's no such thing and if there ever was it's long gone. No, the Vegas that remains standing today is a heaving, smoke-stained testament to gluttony, sex, and gambling addiction. So upon finding out you're headed there, one experiences The Five Stages of Vegas...
"IT'S FIVE IN THE MORNING! WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE?!"
Upon your arrival in Vegas, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. You refuse to admit to yourself the horrible magnitude of the situation you're in, and even try to convince yourself it's not that bad. "Hey," you say in earnest, "maybe this time I'll hang out in the casino. Might even win a couple of bucks!" Your enthusiasm is quickly euthanized when you spend your first night walking around the gaudy, golden interior breathing in more cigarette smoke than you have cumulatively inhaled in your life before, and noting the abundance of sordid, leathery old people seemingly glued to their seats, pulling again and again on penny slot machine arms. And that's when stage two hits you.
"What the hell are these people doing here?" "Who is insidious enough to capitalize on this kind of behavior?" "Why don't we tear down this monument to all that's wrong with humanity and let the desert consume this whole damn town?" Those are all perfectly normal thoughts you're bound to have as your unbridled anger in the face of raw, unfettered consumerism for no other reason than to spend money and blatant, sex-crazed marketing that assumes your IQ is driven entirely by your genitals hits you full on. You curse the sky and kick the dusty, sun-baked ground as Rita Rudner's bizarre smirk looks down on you, motionless but judging.
This is Fremont Street. This is what OUTSIDE looks like in Las Vegas.
It's a perfectly natural reaction, when dropped into a soulless, humanity-crushing city, to want to find the fastest way out of town. "Please," you mutter to whatever deity or scientific principle you hold dearest, "Please just get me out of here. I don't want to be here any more." Unfortunately, hopes and prayers have a pretty terrible track record of being answered ANYWHERE, especially Vegas. So soon enough you'll feel yourself sinking into the next stage.
This is it. You're in it, now. There's no escaping until the trade show is over, so you've got no choice but to strap on your shoes and head to the convention center, trying to avoid all the bizarre phone sex advertising handouts from various immigrants on the strip. The thought of traveling thousands of miles, probably risking deportation along the way, in the hopes of a new life and opportunity only to wind up handing strangers pictures of naked women on the street is enough to make you wish for a nuclear attack on the city with you in it.
As you drown your sorrows in yet another buffet, you realize you're a part of it now. Sure, you can SAY you're here for CES, and you can justify the money you spend as the company dime, but you're in the Vegas food chain. You breathe in the recycled air and you drink the watered-down cocktails and you're okay with it. Your primitive ape brain, faced with such shock and discombobulation, initiates a bizarre Stockholm Syndrome and you begin to accept that this is your life now. The whole world consists of your hotel, the walk to the trade show, and whatever terrible fast food joint you eat at in between because you were so busy taking photos of various iPhone accessories that you forgot to eat.
And just as you start to feel your descent into madness truly hit top speed, it's all over. And it's time to fly home. And you swear to yourself you're never coming back here, but deep down you know you will. Mainly because your boss tells you to.
Flickr photos (in order) DSC223861, Silver Legacy Casino Hotel, Reno, Nevada, USA by Jim G. and Overhead Screen Fremont Street by Caitlyn Willows used under a Creative Commons License.