Ambient Sound

There’s a sound I hear once a year.

It’s a constant, high-pitched, electronic sound... somewhere between a high monotone hum and a vocal low soprano. The sound is created by the simultaneous playing of hundreds of slot machines in an enclosed space.

When I hear this sound, I get a very distinct sense of place.

Las Vegas.

For the last four years, we’ve ventured to Vegas in December. (Does that mean it’s now officially a habit?) Some combination of a K-State basketball tournament, the National Finals Rodeo and friends, draw us to the desert.

Got home Monday night. Just wrapped up a post-visit online survey about our stay. “Did the concierge staff/bell staff/room service waiter/cabana boy/insert hotel employee category here) call you by name?”

Well, they tried.

The room reservations were under my name. But Jackie’s name was also in the system.

Matson. Plus one.

For three days and three nights at the Aria, Mr. Matson and Ms. McClaskey, Room 8231, were the most important people in the universe. Or at least in Clark County, Nevada.   

The bellhop who delivered our bags:

“Thank you Mr. Watson.”

The concierge who got us Rat Pack show reservations (Marilyn Monroe put a Santa hat on my head and Dino shot Jackie a wink, mid-croon. “Everybody loves somebody… sometime):

“Thank you, Mr. Madison.”

The server at the coffee bar:

“Thank you, Mr. Mathews.” But not before she took my $50 bill and held it up to the light. Musta been giving off the counterfeiter vibe. I blame the untucked shirt-tail beneath my sweater.

Try to be stylin’ and you’re made for a paperhanger.

And finally, the room service operator:

“Thank you Mr. McClaskey.”

To each of these well-meaning souls, I gave my by now, well-practiced standard reply:

(Audible sigh). “Close enough.”

It’s just easier.

But honestly, how hard is it? M-A-T, S-O-N.

Mat. Son.


The survey also wanted to know my age, income and ethnicity.

Put me down as “middle-class precipice-approaching white guy.” 

We’re the demographic who elected Obama and the ones he needs desperately to keep next year. 

There’s serious competition for the entertainment/hospitality dollar on the Vegas Strip. I get it. The Aria wants to set itself apart from the other hotels by offering world-class personal service. 

If I’m willing to pay for it, they’ll electronically record our hotel room settings (room light, temperature, drapes open/closed, music preference) and have all that ready to go for my next visit. 

“Welcome back, Mr. Matlock, we have your favorite Aveda pure-formance firm hold hair gel ready and waiting for you!"

And we’re just Joe Schmuck Turista. We breeze right past the blackjack and roulette tables. We drop maybe 20 bucks in the slot machines. If they give this kind of service to the cheapskate riff-raff, one can only imagine the opulence lavished on the whales. 

Walking through the casino to catch a taxi for the airport, surrounded by the ambient sound, I’m jolted from my reverie for a final time. 

The doorman at the cabstand: 

“We hope you enjoyed your stay, Mr. McCluskey.”