OK, so my posting has been a bit sporadic, to be generous. I really do enjoy blogging but the truth is I’ve been really…unavailable over the last few months and I don’t see it getting any better until September when I can resume a regular schedule. You mean the same September when the kids go to school? I’m sure that’s just a coincidence…

In fact the reason I’m writing this now is because I picked up some last minute work in Las Vegas so I’m typing this from the seclusion of my hotel room. I’m catching up on reading, blogging, e-mails, work, and most importantly, sleep. Yes, I’ve said it before, I’m the only one who goes to Las Vegas to get some sleep.

I love coming to Vegas a few times a year. I actually recharge here, as weird as that sounds. I don’t really gamble (not because I’m against it, but because I’m not very good at it) so I sleep, eat, work, and exercise. By the way, if you ever want to get away from the crowds in Vegas, go to the hotel gym. It’s like a ghost town.

As I walked the casino floor I saw something new. It was a big virtual blackjack machine. Instead of playing against a dealer, the players sat at a table and played against a giant screen. An image of a blackjack dealer gives you a fake smile and deals images of cards. So players were watching a digitized version of a vapid, breast implanted model pretending to deal blackjack. It didn’t even look like a novelty. It looked like I had stepped onto the set of Blade Runner.

OK, so I’ll go to the piano bar. That will be cool, right? Watch some actual musicians tickle the ivories and banter back and forth. Great. After a few minutes of listening I noticed that it just didn’t sound… right. I took a closer look at the pianos. And it turned out, they weren’t pianos. They were piano “shells” with electronic keyboards inside them where the piano keys should have been. REALLY? You’ve now screwed with the piano bar?! Sacrilege.

I went into the café. It sued to be in Vegas you could go in, order whatever you wanted anytime you wanted. French Toast at 5:00 pm? No problem. This time I went in at around 11:00 am and there were two options for breakfast. A ham and cheese Omelet or 2 eggs “any style” which usually means scrambled. I kept turning the menu over to see if I had missed something. I wanted to see what I could work out when the 80 year old waitress finally came over.

“Could I get a cheese omelet?”
“The ham and cheese omelet?”
“No, I just want a cheese omelet”
(pause)”OK, but I have to charge your for the ham and cheese omelet”
“Alright. Can I get fruit instead of hash browns?”
“That’s another three dollars”
“what’s that you’re drinking?”
“Uhm, water?”
(angry glare) “OK”

So I ate my breakfast under the watchful eye of the angry octogenarian bean counter. Was I eating too slow? Hmmm…

That’s when it hit me. I realized we weren’t customers anymore. We were dollar signs, or worse, bank account numbers. Granted, I was working so I wasn’t really a customer but I still needed to use the hotel services.

There used to be a time in Las Vegas where food and hotels were cheap and customer service was important and you could get French toast whenever you wanted. The casinos didn’t care. They were making their money at the tables. But once the big corporations took over, they wanted every penny you had, and didn’t care where they got it from, whether it was at a table or in an overpriced café. But on the other side of it was the notion that the corporations were trying to do everything faster and cheaper. (It used to be BETTER, faster, and cheaper, but better became too expensive)

After seeing virtual blackjack dealers and fake pianos I realized the bigger dystopian picture. Big corporations were slowly replacing us with machines and also treating us like them. It is not a good feeling. The truth is, only two or three companies now own all the casinos on the Vegas strip. So what do they care? If you go to another casino because you got poor service at one, the same company still gets your money.

In distancing us from our money by any means necessary, we were also being distanced from each other as humans. We are becoming detached from each other, and that’s not a good thing. At all. So hug your children, hug your spouse, hell, hug your friends, and enjoy that human connection the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed, before the future corporate robot overlords take it all away from us, dollar by dollar. Scarily, with our consent as we stare down at our iPhones.