Last week, for the second time in my life, I found myself in Las Vegas.
A side note: both times, my trips to Vegas have been for Ragan/PRSA social media conferences and they have both been amazing. These haven't been two days of listening to presenters pat themselves on their backs about what a great job they're doing. These have been real-time forums and discussions of using social channels as communications tools. I cannot recommend them enough.
Anyhow, back to the story...
I kind of hate Las Vegas.
I am all for societies having their places of ill-repute. I just always thought Los Angeles fit that bill nicely. I challenge any group of frat boys to have a bachelor party in Los Angeles that doesn't go as well as one in Las Vegas. Hell, minus the gambling, it might go better in LA.
And therein lies my first issue with Vegas: the assumption that you are up to no good. Usually, I go to conferences and it's easy to network and meet people. In Vegas, if I start talking to a woman, chances are, she wonders what my agenda is. Vegas makes people assume the worst. So, as a very social person, Vegas puts me at unease. I want to be myself, but any time the social norm is to put anyone through a lens of "this guy wants to hook up," it's tough to talk to people.
Fortunately on this latest trip I 1) met a few people who were honest enough to avoid the trouble of assumed innuendo so we could simply hang out worry-free and 2) ran into my old boss and spent time hanging out with her.
But even hanging out is an ordeal in Vegas.
Whoever designs casinos... those people are smarter than you and me. They are designed to separate you from your money one way or another. And it's brilliant. You don't want to gamble? Fine, head over to the bar over there. Or that other bar. Or the other other bar. Or get some food. Or, hey, why not go shopping?
This weekend, I will be alone in Seattle and I will likely choose to do something outdoors. I'm not counting skiing. I mean, I might go take a walk on the water or sit in a coffee shop and read or any number of "I just want to be low-key and cheap" activities.
Such things do not exist in Vegas. If you are not out and about, you are in your hotel room, thinking you really should be out and about. The irony is there is some beautiful stuff around Vegas. Mt. Charleston. The Grand Canyon. Hoover Dam. These are stone's-throw places that are worth seeing. But despite the proximity, you don't see ads for those. You see ads for Cher's nightly show.
I realize not everyone has world-class restaurants at their fingertips. I get the allure to some of gambling (though it amazes me how people flock to the games the casino has a huge advantage on you. Try craps, people.). And yes, if you are some sort of repressed person, Vegas offers the perfect excuse to act out in discarding your inhibitions, I suppose. So yes... I get why people go there.
But for me, I see nothing that would get me on a plane there except for another conference. Or as a cheap place to fly to go to the Grand Canyon.