I had no idea what to expect on my first visit to Las Vegas, a trip my pool team had earned as State Champions. I’d spent plenty of time in Atlantic City, the smaller, East Coast den of iniquity that I knew to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Surely it’s big sister, nicknamed Sin City, would be much worse, bags of cocaine replacing bowls of mints in hotel lobbies, prostitutes lined up outside of every bar and casino.
It’s nothing like that of course, modern day Las Vegas desperately trying to court families and escape the more notorious aspects of it’s past. There are still Elvis impersonators on every corner, but if any of them were secretly pimps I was unaware.
Like any big city, however, it’s not a place where one should wander drunkenly by yourself in the early hours of the morning, a lesson I learned when my credit card, seemingly safely tucked into the front pocket of my jeans was lifted by what I can only assume was an evil little fairy. A fairy that bought $500.00 worth of CVS makeup in the twenty minutes that it took me to notice it’s absence.
The reason for my solo hike down the Strip wasn’t stupidity (this time) but chivalry. On our last stop of the night my group and a group of Polish women were the only patrons left dancing, a lobby bar somewhere small where a cover band was playing passable renditions of ’80s hair bands. When it was time for us to leave, probably past time for us to leave, we discovered that somehow one of the women had been left behind by her friends. We spent some time searching the area but it became apparent that she had been abandoned.
She was distraught, spoke little English, didn’t have a room key, and wasn’t even sure which hotel they were staying in. Her first night in Vegas was going very badly.
So I walked with her, a relatively short distance to where she was staying, a longer conversation to convince security to let her into her room and produce something inside with a name matching her ID, and I was on my way. Good karma that was rewarded with a few hours on the phone with my credit card company.
I tell this story, now over a decade old, because I was presented with a similar situation this past weekend in Fort Lauderdale.
My wife safely tucked into bed I wandered the half mile to the nearest late night liquor store to stock up on tailgating supplies for the Miami Dolphins football game we were attending the next day. A short walk but a dark one, all streetlights turned off for the month of October while turtles nested or some such business. A significant stretch of road without tacky beachfront souvenir shops or Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley songs played on acoustic guitars for raised decks full of intoxicated party goers.
About halfway down I encountered another damsel, seemingly in distress. Arms raised I approached slowly, willing myself to look nonthreatening as I asked her if she was OK.
She blew a whistle and started running.
I wasn’t mad, wasn’t upset or defensive, offended that my maleness immediately labeled me as a potential predator.
It made me sad, more so because if it had been one of my girls walking that darkened pavement I’d want them to do the same. I want to teach them that there are good guys out there, guys that will walk a stranger home without expectation. Guys that they don’t have to run away from just because they are guys and nobody else is around.
I want to teach them that, but not as much as I want to teach them to be safe. I’ll teach them to avoid circumstances where they are drunk and alone in a strange place, a dark road. I’ll teach them never to abandon their friends, never to leave a drink unattended, not to let a seemingly nice guy into your Vegas hotel room to use the bathroom before he begins the long walk back to his friends.
I’ll teach them that and I’ll fucking hate it. I’ll fucking hate it because shouldn’t we instead be teaching our boys to keep their goddamn hands to themselves.