Friday, January 14, 2005

Friday thoughts (thanks to Daniel)

This is the end of my second week on the new job, and several thoughts come to mind this morning.
First, this job is much better than my last one. At that one, which I have written about numerous times, things were a little stressful and the excitement level was pretty high. Usually the excitement came at the end of every day when you found out you still had a job. Our new manager was a little different than the previous one – somehow a pattern had been established about firing people on Thursday right after lunch. So a few of us took to taking longish lunches on Thursdays, always talking about who would still be there, and if we would be called into the boss’s office upon return. I was only there nine months, but one co-worker had six months more than me, and in his time period he could recall seven people canned on Thursday. Unfortunately for our old manager this remained the procedure, as he was fired on a Thursday also.
Our new manager didn’t follow the pattern, and for him any day could be THE day. My mentioned co-worker was hit on a Friday morning for example. This greatly increased the stress level, as instead of just worrying about Thursdays we now had to be concerned about every day.
Back to this job – there is a more relaxed atmosphere. There is a little time to take a short break and relax for a few minutes. Many here wander outside for an hourly smoke break. This differs from California, where they (the infamous ‘they’) were even trying to make it illegal to smoke outdoors. Here most casinos are just filled with smokers. At least the restaurants usually have a no smoking area, some are even smoke free inside. But rather than smoke I get to cruise some regular blogs. The hard part about this is trying to prevent short outbursts of laughter irritating those in adjacent cubes that are trying to work.
I just returned from the rest room with several observations. At my last place of employment there was one restroom on each of three floors, with only one stall each. Not many for over four hundred employees. This provided for some frantic searching when an available space was required. The building of my current employer has rest rooms that I can only relate to those in airports or the larger casinos – large rooms with a dozen choices, hard surfaced with lots of echoes. After Daniel's post today I noticed we didn’t get the scent providers, but rather large exhaust vents above every stall. And a few stalls down were some rather strange sounds, more what I would expect coming from adult movies than a men’s room. But let’s not go there.
Fridays here are ‘casual’ days. Looks like I better get in the company spirit, as I am the only guy I see not in jeans. Somehow dressing up makes me feel that I just don’t belong instead of feeling that I’m at work rather than at home, so I better get with the program next week.
Speaking of rest rooms – I got to visit a few last evening. (nice segue there) My wife has expressed a desire to see the performance of “O” by the Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio. When living in San Diego we used to go see performances of the traveling group of the Cirque du Soleil. (Note – if any of you have not gone, and one comes to your town, be sure to go). Basically, it’s a circus performance without animals – at least that’s the way it was advertised years ago. Now performances have evolved into some gorgeous spectaculars. Here in Las Vegas the Cirque has permanent performances at three locations, with the MGM building a venue and Wynn’s also building a theatre. Current shows are at the Bellagio, Treasure Island, and New York New York. The Bellagio hosts “O”, which is listed as “A theatrical encounter with the possibilities and symbols of water”. (go look at the web site – pretty nice Flash work). The Bellagio built the theatre just for this performance, which has been here now for probably four years. I think it cost them over $30 million in construction costs. MGM supposedly is spending even more, and of course Wynn will try to outdo everyone else. Ticket costs reflect the expense – tickets for “O” are in three ranges, $150, $125 and $99.
But my wife has wanted to see “O” ever since she heard about it. Today is her birthday, so I purchased some tickets on line and went to pick them up on the way home from work last night so I would have something to give her today. No, I didn’t do jewelry, but it probably would have ended up cheaper, if I include the food costs for that night, and the Bellagio is not a cheap place to eat. The web site says that tickets can be picked up at any of the Mirage properties. Besides the Bellagio this includes the Mirage and Treasure Island. The Bellagio parking garage is only accessible from the center of the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) and most people that live here try to avoid driving on that section of road, myself included. TI parking is available from Spring Mountain Drive, so I thought I would stop there on the way home.
I am still trying to find the best route traveling between my new job and home. My most recent path takes me down Frank Sinatra Drive, which parallels I-15, running behind the casinos. I thought I could enter the parking garage from behind and slip in and out quickly. Well, I found out that the entrances from Frank Sinatra are either employee only parking or loading docks. After many U turns I finally hit on a drive that took me behind the Mirage, and after many turns routed me into the self parking garage there. At least the casinos on the Strip have huge free parking garages. Finally finding the entrance to the Mirage I asked for directions and after a ten minute walk (yes, these places are big) found the ticket office. The Mirage does not have a Cirque performance but has Danny Gans. It used to be Sigfried and Roy and their tigers, but I'm sure you have heard about Roys' experience. So Danny is now the headliner. So it’s the Danny Gans Ticket Office that I had to find. It is right in front of the Danny Gans Theatre, so is easy to end up at, but is rather far away from the parking garage and front desk. By the way – if you come to Vegas be sure to see the Mirage front desk area – they have a huge salt water fish tank right behind the clerks, which is very impressive. But in Vegas most things are Very Impressive. The Mirage also has Sigfried and Roys’s White Tiger exhibit, and a volcano out front that erupts every fifteen minutes. But back to the ticket office.
