Several people on Jeff’s team had talked about how fun the Wendover “fun bus” had been so last weekend, being the adventurous souls that we are, we decided to try it out. At least once, right? The bus leaves from various places in the valley on Saturday afternoon and picks up you from Wendover at 2:00 AM, making for a very long night. We decided to brave it.
We boarded the bus at 3:45 pm here in Orem. It is a nice, very high (about 7 feet I would say) bus which was very nice for looking out. In walking up the steps of the bus, we noticed immediately that we were a minority. About 85% of the bus was Hispanic, and another 5% Polynesian. The remaining few appeared to be white in various stages of drunkenness.
The cost of this fun bus adventure is pretty impressive. You pay $15 and for this $15 you get the ride to Wendover, a free food buffet, $5 cash back, a free bar drink, and some gambling tokens. We are not gamblers so we figured it was just a long way to go for some food.
Everyone on the bus appeared to be in a jovial mood. I figured this wasn’t going to be so bad. I settled in with the book I’d brought to read and the bus headed out.
In SLC we stopped to pick up a woman who looked to be in her late 50’s, maybe 60’s. She was on crutches and was wearing coveralls and a denim hat. As I watched her get onto the bus, I heard comments. She appeared to be a regular for a person behind me said “she gets around really well on those crutches, she has MS.”
It turns out she was our hostess for the bus. Within ten minutes of us leaving SLC, she stood up with a microphone, introduced herself as Marsha and explained she was the hostess on the Fun Bus for every Saturday trip. She was very gracious and excited about the events they (her and the driver, his name was Mike) had planned for us that evening on the bus.
And then the fun began. Ten minutes later she stood up again and told us she would be passing out cookies and drinks. She produced two large Ziploc bags filled with two, manually bagged cookies. Every bag had the two same shortbread cookies. One said Yes and one said Maybe. She handed it to the first row and had them pass it back. It was very crude but effective. Jeff and I grabbed our small bags out of the larger one and passed it behind us. And then we passed it through again on its way back to the front. Marsha then stood up and with the help of another elderly single white gal on the bus, began filling 16 oz Styrofoam cups with ice. Marsha’s assistant loaded these cups into a cardboard box and headed towards the back of the bus and Marsha hobbled with her box to cover the front. I wasn’t sure whether I should offer to help or not, but was finding it a little bit disturbing to watch Marsha hobble up and down the bus aisle by this point in time. She appeared to be unaffected.
Jeff and I sat there with our cup of ice and waited. And waited. Somewhere between the passing of the shortbread cookies and the iced cups I felt like Marsha had just become my unwitting escort into the land of the twilight zone. There was no cup holder for Jeff. There was one right next to me as I was sitting adjacent to the window. I looked at him, he looked at me, and then he whispered that his job was to quietly sit there and hold his cup of ice. I grinned. He looked ridiculous sitting there staring at his lonely ice. After about ten minutes up popped Marsha again with a 2 liter container of both Sprite and Coke. With her mike off (it was a handheld and she couldn’t hold both the pop and the mike at the same time) she loudly asked if anyone wanted soda, and then began hobbling up the aisle filling cups as people requested it. And then she did it again with Dr. Pepper and diet Coke, with her cute little denim hat and coveralls.
By this time I was feeling pretty guilty for being amused by our hostess. And I was absolutely sure this fun bus had gone as low budget as they possibly could.
But the show continued! Before she came around with a bag to pick up the empty drink cups, she announced that after she had done so she was going to pass around bingo sheets so we could play a little bingo and “have a little fun!” Up the row she hobbled with the bag, back down the row she came with the cardboard bingo sheets. She was definitely enthusiastic, our hostess Marsha. The first gift was this itty bitty plastic lucky duck and she was very excited to give it away to the first winner.
I was pretty much giving up on trying to assimilate into the “fun.” I commented to Jeff that I probably could have gone along with it if I were drinking and we had invited twelve of our closest friends to come with us. I ignored my bingo card and went back to reading. Jeff began playing bingo. Within five turns he had gotten a bingo. He looked at me. I looked at him and he whispered “there’s no way I’m yelling bingo.” I broke out in laughter. I love my husband, I tell ya. He is perfect for situations just like this.
It was impossible to read during bingo. “N34, N34, B27, B27” And to make matters worse, Marsha and Mike started talking back and forth in this contrived stand-up comedy routine banter. I think they thought this would actually be entertaining to us. We played about eight games, and the winner of each game was proudly presented with a miniature bag of M&M’s or a lucky buck, or a small, plastic toy. The Hispanic man across the aisle from us either didn’t understand English or he didn’t understand bingo. Or both. He kept on yelling bingo and Marsha would hobble up the aisle to tell him “this is picture frame bingo which means you have to get all of the outside squares.” He’d say “ok” and then four minutes later he would yell bingo again and she would hobble back and clarify.
I was dying inside. I really tried not to laugh out loud. But my efforts were epic fail. I was thrilled when we finally rolled into Wendover and disembarked.
