What Happened in Vegas Stayed With Me
At the top of the Stratosphere there is a ride called the “Big Shot.” It’s not just a clever name. It can give any faint hearted man a false sense of accomplishment. Conditions for ego-reinforcement were very favorable, being high above the Vegas skyline in near freezing temperatures while facing a strong wind. There weren’t many people in line, counting me we made two. Just myself and a Japanese guy who didn’t speak English. I obviously didn’t ask his name or have an actual conversation, but that didn’t limit his contribution to my Vegas experience. That man likely has no recollection of our interaction, but he is the reason my trip up and down through the sky hundreds of feet from the Vegas floor was memorable.
As we waited for the other big shots to come back down we made eye contact and laughed at the fact that we would shortly be launching ourselves into the sky. This man was really excited, he laughed a lot and seemed a little nervous. We sat in adjacent seats as we prepared for the ascent. There was no way to predict the timing of our takeoff, but we shared the anticipation. A nervously laughing Japanese man and a lonely American kid who didn’t even share a conversation actually had something in common for a brief moment.
As we flew up and back down in under a minute I tried to absorb the beauty of the Vegas lights. Though it was beautiful, the beauty of this interaction proved itself much more interesting. Too often we try to separate ourselves by what makes us different. We forget so quickly what makes us similar. Sometimes people just want to get shot into the sky, or look at bright lights, or dance to familiar music, or laugh with friends. Those desires don’t really change even when other differences are obvious. Even though I didn’t share a word, culture, or language with that man we enjoyed a moment laughing together in a simple way. This was the most basic interaction two people can have, we just looked at each other and laughed.
This experience reminded me of one of the simplest truths. People are simple, it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. It’s almost like we don’t understand ourselves and we make everything complicated. We seek to impress others with false, pretentious behaviors. Expensive clothing, drugs, alcohol, and other things that differ with culture aren’t actually meant to impress ourselves. Nobody buys an expensive piece of jewelry or clothing to look at themselves, it’s for someone else. Here is a reminder, sometimes we just need to get shot into the sky to feel like a big shot, who needs all that other crap. Anything that makes us laugh is usually worth while, and we can laugh at just about anything. That means, in the simplest sense, nothing is a waste of time with a proper attitude.
As I walked through Las Vegas I saw casinos, cigarettes, pornography, diversity, excitement, and entertainment. But worst of all was seeing division. Aside from that quick moment with the Japanese man, I could not see people as equal and simple. Unfortunately, people don’t just want to go on a stupid ride to feed their ego. Stores like Gucci, Prada, and a bunch of others were another reminder; sometimes we want to feel like a big shot so badly that we create a worthless world of valuable things. I saw watches for 40,000 dollars, purses for 50,000, sculptures for over 1,000,000 dollars. I was told that these items are so highly priced because of name recognition and rarity. Unfortunately we don’t want to be like other people, we are constantly reminded of what makes us different. Most people just focus on what makes them better. Privilege separates us people because people aren’t rare in and of themselves, why would we want to be like everyone else?
My moment with the laughing, nameless Japanese man was indeed rare, a 50,000 dollar watch isn’t. It still only tells the time, that’s it, that’s all it does. That man however has a family, like me; he has a language, like me; he has ideas, like me; he laughs, like me; he likes stupid rides, like me. Just because he is like me, doesn’t mean he isn’t rare. The value of sharing a moment with that man means much more than setting myself apart as better. In the words of Connor Oberst, (to make this more credible among hipsters) “In this endless race for property and privilege to be won; we must run, we must run, we must run.”
Run, Run, Run, buy those expensive watches and clothes. Forget what makes you similar and think about how you can be better than the everyday person. That’s what you are supposed to think is important. Breathe in and let that go. See people for what they are worth, there is so much to experience that involves sharing moments with others. No more competing, we can simply enjoy another person regardless of their differences. Even if you don’t share a language, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, social class, gender, or interest you can always share laughter. That’s all that I shared with that nameless man, and that simple experience reminded me of what is truly important in human interaction, simplicity.