I have a tendency to make my life more complicated than it needs to be. Having finally committed to heading out for the WSOP despite a distinct lack of work to justify the time and expense, I then went about making things as difficult as possible.
First up I invited a friend along - which in itself wasn’t a massive problem - but I then also decided to up the ante somewhat by organising to have eye laser surgery during the trip. That’s right; voluntarily paying American doctors to slice open my eyes, fire lasers into them, and then send me off half-blind into Sin City to play tour guide. Sounds like a shit comedy screenplay doesn’t it.
Things started about as crap as you could imagine, with a mere seven separate incidents on the M25 to Gatwick. Let’s think about that… SEVEN sets of dickheads who have somehow mastered the art of changing radio stations, adjusting their seats, and applying lipstick on the move, but can’t seem to stop smashing into the back of other people’s cars. Now I’ve never managed to be so fucking stupid that I can’t stop my car before it enters the same physical space as another car so I don’t entirely understand this problem. I have taken, however, to dealing with this constant frustration by winding down my window as I pass by the relevant drivers and shouting “COCKS!” at them as they sit scratching their fat, empty bonces on the central reservation while a grown-up from the RAC collects up bits of Mondeo.
The various delays also mean that the nice man who was waiting to meet and greet my car at the terminal has now buggered off for a brew so I have to call him back out again. Meanwhile, a uniformed job’s-worth traffic drone is insisting that I can’t wait at the terminal, so I pretend to have a ‘leg problem’ and shuffle back and forth with single items of baggage, killing time until the chauffeur turns up. Halfway through an award-winning performance (think Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump) the driver finally turns up. I grab my bags, shout “It’s a miracle!” and sprint up the ramp to the check-in.
The pain continues as we discover that we can’t sit together. What was to be an incredible plane-based poker and beer festival now looks more like eleven hours watching The Royal Family and episodes of The Simpsons from back before Homer got his own voice right. FFS.
And then… as I plod through the gate… just as eleven hours of misery stretches out before me… I hear “come back, sir”. Oh great. What now? Has my friend hilariously stashed 20 kilos of cocaine in my backpack ‘for a laugh’ and I’m about to meet a hulking customs official called Bubba who likes to make finger puppets out of sphincters?
But no – instead the lovely gate lady utters those beautiful words that all travellers dream of: “You’ve been upgraded” BINGO! And then I catch my friend’s face. Oops…
Sadly it was only me that got upgraded and my friend still had to face eleven hours stuck between a man with no love of deodorant and a women more interested in piercing every square inch on her face than brushing her teeth.
I patted him on the back, commenting: “Good job we weren’t sitting together or that would have been a real tough decision for me”. Needless to say, BOLLOCKS would it have been tough! I would have been off up those stairs before you could cough the words ‘complimentary pretzels’ into a free glass of champagne.
I try to play down the generous leg room and free fruit as I visit the hobos down in economy a few hours later (I think my friend was pleased to see the banana I brought him, but perhaps asking him to “dance for it like a monkey” was a step too far.)
Before my Vegas trip I’d bought a new toy: a small video recorder no bigger than a mobile phone that grabs an hour of high-quality footage. I used this now to play my chum footage I’d taken ‘upstairs’, pointing out the spacious aisles, the orgy of free booze sitting about the place, and the entirely more attractive class of traveller that made up the higher echelons I liked to frequent.
At this point the slob next to my friend farted freely into the very air that he’d be sucking back down his fat gullet in a recycled fashion for the next eight hours, so I excused myself and headed back upstairs where I believed a small group of more fragrant passengers were putting on some impromptu Shakespeare. My friend waved goodbye with a clenched fist. And some spitting.
Settled back into the comfort of my small couch, I opted to watch I am Legend. If you’ve not seen it, he dies in the end. There: that’s two hours of your life I’ve just saved you. I also watched National Treasure 2 with Nicholas Cage. I don’t mean I watched it with him, just that he was in the film. He didn’t die (in case you were wondering) but that bald bloke out of The Abyss did. Again, I’d give it a miss if I were you.
