Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

Sports

Today we are all in solidarity with Polo Ralph Lauren, who along with three other companies ended its endorsement of U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.

This comes about a week after Lochte made up a story about being robbed at gunpoint while in Brazil during the Olympics. He has since offered up a typical bullshit apology, blaming being intoxicated for the, um, incident? His swimming mate Gunnar Bentz has detailed the events as he (more or less) gave them to the Brazilian authorities, which primarily imply Lochte is a liar.

Shame on Ryan Lochte for being a moron, but more so shame on him for being an American. There is good reason why other advanced, industrialized countries look from afar and wonder what the hell is going on in the United States, why our people are so dumb — among other things — while acknowledging the U.S. present the greatest threat to the world peace by a mile. I’ll save that last part for another article, because the dumb factor is what I care about here.

I cave, Donald Trump isn’t going to be the next president. But it says something about America, the world leader, that we arrived at this point — that Trump is quite literally (with apologies to libertarian candidate Gary Johnson) the last man standing. Even though he isn’t going to win, it’s still Donald Trump’s America.

Ryan Lochte is merely the latest example, or product, of the type of person that exists in the United States. For all I know he is going to have his own reality show on VH1 in the next six months, and it’s stunts like this in Brazil that are going to give him an audience. After all, there is no such thing as bad press.

But what am I saying? The only reason I’m writing about Lochte tonight is because of Polo Ralph Lauren, a brand that my best friend and I wear all the goddamn time. Last September I was anxious to buy something — anything really, clearly — so I went on Amazon and got a couple PRL polo shirts. The next night I was talking to Trey, and he told me how crazy the timing was, since he was on the verge of starting to wear Polo as well.

Here we are, almost 12 months later, and that’s all we wear. Over the last year I’ve probably spent two or three thousand dollars buying Ralph Lauren shit. My sheets are Ralph Lauren. My pillows and pillow cases are Ralph Lauren. My fucking towels in my restroom are Ralph Lauren.

So if nothing else, by ending their endorsement of Lochte, Polo Ralph Lauren has reassured me of one important thing: They do not condone fuckboy behavior.

And I appreciate that very much.

Gambling

Why do stereotypes matter? They matter because we make them matter. We give them their meaning.

And, sometimes, because they are true.

On Saturday I was dealing blackjack in the high-limits. It was my last table of the day, and so naturally it’s also the time I care the least. Unless it’s somebody good, somebody I know I can make money off of, I don’t front myself the energy to go through with the theatrics of pretending to give a shit whether they win or lose.

So this guy walks up to my table; he’s a little man, maybe 5’3″ or so and pudgy. He’s of Middle Eastern descent, but I suppose he could’ve been extremely Eastern European. It was difficult to tell from his harsh accent, his skin tone, his beard. He was relatively young for a guy playing in the high-limits, as these things go.

Anyway, this little man had been drinking a good amount, and he was firing away on the blackjack table. He’d bet $100 on one hand, $500 on the next. It didn’t seem to phase him. He told me he had lost $2,000 already.

But people tell me that all the time. How much they are allegedly “down”. I don’t give those I don’t already know the benefit of the doubt until their next thousand-dollar buy-in, or what have you. But he did, and then he did again. So I believed him.

That didn’t, however, help his cause with how the cards were falling. I was killing this asshole.

So on the last hand I dealt him, I gave him a “20,” two picture cards. I had a “9” showing, so odds were fairly secure that he was going to beat me. Only if I had an Ace under — a 1-in-14 chance (7.1%) — would we push. If I had any picture card under (28.6% chance), he beats me. If I had a “9” or “8” under (14.3% chance), he beats me. Overall there was a 7.1% chance of a tie and a 42.9% chance he defeated me without any more cards drawn.

Taking into account the total number of card combinations, or possibilities I guess you could say, I would loosely estimate he was favored to win the hand like 92% to 8%.

Just to give you context.

Naturally, there was a “2” under, giving me a hand of “11,” and the next card I drew was a picture to give me “21” to beat his “20”.

