It’s Saturday night in the city of sin and a phalanx of nocturnal revelers shuffles impatiently in front of a pair of gilded doors. The doors open allowing successive entourages to push past the expectant crowd gathered outside. Eyes lock, coy smiles exchanged, and open-ended invitations are extended as the crush of people is reversed. Inside there is barely room to move and no place to move to anyway. Whispers can be heard above the music pumped in from overhead speakers. We’re packed in tight like perfume-scented veal. This is one of the best and most random of Las Vegas’ many playgrounds…the elevator of your favorite casino.
The elevator banks in Las Vegas casinos serve in many ways as a microcosm. They’re unavoidable and essential to your stay in Vegas. Yet, they rarely receive the attention I believe they deserve. They have an almost tidal quality. Early in the morning they’re a mix of families making their way to the pool, the buffet bound, and bleary-eyed remnants of the previous night’s odysseys. This time of day the elevators assume a more familiar atmosphere. Eye contact is either avoided or limited to polite recognition. Children shift excitedly from foot to foot, waiting for the doors to open on the day’s adventure. While others can’t wait for them to close the chapter on a story best left unwritten.
As the desert sun continues its rise, so to does the flurry of activity in the elevator banks. Like molecules when heated, trips to and from hotel rooms seem to have a reactive association to the outside temperature. One can only surmise the nature of these hotel room missions. Their soundtrack is the sound of flip-flops reverberating off marble floors to accompany the march to the elevator banks. Women shielded behind over-sized eyewear stand confidently in swimsuits. They pretend not to notice the men checking them out. It’s in these moments that small talk morphs into proposals for future rendezvous.
The end of the day means the elevator banks once again become clogged with families returning from the pool. Parents clutch their children, refraining them from the overwhelming urge to push all the buttons on the elevator panel. Married men sneak peripheral glances at the girls who are busy recanting pool encounters. An impatient pall has overtaken the elevator. People want to get back to their rooms to recharge for the night ahead.
The night really starts when you load into that first elevator of the evening. For the well-lubed hotel guests, fresh from pre-partying in their rooms, this is their first encounter in the “wild” for that night. You stand waiting, perhaps there’s a wager on which elevator door will open first. The ding, signaling the arrival of your vertical chariot, marks the first moment of anticipation of the night. Who will greet you when the doors disunite?
It’s important to try and match the energy of the elevator upon entering. They are like hyper-accelerated ecosystems, each with its own evolutionary trajectory. You can exist in complete silence from floors 35 to 23, and then suddenly, one comment can unleash a torrent of conversation - the ebb and flow of riders creating an atmosphere of chance that rivals the gaming floor.
There are a few different types of “elevator playas”, that are worth mentioning. The “Host” acts as if you’ve been invited to his personal party. They might pepper you with a few questions about your day or plans for the evening. The “Host” usually keeps the conversation light and innocuous.
Next we have the “Inquisitor”, who usually is very curious as to, “What your deal is?” They like to push the envelope, by asking provocative questions and making any manner of allusions. When handled properly the “Inquisitor” can be a valuable asset to the elevator party.
Lastly, there’s the “Comedian”. They like to take advantage of the tight confines and lack of exits to work on material. The elevator usually represents the acme of their comedy career. The best you can do is pray they’re funny or that you don’t have far to go before reaching the lobby.
So the next time you are in Las Vegas pay attention to your time in the elevators. Often it’s the time spent en route to our destinations that goes unnoticed. Las Vegas elevators are every bit as sportive as the places they are depositing you. Remember, you can’t have “what happens in Vegas” if you don’t leave your room…usually.