On the first night of my recent 72 Hours to Key West bike trip we arrived at the hotel in the Miccosukee Resort and Casino. The casino is like most casinos, a big box type of building that is brightly lit, full of cigarette and cigar smoke, and absent of any clocks. It is the perfect opposite of a healthy day outside on a bike. Now, I don’t have the gambling gene, no judgement here, I just don’t enjoy slot machines, card games or dice. I got the gene that tells me I enjoy having a bike seat stuck up my butt for days at a time instead.
After a shower I wandered around for a while, observing the various behaviors of winners and losers, noticing that no one seemed to be having too much fun. There was a certain grimness in the air. The casino went on and on, maze-like through various games, bars, and tobacco shops. If you ever want to buy a carton of cigs, have a beer, a chili cheese dog and play a little slots, this is the perfect place.
What were vices are now habits, in the words of the Doobie Brothers. All that was missing was a strip joint.
At one point I wandered into a bingo hall and watched in amazement. There had to be 500 people, average age 70, all intently marking their bingo cards with big yellow highlighters. It looked like a bus from the local retirement home had made a Friday run dropping off residents for the all you can eat buffet and a little easy money, there were social security checks on the line. The entrepreneur in me did a quick calculation, everyone in the room was buying 4 or 5 cards per game, I guess at a dollar each, the house was taking in two to three thousand dollars a game and paying out $1,000 per win. If two players won at the same time, they split the winnings. This, I decided, was an excellent business model.
The games didn’t last more than 10 minutes and they were called by a man in a booth who used a joyless radio announcer voice to pronounce the numbers. There’s not a lot of creativity allowed in the calling of Bingo, the most you can do is accentuate the vowels: OH 27. I thought he might be contemplating suicide with each number his nasally bass voice declared, 2 years at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting for this!
I noticed that when someone won, they kept playing, though even the most basic understanding of statistics would tell you that you should take your winnings and go buy a tee shirt, beer coozie, or diamond ring at the casino’s gaudy gift shop. There were not many mathematicians in the crowd.
The reason I ride, I realized, is that I ride against the inevitable, I ride to combat getting old and dying, I ride because I don’t want to end up on a bus going to the bingo parlor with the other residents of my retirement village. Nope, I want to keep riding my bike and chasing that feeling that James Taylor understood when he sang, “never grow up, never grow old, never die young.” Well, it’s too late for me to die young, but I’m doubling down on the remaining two. If you know statistics, that’s the play.
I left the bingo parlor and went back to my room, sleep came easily as I thought about my next hundred mile ride in the morning.