We stepped into the elevator on the 17th floor and pushed the button to head down to the casino.
Stuffed in the elevator car with us were an affluent couple heading to the pool, two wannabe cougars — their caked-on makeup and skimpy dresses unable to hide the decades of hard living — and a California “bro” in his early 20s, wasted out of his mind.
It was 10 a.m.
“Who brings a baby to Vegas?” slurred the bro, his animated gesticulations almost hitting me as he questioned my parenting skills. “It’s, like, supposed to be ‘Vegas, baby.’ Ya know? Not ‘Vegas baby.’ Vegas, baby!”
“Yeah,” I said, “but he’s awesome at blackjack.”
The wannabe cougars cackled, unleashing the stench of alcohol on their breath. “Man, I need a drink,” said the bro.
“You mean another drink?” asked the affluent pool-bound man.
“Ha-ha, yeah, man. Another. My coke bender is wearing off.”
The elevator doors opened, much to my relief. Freedom!
When my husband and I decided to start trying to have a baby, my husband surprised me by having my college group of friends fly into Las Vegas for a long weekend.
It was the perfect place to go crazy before a new category of crazy set in. We were loud, drunk, obnoxious. We laughed; we cried; we fought; we hugged. It was the perfect friends weekend.
Now that I was back, baby in tow, I experienced Sin City differently.
Unwilling to walk around in the intense desert heat outside and unable to walk around inside the hotel (babies are not allowed near gambling), we did what I assume most families in Vegas do. We headed to the pool.
En route, we passed the bro from the elevator, who was asking four backpackers from the U.K. whether he could buy hallucinogenic mushrooms from them.
Though I ridiculed the bro’s idiocy, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I ever was this guy.
In Vegas, more than any other place, I find myself doing a personal check.
Who am I?
Which group of people do I currently fit into?
Nearly every time I’ve gone, my Vegas archetype has changed.
Sin City takes all types. It attracts the rich. The poor.
The hard-core partyers. The has-been hard-core partyers.
The cultured. The bumpkins.
The conservative. The flamboyant.
Brides-to-be intermix with women celebrating independence after signing their divorce papers. And unlike the case with any other city I’ve been to, in Las Vegas, the groups rub shoulders with one another.
My son and I got a front-row seat to view the culture collage as we splashed around in the hotel pool next to patrons holding beer bottles just above the chlorinated water.
When they remembered.
Elevator bro had now found his way into the water, approached a group of businessmen and splashed them. A screaming match ensued, with each side threatening to beat up the other.
The partying patrons scattered to the edges of the pool. They began yelling at the fighters to stop.
Pleading with them. Someone near us screamed, “Stop! There are babies in the pool!”
It was about as tense as a fight can get in the middle of a brightly colored swimming pool in the midday sun. When the fight broke up, the pool patrons applauded.
My baby applauded, too. And then people applauded my baby.
Another young family swam over to us, and we began chatting. Their baby was just a day younger than mine.
That’s when I found a new group of Vegas-goers I never had noticed before: the middle group.
The middlers are the group of people you belong to while transitioning from the Vegas extremes. The folks who are no longer hard-core partyers but are too young to be has-beens.
The folks transitioning from poor to rich, from paying college loans to creating college funds. The folks between celebrating their pending marriage and celebrating their final divorce.
And for the foreseeable future, they are my Vegas archetype.
After dinner, instead of hitting the clubs, the streets, the bars or anything else delightfully sinful, we headed back up to the 17th floor to watch a Seth Rogen movie on TV and go to bed.
On our way up, we passed by the elevator bro, who was wearing a sports jacket and sporting a girl on each arm.
Vegas takes all kinds — even a lame-o like me. It’s Vegas, baby.