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During their New Year’s Eve get-together, Joanna, Matt, Leigh, and Jim made a joint resolution to stop gambling in 2015. They made it all the way to January 5th. On that day, a Sunday, they decided to take a day trip to Atlantic City, 90 minutes away.
Their lack of fortitude wasn’t a particular surprise or disappointment to any of them, as “quit gambling” is a resolution they have made, separately or together, over the last seven years. Admittedly, this is very early in the year to throw in the towel.
“Oh well,” Joanna says as she and Matt get into Leigh’s car at 8:15am. “Easy come, easy go.”
“That doesn’t really make sense, Jo,” Jim says. He’s in the passenger seat; Leigh almost always drives; she gets carsick otherwise. “Aren’t you assuming you’re going to win money and then throw it all back?”
Joanna shrugs as Matt says, “It’s a pretty safe assumption as that’s what happens every single time.”
Their spirits are high as they sail down the AC expressway. They play what Joanna calls The Letter Game; they go through the alphabet and name something that is related to gambling.
“I’ll start,” Leigh says. “Atlantic City.”
“Borgata,” Jim says.
Joanna’s turn. “Casino.”
Matt says, “Debt.”
“Spoil sport,” Joanna says. “Leigh, your turn.”
“Even. As in, let’s try to leave at least even.”
“Fun,” Jim says.
“That’s more like it. Gambling,” Joanna says.
“Disallowed. You can’t use the word itself,” Leigh says.
“You’re right,” Joanna says. “Guards.”
“Heist. We should plan one someday,” Matt says. “We’ll probably have to kill the guards.”
And so it goes until the letter Z, which gave them all pause until Jim came up with Zeal. “It’s how we play,” he said. “With zeal.”
Sixteen hours later, and still 60 miles from home, none of them is showing even a remnant of zeal. They spent the first 15 miles of their return trip in stone silence.
Finally, Matt says, “We’re all idiots.”
“True,” Joanna says.
“True,” Jim says.
“True indeed,” Leigh says.
“We could have been home 10 hours ago, up a few hundred each,” Matt says.
“That’s the problem,” Jim says. “We won too early. We drove all the way down there and didn’t want to leave right away.”
“Jim’s right,” Joanna says. “It’s the worst-case scenario. Much better to stay pretty much even for a long time and hit big right when it’s time to go home. It’s even better to be down quickly and fight your way back than to get up right away.”
“Yeah, but when we started losing we should have at least taken a break and had a nice meal,” Matt says. “We had plenty of comp dollars. It would have given us a chance to clear our heads, maybe change our strategy.”
“That’s true,” Leigh says. “But when I’m playing slots I don’t feel hungry, or thirsty, or tired. And I almost never have to pee.”
Jim says, “Matlock’s right, though. It might have changed our luck.”
The four of them shared virtually identical experiences today, as they pooled their money and played the same cluster of machines.
“We did come close to a real big one,” Matt says. “During the free game bonus on ding ding ding, all we needed was one more double in the middle. It would have been ten grand.”
Ding ding ding, a 9-line dollar machine officially called Double Diamond, is a particular favorite of Joanna’s. “Yeah, well,” she says. “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” When she’s tired, she slips into clichés and she’s tired now.
“Should we make a resolution not to go for the rest of the year?” Leigh asks.
“No, there’s no logical trigger now,” Jim says. “Let’s try to hold off until March. We’ll then go for your birthday and say it’s for the last time this year.”
“Sounds good,” Leigh says. “I like that idea.”
“When we have a bad day like today, I try to rationalize,” Matt says.
“How so?” Jim asks.
“Well, if we hadn’t gone to Atlantic City, we would have done something else. And maybe we would have been in a car accident or been caught in the crossfire of a convenience store robbery.”
“Convenience store robbery?” Jim asks. “That’s very specific.”
“Matt is picturing a convenience store because that’s where he buys his Powerball tickets,” Joanna says.
“Ahh, right,” Jim says, and they all settle into silence.
If you like this story, please check out my completed book, “Butts in the Seat”; one reviewer said it was “amusing, entertaining, and provides therapeutic value.”