By Jamie Angle, 2017
Our drive out to Murphy, North Carolina began with great music, conversation, and excitement about the adventure ahead. Five hours into the drive, this excitement had long petered off. We were exhausted, hungry, and ready to arrive at Harrah’s Casino, the first stop on our trip. Just when we were almost at the destination, we realized there was not one, but TWO casinos of the same name, within an hour of one another. We had typed in the wrong address. I could feel my heart sink as I watched the GPS add another hour to our arrival time.
We finally arrived at the hotel around 8:30PM; still hungry, still exhausted. The way the hotel is set up, guests are either forced to pay for valet parking in the front of the hotel for direct access to the lobby, or they are forced to walk through the entire casino bottom floor to reach the elevator to go upstairs to the lobby. Unwilling to pay for parking, we walked for five minutes through the brightly colored slot machines, retirees playing blackjack, and skilled quick-moving dealers. Classic sounds of jingling, excited shouts, and dramatic losing sighs filled the air as thick as the lingering cigarette smoke. We made our way through, checked into the large lobby, and headed to our rooms to settle in.
The hotel rooms were decent at best. While it was a spacious room with a large king-sized bed, the pillows were cheap and uncomfortable, wifi was not included, and the shower had a dark substance in the molding that I did not wish to question. Even so, exhausted, I fell into bed for a few minutes before making a move downstairs to meet up with the guys for dinner.
Downtown Murphy is about ten to fifteen minutes from the hotel, and every restaurant we looked up downtown closed at 9. This gave us very limited access to food, and we settled for a casino restaurant. The casino housed a Starbucks, hotdog shop, pizza place, and sandwich shop. Of these options, we chose the sandwich shop. While my hunger drove me to devour the first half of my sandwich, the second half I actually remember tasting. The second half was warm with melted cheese, meat, and Italian dressing. It tasted good, but was nothing to write home about. There was nothing particularly special about the sandwich, we got what we paid for. Originally, I had expected the food to be very overpriced because of its location in a casino, however, the price was not bad, it was a $6-7 sandwich, not much more than you would pay at Subway.
After dinner, the boys headed to bed and I headed to place some bets. As a young adult, I would have regretted it if I had not at least tried to gamble a little bit. Therefore, I went in with $30 to play (not very well) some Blackjack. The first couple games were not bad. There was a $10 minimum and I was fascinated by the speed of the hands of the dealer and the bets of the crowd around the table. I was easily the least experienced player. The two women to my right seemed to be having a lot of fun; they expressed their excitement with every win and their disappointment with each loss. The woman to my left was less excitable, but winning more than everyone else at the table. Finally, the two men to her left seemed rather grumpy and expressed nothing.
Everything seemed to be going well until my last game. The less-excitable woman to my left won blackjack in the beginning and I kept playing until my cards reached 16. Aware that I was unlikely to win (and that this was the last of my cash), I resounded myself to a loss. However, when the dealer dealt her own cards, she busted, or so she thought. After the money was delivered, the woman who had already won blackjack decided to point out that the dealer had made a mistake and had scored 20 before dealing her last card. This brought about some issues, the dealer called over her manager, who doubled as her father, in order to correct the mistake. Tensions were high as we tried to recount our cards, return the money we thought we had won, and scowled towards the woman who had pointed out the mistake.
I returned my money and escaped the situation before things got out of hand. There was a lot of money on the line for the other players. Personally, I was happy just to get out of there; although I was a bit bitter towards the dealer after the game. Drained from the day of travel and dizzy from the smoky atmosphere of the casino, I happily collapsed onto my uncomfortable pillows in my average hotel room and instantly fell asleep.