I’ve never actually spent time in Wendover before. We’ve driven past it or stopped and gotten gas before. It is this oasis in the middle of the desert and I believe its sole existence is gambling. There are about six casinos and nothing else. It was cold outside, the wind and lower temperatures we have been experiencing in Utah had followed us out. We entered Montego Bay and decided we would first eat at the buffet. I was very impressed! It was a $20 buffet that we were getting for free, and it had steak cooked to order, fresh crab legs, Chinese stir fries, Italian food, prime rib, chicken, full salad and dessert bar. A very impressive and tasty buffet. We relaxed and talked about what we wanted to do for the next five hours while we were here.
Jeff decided to try his hand at craps. His hand didn’t do very well. I sat down to a slot machine and stared at it, trying to figure out how to play it correctly so I wouldn’t lose any money. I lost a buck and that was the extent of my gambling. I fell back on people watching, one of my all time favorite activities. I just wish it was not in a casino where smoking is permitted because I get a headache after a very short time if I am sniffing stale and fresh cigarette/cigar smoke. I went up on the balcony above the casino floor to get away from the smoke and to get a better view. The first thing I noticed was passport members signing in. From my viewpoint I had a clear view of their pin numbers. And to make matters even worse, the ATM was located even closer to me and I sat and watched people put in their pin and withdraw hundreds of dollars over the night.
It’s a good thing I’m not a criminal.
What is this culture that gambles? My demographic mind started taking notes. There are two clear ages of people who gamble. The very young, males who swagger around and act like they own the world. And the silly females in four inch heels following them around. The most prominent age group were the elderly, most often with leather skin, a cigarette in their hand and a beer in the other. Those in the 60’s and 70’s were the ones I saw the most. Passport members sported cards attached to their body with a bright yellow curly cord. It was a scene from a really bad Matrix, person after person camped out on one machine, plugged in electronically to it, surrounded with cigarette butts and empty beer bottles. I was shocked to notice that most of the people were of an ethnic minority: Hispanic, Polynesian, Asian.
We started counting the number of people we saw who were stumbling and saw four people fall down outright over the course of the night.
We counted the number of children who were in the casino. &^!?$%# From my vantage point up on the balcony I watched a 10 or 11 year old boy sit, all by himself, by the lobby foyer while waiting for who I assumed was his mother. Twice over the course of two hours (from 11:30 pm to 1:30 am) she came to him, her yellow cord dangling. I was hoping it was an employee who had a babysitter fall through or something but alas I was wrong. He spent twenty minutes spinning on the rotating chairs, he spent 15 minutes jumping up and down the stairs. All by himself. I counted six children under the age of 12 in the casino, and eight between the ages of 12-15. Are people insane? By law children are not allowed to be on the casino floor. So they all lollygagged about on the outskirts, in the foyer by themselves as their adult people gambled.
It’s a good thing I am not a kidnapper.
We briefly walked over to The Nugget and I grew excited because I could hear a live band. The Nugget must be for the hipper younger crowd, there was dancing going on. I saw a woman up on the stage next to a pole and thought she was the vocalist. Nope. She wasn’t the dancer either, she was just kind of prancing around the pole, never touching it. Very weird.
We wandered around outside for as long as we could as there was a biting cold wind. We discovered that all of the grass in Wendover is artificial turf. Brilliant and green-friendly. I got a few pictures of the sun just as it was going down and that view was the highlight of my evening.
By 11:00 pm I was ready to go home. I acknowledged my oldness, my stiffness, and my desire to be in a bed rather than wandering around a smoke-filled, imbibed casino floor. I went into the gift shop and bought a Rock Star to keep me awake. I found a couch upstairs and laid upon it.
2:00 am rolled around very slowly. Because it was so cold outside, everyone waiting just inside the front doors, in this foyer area before the second doors into the casino. Someone farted and I’ve never seen a crowd disperse so quickly. Another highlight of my evening. And no, I was not the culprit. Our bus arrived and a very loud crowd boarded. Within ten minutes everyone was asleep. Myself included. I had brought my pillow in a backpack and settled in, another highlight of the trip. Some time about 40 minutes into the trip the guy across the aisle (the same one who kept on yelling inappropriate bingos) started making this sound like an extended sneeze. “Ahhhhhhh” Very loudly. I thought he was having a seizure. So did Jeff. It woke up everyone. He apparently had a dry throat or something because his wife gave him a bottled water. He started talking loudly to her. And then he went quiet again. So I went back to sleep. And then he did it again! Four times! Amazing.
When we came onto the first exit area, Marsha got up and like an airline stewardess said her spill. “We’re coming up on SLC. On behalf of Le Bus, Mike, Marsha and the M&Ms (? LOL) we would like to thank you for choosing to spend your evening with us. We hope we have been entertaining and you have enjoyed your trip and you will come back and do it again with us soon. Thank you!
And she said this at all three stops until we arrived in Orem.
So long, Wendover. It was fun while it lasted. J