Column: What happened in Vegas…

Marianne Hale

My past few days have played out in front of a backdrop of sequins, showgirls and slot machines after my attendance at a national journalism conference called for a four-day stint in Las Vegas.

I expected my trip to Sin City to teach me some new journalism tricks (and maybe the ropes of casino gambling). But I’ll be taking home more than just some tricks of the trade and a suitcase full of Vegas-themed souvenirs when I fly home tomorrow.

My first lesson came at the Nashville International Airport before my trip even really started. My journalism posse and I thought we had arrived with just enough time to check our bags and board our flight, but a mix-up at the check-in counter put us back a few minutes.

After the hold-up, we had mere moments to find our plane before it headed out west. So, we ran. We made it on the plane just in time, but as I was catching my breath in my seat, I decided that sometimes on time just isn’t good enough. Be early and count on setbacks. Had we gotten to the airport a little earlier, it would have saved us a little anxiety and a lot of breath.

That night, we made it to Vegas, a city which my friend Josh remarked is essentially Disney World for adults. His observation wasn’t far off, either. Sin City’s streets are lined with characters, including the likes of Elvis and Batman, and there’s some form of entertainment or excitement everywhere you turn. I was like Dorothy in Oz, thinking, “Casinos and nightclubs and Cher, oh my!”

But after a long day of travel, I wasn’t having any of Vegas’ magic. I was content to play Sleeping Beauty or one of those other sleeping princesses and head to bed for some rest.

But we were in Vegas, my friends whined, pointing out how utterly lame I was being. So, we hit the town, and I’m glad we did.

I played slots (I only won a dollar, which I promptly gambled away), got my photo taken with showgirls and found a karaoke joint where intoxicated tourists crooned such hits as “Baby Got Back” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”

With my original evening plan, I would have missed out. I was reminded that I should never miss out on an opportunity to have fun, even when I’m a little tired.

My next lesson came the following day at lunch. Our restaurant of choice was the Hard Rock Café, where I ordered a 14 oz. steak meal from the chef’s special menu. The price wasn’t listed, but I didn’t want to seem like a cheapo, so I threw caution – and cash – to the wind and just ordered the thing.

When my $53.65 check came, I sort of wished I had asked about the price of that steak dinner. As a journalist, I should know better than to not ask questions, and that was a pretty expensive unasked question.

But it’s OK, I told myself, because I’m in Vegas, which brings me to the last little lesson I learned while playing tourist for a few days. It’s OK to splurge sometimes.

Between Cirque du Soleil shows, slot machines, shopping and that steak lunch, I spent more money in a few days than a poor college student probably should. But I don’t regret any of it (OK, maybe the steak incident a teeny, tiny bit), because I’m in Vegas, baby, and every now and then, you have to live a little, or in my case, a lot.