Anyway, with a couple of hours eaten up by shit films, I put on some protective foot wear and venture back to the post-apocalyptic wastelands of economy to check that no feral dogs have eaten my friend yet. I ask what he ate for dinner. “Some chicken shit” is his reply and I decide it’s best not to mention the banquette my stunning hostess presented me with earlier (although I can’t resist showing him a video I took of my gorgeous metal cutlery). He tries to hide his plastic spork under a napkin but it’s too late, I’ve already seen it. The poor bastard.
It’s a tearful goodbye as I disembark, and though I’d like to think that the fact I was upgraded on the way out could mean I’ll get upgraded again on the way back, I think both the stewardess and I know that our time together is over. She doesn’t look quite as gutted about this fact as I am, but I’m pretty sure she’s just putting on a brave face. If only I could see under all that make-up I’d know for sure…
Once on the ground and back in the land of unexceptional average people, I slip back into the moribund disguise of my hollow life with ease. To look at me you wouldn’t know I travel as a sophisticate, but I don’t mind. I like to spend time with ‘the normals’ as I think it builds character.
With a tight schedule and plenty to do, it’s almost immediately off to the eye clinic for me, as I have a batch of tests to sort before my scheduled operation the next morning. Everything’s going well, right until they bring me a wad of disclaimers to sign.
Now I’d never sign up for a treatment involving burning light being fired into my brain on a whim, so prior to the procedure I’d talked to various people who’d been through the surgery themselves, read up on supportive statistics and grilled the hell out of my own surgeon on email for months. Nothing, however, could prepare me for the list I was presented with now. The likes of: “I understand that I might end up blind” was top of the sheet, followed by such gems as: “I understand that I could spend the rest of my life trying to tell the difference between men and women using only the power of smell”.
My nurse was a classic Las Vegas woman in her 50s, with way too much make-up and a sun-baked face that wouldn’t look out of place at the World of Leather on the A13. “Elenor” I asked, “Is this form designed to make me shit myself?” She smiled back. “I wouldn’t worry about it honey,” she reassured me. “I had my eyes done a while back and it was fine.” With that she handed me a pen, gestured for me to sign away all responsibility, and left the room. It was only once she’d gone I realised she’d been wearing glasses. Oh fuck.
It was, however, too late - my mind was made up. The next day I went back, had a man cut off the tops of my eyes, fire lasers into them and then put the tops of my eyes back on. ‘Weird’ doesn’t quite cover the sensation, but then again nor does ‘fucking awful’. It was like being abducted by aliens, only aliens with an eye fetish rather than a propensity to stick things up your arse while mutilating cattle (which on reflection is probably a good thing).
Later that day I stood at the top of the Rio’s VooDoo lounge looking in wonder and awe as the Las Vegan sun went down over the mountains and the lights came on along The Strip. I’d like to pretend my tears were tears of joy brought on by seeing properly with my own eyes for the first time, but actually it’s just that they really fucking hurt. It would be wrong of me not to thank Ladbrokes for inviting me to that particular party as it was a hell of a way to test out my new peepers. The invite did come at a cost though, as I had to bear witness to a bunch of teenage cheerleaders attempting to get us all to chant “We love Ladbrokes” (pronounced Lad-Brokes rather than Lad-Brooks). It was like being at a Nazi rally (I imagine). Needless to say the predominantly British crowd stood with their arms folded and their lips clamped shut. It was painful, but not as painful as my sodding eyes so I just shut them and waited for the cheerleaders to go away (not a sentence I ever thought I’d find myself saying, I can tell you).
I made good use of my new bionic eyes during the next few days, watching some amazing poker, bumping (quite literally) into some of the best players on the planet (inlcuding - might I add - one Kara Scott!) and discovering the delights of beer pong (more on that another time perhaps). However, I’m probably due for more eye drops sometime soon so i’d best go give them a rest.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I didn’t get upgraded on the way back, but I did steal a spork and looked through their underwear with my magic eyes, so effectively I had the last laugh. The tight bastards.