Gambling and the New Rules of Social Behavior

by Sergio Impleton

There was a time, somewhere in the annals of male gentility, when a man could speak quite frankly and confidently to another man, while enjoying a good cigar and a glass of cognac. There was a concept known as social etiquette. The rules were very simple. Don’t pick your nose in public. Seat the ladies first. Excuse yourself when you use expletives in front of mixed company, and refrain from scratching your balls. Etiquette has changed drastically. The cognac is still acceptable, but smoking is barely legalized behavior. If you haven’t joined the smoke free campaign, you are jeopardizing National health. You can pick your nose any time you please. The ladies will sit down when they please and swearing has become an open market for who can do it best. Ball scratching has become the single, dominant sign that you are a male and not a woman and the most liberated sign you can hope for in this new arena of social politeness.

You need a handbook and a road map to navigate the labyrinth of sensitive awareness, as the rules are mired in a sea of contradictions and double meanings. Although nudity and overt sexuality are advertised and encouraged in the media, if you so much as offer a cup of coffee to an opposite gender employee, it’s sexual harassment. You don’t call people yellow, red or brown, but you may say black or white. Your children are taught that daddy’s weekend fishing trip constitutes cruelty to animals, yet they not only gobble down big Macs from cattle slaughtered on an assembly line, they wear leather, smear their faces with make-up, and eat pastries with eggs taken from hens who have never seen the light of day. These are but a few subtleties in the new social etiquette. As long as you don’t say you’re wearing dead cows and covering your face with animal by-products, it’s alright to champion for fish kindness diets.

Since these rules have been navigated by an apparently very acrobatic collective mentality, another challenge has been given that would tax the limits of any rational thinker. We have, quite willingly, accepted the enterprise of gambling, but just as we have smoke free zones and designated drivers, gambling must be confined to acceptable parameters. There is absolutely no field guide for determining these parameters. You may gamble on line. You may watch International gambling. You may go to casinos, but you must not stage gambling nights within your own home.

While the “no gambling in my state” conviction is very strong, it’s perfectly acceptable to take a weekend off for gambling on an Indian Reservation. Las Vegas, once the scandalous city of vice and mob killings, has been gently painted over as an amusement park so gambling fanatics can bring along their kids. If we must gamble, by all means, let’s make this a family venture.

The family venture includes State sponsored pull tab games and lotteries. Since it all goes to good causes, there is absolutely nothing wrong with showing your children how constructive gambling can be by attending weekend bingle night at the church or shelling out the last four hundred dollars in your savings account on a chance you’ll win a two hundred dollar ticket and a silver coin. However, placing a few dollars down on a game of cribbage or pinocle is just plain wrong. In the interest of equality, gambling should be a game of chance, not of skill. While the acrobatic minds jump over the analysis of practiced mathematicians who can calculate everything from the law of averages to pull tabs left within the box, it ignores the very basis of entrepreneur skills.

My invenerable grandfather, from whom I received most of life’s little words of wisdom, used to say, “I only bet on a sure thing.” While this kept him from the pitfalls of most gambling addictions, he didn’t mind investing in the real estate market. Sometimes, he was very successful. When an enterprise failed, he shrugged and said, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” My poor old Grandfather was recently deprived of his table and chairs, along with seven other senior citizens for placing quarter a hand bets on a cribbage tournament. He was also taken away his cigar for threatening his arteries and lungs, even though he’s ninety-one.

The truth is, America is addicted to gambling. Dressing it to look polite is no different than calling an alcoholic a social drinker. The convenience of defining gambling only as a game of chance, is that poor gamblers can justify their losses in the interest of public good. The inconvenience is, we lose the powers of good judgment. We are no longer able to discern a good bet from a poor investment. We spin the roulette wheel, turn the cranks of the slot machines, place money on the sweepstakes winners, all in the glorious assumption that anyone could win, and that we, within that nihilistic law of averages, could be among them. My bets are, once enough middle class incomes have been dissolved through reckless gambling at casinos, the Native Americans will be blamed for the National debt.

