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Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Yesterday, I presented part one of an account I wrote of my week working in Vegas. This happened several years ago, when I was a graduate student and would do absolutely anything for money.
The story began with a little glimpse of the chaos that began on day three. (And truthfully, day three is where it gets exciting.) But let us return to the start and find out how YOUR NARRATOR got to Vegas in the first place . . .* ** ***


The hotel was a tall, golden tower surrounded by pools and gardens. Everywhere there was the smell of fresh flowers, even in the casino, where the smoke was heavy. There were parrots in the lobby. When I bought my Altoids in the gift shop, they removed the plastic wrap for me with a razor, then opened the box and folded back the paper to present the mints to me for inspection and consumption. “Are these to your liking?” they seemed to be asking (the staff, not the mints), and my expression replied, “They are mints, weirdo.”

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting from my room. Not much, I guess. The reality of my Vegas hotel room was a shock. It was larger than my entire apartment back in New York. It had a king-sized bed that barely made a dent in the available space. It had an entire wall of tinted glass that looked down on the (obviously) man made eleven acre beach, the lazy river ride and the wave pool, some thirty stories below. There was a stand-alone shower that could be set to an exact temperature and had a phone inside. There was a separate marble whirlpool tub with ANOTHER phone, so you could presumably call from the shower and talk to someone in the tub, if you really didn’t feel like opening the door and projecting across the five-foot gap.

When I first saw all of this, I completely forgot I was there as the hired help. What I didn’t know is that I would never really see this room again. I would never be in that tub. I would never make phone calls from the shower. I would never find out what all those remote controls did. Because soon after I arrived, I got the call to Come Downstairs—and that was that. The die was cast.

Our convention took up a large chunk of rooms on the ground floor of the hotel—big conference rooms that could be expanded or cut off as you needed. We set up our office in a tight, windowless room—actually a storage area for conference supplies.
This was not a conference designed to sell the product. This was a party the sales division was throwing for itself to promote two drugs and to give out awards. My company was one of four that had been hired to put this whole thing together. A conference planner handled all of the transportation and accommodations. A staging company set up two massive rooms of stages and screens. We handled the presentations, the speakers, and the short films. A party planner handled entertainment and dining. So there were dozens of people running this event. The five hundred or so attendees would be flown in, housed, entertained and fed for four days. The guy running all the entertainment, I was told, was a famous incompetent. That fact would become very relevant later. It would rule my life.

But the two first days went more or less according to plan . . . they were just a little bit longer and more intense than I’d been told when I took the job. I would usually arrive in the war room around 5:45 in the morning, crossing through the casino as thousands of Japanese tourists who were wide awake, still on Tokyo time, filled the Kung Pao poker tables. Usually, I walked past several people who were Still Awake and Still Drunk—girls in leather dresses who kept trying to find the ladies’ room, attempting to walk a steady, straight stride on little tiny heels. There were elderly women who rose frighteningly early to play on slot machines.

The early mornings were best, as they tended to be quiet. But by nine or ten, the place would be jammed. A steady stream of doctors and presenters and assistants were beginning to fly in from around the country and around the world. Some had sent their slides in advance so that we could begin cleaning them up for the show, but many had not. It didn’t matter. Even those who had usually arrived with whole new sets to render obsolete the slides we’d been working on for hours. They added graphics which crashed the computers, or changed data, or decided they didn’t like the color.

Many of the doctors that were presenting had groupies—young, beautiful suits who trailed behind them. I saw doctors parading along with up to twelve of these people in tow. The suits laughed at their jokes, sympathized with their delayed flights, screaming with indignation for them when the computer mouse wasn’t to their liking. They would crowd our tiny war room, making it difficult to move or hear do get anything done. I hated them first individually, and then as a group.
We’d work right through lunch and dinner. If we finished work at midnight or one, and we were planning on reopening the war room at five-thirty. That meant—at best—four hours of sleep for me.

More pressing was the food situation.

We were supposed to have catering brought in, but they always forgot our room. We only had coffee and (if we were very lucky) protein bars. However, the caterers were fantastically good at feeding empty rooms. All of those little conference rooms had been booked in case the famous doctors or the people who ran the company wanted to use them, which they pretty much never did. So in the morning, the empty rooms would be fed large breakfasts of danishes and fruit and tarts and cereal, coffee, fresh juices, muffins . . . These would sit until lunch, when they would be removed in favor of trays of sandwiches, chips, and salads. When these went soggy after a few hours, new ones would come.

We were never allowed to touch it. It wasn’t there for us. It was there for He or She Who Had Yet to Come. It was unthinkable that any of the suits ever walk into a room and not have a full selection of untouched platters to choose from.
I accept this for day one and two, and frankly, I was too busy to eat anyway. I sometimes got fifteen minutes to a half an hour as a break, which wasn’t enough time to get back to my room. The walk to the elevators alone took ten minutes. Instead, I would walk along the nearby outdoor path, just outside of the war room, where music dribbled out of fake rocks.

This was Vegas living, I figured. A little short on sleep. A little short on food. Rubber rocks that played U2 and Elvis. The conference was scheduled to start the next morning, and I figured things might loosen up a little then.

I figured very, very wrong.

* The essay was ridiculously long, so I have chopped it into smaller, more digestible pieces. Should you ever want to hear the entire thing, just come over to my house with some cake and I will read it to you.

** Also, I will fully admit that I am doing this kind of QUICKLY today, since it is 10:15 pm and I am not in ANY WAY packed or prepared for the plane I have to catch at the crack of dawn tomorrow. So please BE KIND to this blog. Also, part three gets better.


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Blogger Hollishillis said...


best of luck though =]

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Raelyn said...

maureen. u are going to have fun in vegas. because vegas is a fun place. if nothing else, from what i've heard so far, it can't get any worse right? heh heh.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Nadia Murti said...

You should have sneaked in and stolen the food. They weren't going to notice!

6:59 AM  

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