With my head down, I took his $800 bet and put it in my rack before discarding (literally). I spent about 15 seconds reorganizing the rack of chips in front of me, both as procedure and an attempt to quell the awkwardness of the fact that I just took another $2,000 from this guy in about 10 minutes. While I shuffled around, I heard no movement from him; he didn’t get up to leave; he didn’t take out more money to buy-in again.

So when I was done, all I did was look up at him. His eyes were fixated on mine, so I looked over and pulled the shoe of cards into the middle of the table. Again, procedure. Then I looked back at him to see if he was still looking, which he was.

When I noticed he wasn’t going anywhere, wasn’t reaching in for his wallet to get more money out, I did what any rational man would do. I just looked back at him. It was a staring contest doubling as a pissing contest; we each waited for the other to blink (or end the veritable stream of urine).

I’m not a fighter and never have been, don’t even consider it outside of moments of pride like this one. Where, mind you, I’m at work so I couldn’t do anything even if I wanted to. For an instant I forgot where I was, since my pride naturally and without fail takes over at a certain point.

“What’s up,” I said, more as statement.

Then he reeled off some crazy ad hominem attack, something in the vein of “What the fuck Fuck you You fucking white American piece of fucking trash” something something something. Players get escorted of the table for far less, but never in my 2.5 years as a dealer have I ever tattled on a player to my floor person. I think that’s like snitching, and I’m not one of those.

I signed up for the verbal abuse, not to get protected from it.

And in some way it makes me feel more human when someone pops off at me like that. I’m not above a petty argument from time to time, and against a player it’s like a restrained version of itself: A skill always worth sharpening is saying as much as you can, generally utilizing the least amount of words possible, without crossing the imaginary line.

So I did about all that my immediate action would allow me, and I just laughed at him. It wasn’t finger-pointing Ha Ha laughter — because I think they only do that in movies — but more a smirking laughter. Like if I look up at you instead of staring blankly into this rack of chips in front of me I’m just going to start laughing at you again, little man.

He didn’t appreciate that either, and began saying a bunch of other shit to himself in a foreign language.

By the time I was finally gathered, maybe something like 10 seconds in realtime, he was on the phone with what turned out to be a couple of his friends. But he wasn’t speaking english, so I had no idea if he was talking to his wife or a couple of armed goons smoking cigarettes in the parking lot. Nonetheless, they came over and convinced him to leave, and the little man held his middle finger up to me until he was out of view on his exit from the high-limits.

But that’s all besides the point. What really happened in the three or four minutes between when he placed the phone call and his friends showed up, there were a few hot seconds when I was genuinely worried.

And stereotypes are all to blame.

In some way in my head, I created this really sick narrative that this guy was calling some people with a gun to come off me in the casino. Dumb, right? Completely off, right?

Well, yeah, I was way off. Yet with all the tragic shit going on in the world — or even my birthplace of San Bernardino — there’s something I’m involuntary suspicious of with people who could plausibly be from Muslim countries, whether it’s Iraq or Syria or Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan or Pakistan et. al.

I acknowledge this isn’t the right way be thinking, for I am a liberal who believes in liberal principles.

So you could call it Islamophobia if you want, but that isn’t what this is. In fact, I go out of my way in real life — there are actually a couple Muslim families at the apartment community I live in — to show them just how welcoming and “normal” I am. Not knowing their situation at all, whether they were born here or immigrated here, I want to represent America when they see me.

Because I’m nice, and I don’t treat them any differently than I would a white family or an hispanic family or a black family. I get along with everyone.

Yet like I said, I believe in liberal principles. And there’s a faction of the large Muslim population that clashes with those principles. There’s a smaller percentage who are radical, and someone radical was who I was constructing this narrative for.

Mainly I was just aware of how defenseless my position really was. I’m not armed, obviously, and for all intents and purposes I am married to my spot behind the table. I can’t really move. I am an easy target.

The thing that’s dumb about the situation, most of all, is that I’ve gotten into minor arguments of white guys of all ages, black guys, hispanic guys. But at no point did the thought ever cross my mind that, damn, this guy could be carrying right now and there’s nothing I could do about it.

It’s only with this guy, who might not have even been a Muslim, that I had these erroneous thoughts.

Of course, nothing happened.

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