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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7 Comments on “Gambling and the New Rules of Social Behavior”

  1. I’m not sure what you have against Indians, Sergio. But I still liked your story. You’ve really come a long way as a writer. I remember when you used to gamble and pick your nose and I was always telling you to cut it out. Now you’re teaching others not to do it!! I am so proud of you. 🙂

  2. Sergio is a fantastic writer. His wit recalls the best work of Mark Twain and Sholom Alecheim. If Melanie wasted his talent then that’s her own shortcoming.

  3. Malanie, your pride is as useful to my well-being as a lawyer without boxing gloves in a kangaroo court. Not to mention, it’s one of the deadly sins. However, since deadliness is one of your main specialties; mainly the deadly choking of creative urges, I imagine this doesn’t cause you a great deal of concern.

    I’ve been keeping my ear so close to the ground for stock tips, I’ve dug a hole. I wouldn’t invest in Cuban cigars, but apparently, plenty of people are stocking up on tobacco and ammunition for future barter. Since they’re stocking up, I suppose we have no choice but to keep inflating values so they can profit from their foresight. With the number of garage sales reaching epidemic proportions, I’ve had a difficult time appraising whether garages are the hot new item people are buying or if they are destined to follow the housing bubble. I also foresee an increase in the sales of shoes and boots. Shoe throwing is destined to become a National pastime, yet there are still very few people who are inclined to walk around barefoot. Obviously, they are going to require replacements.

  4. And why must they pick on a simple game?? Such as Cribbage or Shake a Day?? The Vegas casinos are hiding so much money, they don’t even know the count.
    Businesses are dying because of the Smoke-Free law. A smart person would have said, “Open a business for the non-smokers, create more jobs” instead of choosing to say, “NO” take your business elsewhere and letting a thriving business die.
    Many small businesses are suffering from that law.
    The balance is very unbalanced right now and there are people that hold the chains of law. We are the puppets.
    If I were to open a bar or a restaurant right now, I would have to make it was big and make way for all. Everyone be happy!! If you do not feel like you have enough air, go outside and eat (aye!)… or enter into my non-smoking area. Then get taxed double just for having it.
    It’s dumb. Why would they even consider this?? OHHH, to raise taxes and make the poor man stumble.

    And if they were really smart…they would lay off half the government…
    The main street people get laid off, why not their people, which is our people, right..??? that work so hard…and actually, I think they have people that try to figure out more ways to screw us.

    Now,the grandchildren will pay unless you think of a better way to get us out of this mess.
    I, myself, believe that they will go after the Native Casinos next.
    They will pull into play the story of how everyone should pay their fair share. They will legalize. And guess what? They’ll tax that too.

    I love the game of cribbage…what do you mean he was deprived of his chair and table?? and his cigar?? wtf??
    You have to go tell them. “no”.
    and now that I realize this article was posted at least two months ago I’ll shut up….
    ….hugs to grandfather…but yes, I would Snap if this was my grandfather and his chair was taken away.
    Let’s check out PLM….

  5. Hi, Ive always enjoyed a drink, about a year ago me and my 5 year girlfriend went our different ways, I was a real mess for months, scared of meeting somene new and getting close, not wanting to get hurt. Eventually I met someone new, I was happy, she was happy. She fell pregnant and to start with it was a scary idea but we both got used to the idea. A few weeks later she tells me she doesnt want me or the baby. We broke up and I just lost interest in being around people, fed up of getting hurt.

  6. I am 33 & have been smoking daily since i was 16. Over the years i gave up for 1 year only but started again (stupidly). Had a bit of a rough time through teens & when i was 23 had an ectopic pregnancy which resulted in losing the baby & 1 of my tubes. from there I found out I wouldn’t be able to have children naturally, smoking has put these things to the back of my mind which was great short term but long term i have ran away & never faced up to these things.

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