Arriving there I found that yesterday it closed at 5. This is because most big shows are ‘dark’ for several weeks in January, and Danny is also off. So, thinking that Treasure Island (oops, it’s now being pushed as the TI, not Treasure Island) was right next door I would just walk over there. Well, after taking the long trek back to the front door I passed the tram to the TI and just missed the train. (In Vegas most commonly owned properties have trams that run between them.) So I thought I’d just walk. Well, another ten minutes navigating past the taxi queue and entrance driveways I made it to the front door of the TI. Around on the corner I could hear that the pirate battle was still going on – well, it has recently changed from pirates to the ‘Sirens of TI’, following most places moving from kid directed stuff back to adult oriented stuff with scantily clad Sirens instead of Yo Ho Ho pirates. There is a big sea battle, with guns and sinking ships every few hours out in the big bay in front of the TI. Haven’t gotten there to see the Sirens yet, but thought I would skip it last night. Think of Disneyland's Pirates of the Carribean, but with lots more money. Or Disney's Pirates of the Carribean movie, with two boats that big out in front of the casino in a bay big enough to hold them, with cannons going off and people singing and falling overboard and one of the ships actually sinking at the end of each battle. And if you hang around long enough after the show you can see the ship rise again, ready to fight the next fight.
Here I was faced with another ten minute walk to find the Mystere ticket office. It also is in back, but right next to the tram stop so if I would have waited for the tram I could have avoided my twenty minutes of walking. Not much of a line, Mystere (also a Cirque du Soleil show, but we’ve seen it twice and still worth going back to) is dark for January also. I got the tickets and this time caught the tram back to the Mirage, inside and just across the lobby to the parking garage, then back to figuring out the driveways to get me around to the Spring Mountain exit and home.
Mystere having been around longer has tickets at $60 and $95, and yes, feeling cheap I only sprung for the balcony seats at “O”. First available weeknight was Thursday Feb. 6, so look for a review here then. Weekend tickets usually must be reserved six months ahead, but since they’ve been here for a few years now it is possible to get seats on shorter notice. Being local I try to avoid the Friday-Saturday crowds and do most entertainment stuff on week nights.
Just went to New York’s site to look at prices for Zumanity, their Cirque show, and found out they are also a ‘Mirage property’, so I could have gone there to pick up my tickets. Well, probably would have taken just as long to get to the box office. By the way – follow the trail from Bellagio to TI to Entertainment to the Sirens of TI – can’t link direct as it’s from a flash page that doesn’t provide the direct address. Since you aren’t here to walk it you can take the time to click the links. Not the same experience as traversing the casino through the jungle to the restaurant area past the slots and craps tables around the roulette tables past more slot machines dinging away and through the shopping areas and more eating areas to get back to the ticket offices. And yes, it is as complicated, noisy and entertaining as it sounds. Something I should do more often, it is an experience everyone should have. Since I don’t throw money into the slots it is my form of cheap entertainment. Well, as long as I’m not picking up expensive tickets it’s cheap.
OK, back to my original line. (Wow, a short discourse on my Friday thoughts sure turned into a long post, didn’t it.) Anyway, Daniel's recent post discussed the men’s room at his company, and I digressed into the men’s room here, and tried to move to casino rest rooms. Due to a few cups of coffee and a big bottle of water yesterday afternoon and the extended time of my casino traverses I was able to (really, was forced to) visit the rest rooms at the Mirage and TI. Both had entrance alcoves with shoe shine personnel. Both were even larger than the ones here at work. And the trend is towards automation – no handles to flush, the devices know when you are done and about to walk away. Faucets on the sinks do not have handles, you just put your hands down in the sink and water appears. You still have to push a button on the soap dispenser, but the paper dispenser also has no handle, just hold your hands up and paper rolls out. They don’t have that one yet in the stalls, but there is a Japanese toilet seat (available at Home Depot) that will wash and dry at the push of a button. I haven’t tried it, but don’t know how it would feel to be automated instead of using my own hands to handle things down there. (Maybe Daniel can try this out and report on it???)
OK, ok, back to Friday at work. So, wear jeans next Friday. Enjoy the large exhaust ducts in the men’s room. And am very, very happy to be here instead of the last place.

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