Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Back halls

When driving almost anywhere I really don’t like to take the freeways. That might come from growing up back east, where the concept of ‘freeway’ has never taken hold, but where the ‘turnpike’ idea is alive and well. The New Jersey Turnpike could be a prime example, where every few miles you have to stop and throw a quarter into a toll machine. At least it used to be a quarter when I lived there. The term goes back a few hundred years to when enterprising people used to put a pole or pike across roads that ran across their lands. You had to pay them to turn the pike so that you could proceed down the road.

Out west these large high speed roads are called freeways, because they are free for drivers to use without paying, as long as you don’t count that $.50 per gallon tax added on to our gasoline. Even though they are free I still don’t like driving on them, so when going places I usually take the back roads. The speed limits are slower, and you can look at the people and businesses and houses as you drive by.

This leads to driving through many interesting areas, as the little lines on the map don’t always equate to nice broad avenues in reality. B always jokes about my showing her every alley and casino loading dock in Vegas during our wanderings, as well as some areas in Oakland that she would rather not return to. But those are other stories.

In keeping with this theme I thought I would present you with some photographs of things in Vegas that you probably will never see on your visits. Today these are taken around where I work, the concrete hallways beneath the pretty sparkling casinos and carpeted public areas. I walk through them every day, as do thousands of workers here that help keep visitors happy up above.

This is a typical passageway, the ceiling hidden by air conditioning ducts, doors along the left leading into the back of conference rooms, on the right a series of chain link fences keep the cans of coke and other items that tend to disappear under lock and key.

All large public buildings have corridors similar to this: it’s one of the emergency exits that lead from the middle of the building to the outside. Very rarely used, they are clean concrete tunnels designed to provide a fireproof exit in case of problems above. You can find them if you push on those doors labeled ‘emergency exit: alarm will sound’. In most large stores there are doors like that around the outside, so every one doesn’t have to rush to the main entrance. The alarms are attached to make it harder to shoplift. But in Vegas casino design restaurants and stores are usually placed around the outside perimeter of a building, with the casino and public rooms in the center. To meet fire safety requirements there are emergency exits everywhere, sometimes they lead down a short flight of stairs into corridors like this, which then provide a wide save route to the outside. Most of the time they are used by the employees as smoking lounges, since smoking inside public areas (except casinos) is now illegal in Nevada (don’t tell anyone about all the butts down here)

This is another back area seen by lots of workers – the link from the kitchen to the public corridors. Tile floors that are frequently scrubbed, wrapped containers on the left store plates and glasses until needed. Rolling carts on the right are either heated or cooled, and used to transport food from the kitchen to serving areas, and to hold food at proper temperatures until served. All of these have inspection stickers from the health department to attest to their temperature holding abilities, or big red ‘do not use until repaired’ signs.

I came across this strange device down under the main hall. I think in my past I might have used something like this, where people insert coins and talk into a part that they hold in their hands. You don’t see them around much anymore.

Way back, a long time ago in Vegas history (about ten years ago), the Sands Expo & Convention Center used to be attached to the Sands Casino. The casino was purchased and imploded in a marvelous display. I couldn’t find a video of it, but here is the recent Stardust takedown.

The Stardust destruction was a little different than most, the new owners shelled out big bucks for some fancy blinking lights and fireworks, knowing that lots of people would be watching and wanting to make it entertaining. Here in Vegas all of these activities take place at 2 in the morning, so as to not inconvenience the Strip crowds.

But back to the Sands – this is a back stairway that used to lead from the Sands Casino into the convention center. With the new construction on the strip the convention center was changed inside, and now the stairs lead down from that emergency exit corridor above into a larger kitchen storage area, so once a main entrance these stairs are not used very much at all any more. Because of the infrequent use the carpet has not experienced much wear and tear, so it still remains. This is the last piece of carpeting from the old Sands that I could find, with the sunburst logo woven in.

This last shot is of a hall in the large hotel located next door. It runs between our big hall upstairs and the fancy carpeted and chandeliered ballrooms in the conference center. One of their kitchens is located way down at the end, and this hall is used to move food from the kitchen into the ballrooms when there are banquets. You can see some dirty cups from an event on the cart on the left, working their way down to the dishwasher. Also evident is the extra money that the hotel has spent – while our back halls are just concrete you can see that this corridor is lined with shiny textured stainless steel panels, easier to clean and bringing a little sparkle even to this back hall.

So, there you are; some areas of Vegas that you will probably never see when you come to visit. So you can join my wife in seeing some unusual sights.

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