Monday, March 31, 2008

The Other Money Bubble

A couple of winters ago I found myself wandering through a casino in Atlantic City.

In a glimmering inner chamber awash in electronic chimes nestled at the end of a serpentine mirror-plated corridor, I witnessed one man’s windfall.

He had hit on his slot machine and won a trip into the Bubble, a giant clear acrylic sphere suspended over the machines.

A red-vested casino employee cordially showed the man to the elevator cylinder at the center of the floor and explained the rules to him: once he was in the Bubble, he was not allowed to step beyond the defined area of the central platform; dollar bills would be blown around the Bubble by fans; he would be allowed to keep only what bills he caught in the provided butterfly net. Under no circumstances was he allowed to use his hands, except to hold the net. Any deviation from the rules would result in expulsion from the Bubble and forfeit of all funds acquired therein.

The man, who looked to be in his early sixties, bespectacled and fit, had the glazed look of someone who’d been breathing casino air and keeping himself hydrated with complementary cocktails while staring at flashing lights for several dozen hours. He smiled vacantly and nodded comprehension before stepping into the cylinder and rising sixteen feet or so into the center of the Bubble.

A siren sounded, followed by the whirring of fans, and the Bubble filled with dollar bills dancing on jets of air.

The man’s vacant smile broadened and he swung the butterfly net back and forth steadily. A dollar bill plastered itself against his glasses, but he dared not use his hands to remove it lest he should be stripped of his winnings thus far. He continued to swing the net blindly.

The siren sounded again, the fans cut off, the dancing dollars wafted gently to the bottom of the Bubble and the elevator brought the man, eyes moist, clutching the butterfly net to his chest, back to the casino floor.

I don’t know how much he’d pumped into the bandits prior to his trip into the Bubble, but he came out of it with thirty-six bucks, counted out for him by the Red-vest, who directed him to the counter where he would be given his, er, windfall in chips.

As the man nodded and turned towards the counter, the Red-vest spotted two rogue bills, caught in the static electricity of the man’s sweater, stuck on his shoulder.

He plucked them off and tucked them into his vest.

What I want to know is, where was the SEC?

copyright, © 2008 Andy Biscontini