Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Casino Angel

When you are in group situations, it is not uncommon for the facilitator to ask you to introduce yourself to the group. Often this is accomplished by giving you a list of questions to answer, like: What is your name? Where are you from? What do you do for a living? Questions like that. One that I've heard added to the mix a number of times is "Tell us something that most people don't know about you, or would be surprised by if they knew."

I have a couple answers to that question, but my favorite one is that I LOVE to gamble. It's true. I think it runs in my family. My father, his brother, his sister and my grandparents all loved to gamble and made regular trips to Reno. I think it is inherited! :) I was lucky enough to 'come of age' and be able to go to Reno with my dad a number of times. I took him for father's day every year until his health became to poor to continue to make the trek. After that, I went on my own, but would call him to tell him about my exploits. It was a way that he and I bonded. I still really enjoy gambling, although it always makes me miss my dad a bit.

Most people who know me do know this about me, but when I get to know new people, they always seem very surprised when I reveal this hobby. I think its because I take life pretty seriously, always want to be doing something to make the world a better place and I'm kind of obsessed with productivity and efficiency. My days are pretty busy and I accomplish a lot each and every day. I've always had a bit of trouble just 'playing.' Gambling is one area where I seem to be able to really enjoy myself and relax. I guess that's why I like to indulge my desire from time to time.

Video poker is my main passion, but I also like keno and certain types of slot machines - especially the old fashioned, non-computerized ones. I like to use coins whenever possible - and really resent the new 'ticket' systems that most casinos are going to. I dread the day when Reno goes all coin-less. It might mean the end of my gambling days!!

Tonight, I'm in Spokane, en route to the opening of the Mir Centre for Peace at Selkirk College in Castlegar, BC.

I paid a visit to the local casino and had a great time playing Video Poker for 2 hours. I ended up by a bit, which is always nice.

The interesting part of this story, however, was not what I was playing, or how I did. It has to do with the acquaintance I made while sitting there.

I had only been playing for about 5 minutes when this older woman (late 60's) came up and sat down at the video poker machine down the row from me. Instantly, she started talking to me, asked me my name, told me hers (Maggie) and seemed very interested in talking with me. This happens to me a LOT. Especially when I'm trying to have some alone time, or enjoy an activity that I rarely indulge in!! I was polite and answered her questions. She asked me if I knew what time it was. I had to take out my cell phone to answer her because I no longer wear a watch. She asked if she could move to the machine next to me. She wasn't gambling. She just wanted to talk to me. Now, I do need to say that I generally don't like to talk when I gamble. Not in depth anyway. I like to focus on what I'm doing... and really enjoy it.

She was relentless in wanting to talk to me. Then she asked if she could use my phone to call her son. She wanted him to come and pick her up and take her home. I let her borrow the phone and she made the call. Her son was not home. This routine was to continue for the entire 2 hours I played this poker machine.

Turns out she was a nurse for almost 40 years. She started her career as a military nurse in Vietnam. She had a really interesting life story. Within a very short time she launched into a deep spiritual conversation. I swear I didn't prompt her AT ALL. You can ask anyone who knows me. This happens to me a lot. When I'm alone, complete strangers will just approach me and start to tell me their life stories. Either that, or they will ask me questions like, "Why does God allow war?" I'm not kidding. I've stopped being amazed. I have come to believe that it is part of my 'job description.'

Maggie proceeded to tell me all about her beliefs (which were quite similar to my own), and told me that there are angels all around us all the time. She told me that in her 20's she had a near death experience (the way she put it is that she died and came back) and told me about what she learned while she was 'away.' She learned that religion doesn't matter at all, in terms of what religion you are. She said it was completely clear to her that our creator looks at our heart to determine how much we loved and were loved in this life. That's all that mattered. That makes perfect sense to me.

It was actually pretty interesting to listen to her talk. Even though I was really looking forward to some hard core poker playing, she seemed to really need to talk to someone and just share some of what she's learned in her life. She has COPD (Chronic, Obstructive, Pulmonary Disease), which is what my father died from. In fact, an interesting connection is that the 10 year anniversary of my father's death is coming up on September 28th. I wonder if he had something to do with this woman coming and talking with me for that 2 hours. :)

As I was getting ready to go, I was getting concerned about her. She had tried to call her son 4 times and had not reached him. I really wanted to get going, but I was hesitant to leave her sitting there. I told her that we could call her son one more time, but then I was going to need to leave. She was fine with that. Luckily (ha!) she reached him that time and he was on his way to pick her up. She hugged me about 5 times and told me how happy she was to have found me in the casino. I felt pretty lucky to have found her too.

I have to admit, it was an interesting experience. I know better than to question the people who come across my path. I do believe that I meet the people I'm supposed to meet. I don't believe in accidents. Something about this encounter felt very special to me. So, although I didn't have the solitary poker fest that I was hoping for... I think it was the evening I was meant to have. Who knows, she may have been an angel or she may have been a messenger from my dad! I did hit my first straight flush ever!!! That was quite a thrill and worth 250 quarters!

As Maggie told me, "Remember... the angels are everywhere and even when you think things aren't going to work out for you... they always work out like they are supposed to."


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