So I took the little wife and baby Maxine for a getaway weekend in beautiful Atlantic City, N.J., for Valentine's Day.
I figured we'd hit the new Borgata (search) for a little R&R, and for the most part, the $1.1 billion dollar casino/hotel did not disappoint. First, we were greeted by a cheery valet attendant who hailed from the Czech Republic. Noticing our last name was Straka, he thought perhaps we were related to the Pittsburgh Penguin hockey star Martin Straka, also a Czech. Not being one to disappoint, I adopted Martin for the occasion as my big brother and ended up with the family truckster in the VIP lot.
Just kidding. I didn't have to lie to get the VIP lot, but a modest tip did the trick.
Once we unloaded the "pack-and-play," stroller, bags and laptop and went inside the hotel, a guest-services staffer, Jennifer P., graciously checked us in while some "high roller" who didn't have a reservation waxed poetic about how much money he "drops in dis place," and shouldn't need a reservation. More power to you Jennifer!
Borgata CEO Robert Boughner (search) strolled by and welcomed guests while we waited for our rooms to be readied (Boughner apparently greets all his guests and, indeed, he was still at it into the wee hours of the night at the blackjack tables) -- not that I was gambling or anything ... wink, wink.
Okay. People who play blackjack often should know better than to bet large sums of money at the minimum bet table -- where I play. Case in point:
Some clown decided he would be betting upwards of $500 per hand, when most of the rest of us were playing $25, the table minimum. Now that's his business. It's his money and if he wants to give it to the casino so willingly, by all means. What Grrr'd me was that this "whale" would get all bent out-of-shape and start cursing-- even pounding the table-- when the table rookie (there's always one) would neglect to hit on 15 with the dealer showing a picture card, thereby causing the table to lose when the dealer should have otherwise busted (Hint: if you don't know what I'm talking about, you're the rookie).
Sure, the rook was wrong and even I Grrr'd once or twice, but who told this "high roller" to bet that much at the minimum-bet table? That's why casinos put $100 minimum bet tables on the other side of the room, where there's no mid-shoe entry allowed, and people presumably don't make those types of mistakes. Either get over yourself Richie Rich, or better yet, live and learn. Grrr!
What's with these velour sweatsuits that everybody's wearing these days? I lost count of the number of people, young and old, who were strolling through the casino like Tony Soprano in these overpriced duds with sports insignias emblazoned all over the fabric. And the outfit apparently is incomplete without lots of gold chains, big hair and oversized diamonds attached to the wearer.
Now, the men who wear these sweats usually wear them baggy with their sneakers untied. You know, the ultimate sign of hipness, class and wealth, right? Makes me wonder what kind of mirrors casinos are putting in the presidential suite.
But the women, for crying in the bucket! They wear these things at least one size too small, so the pants are too tight and reveal a thong strap, and the top just happens to leave room for the belly button ring to be exposed.
Now I'm as red-blooded as any man, but is this supposed to be attractive or unique? Grrr!
The Borgata has the worst Starbucks (search) on the face of the planet. I have never seen a slower line or poorer customer service in all my vast Starbucks experience. But to make matters worse, there are what I like to call "The Oblivions:" people who are so oblivious to their surroundings that they deserve their own Grrr! category.
The Oblivions will focus so intently on the coffee menu board that they cut in front of you on line as if there were no line there at all. They are also known to stop in doorways to chat with friends, yawn out loud repeatedly as if we all cared how tired they are, or unwrap their gum v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y in church or at the movie theater -- usually during the quiet times.
They walk with their lit cigarettes, swinging their arms indiscriminately as though everybody around them is equipped with fire resistant protective clothing.
Oblivions race across shopping center parking lots, ignoring traffic arrows. They stop short while walking on busy sidewalks to look at their tourist maps. They complain about the help but never leave tips. They blurt out questions or ask sales people for help even when the associate is already assisting somebody else. They don't wait for the next elevator when the one you're on is already full. They'll just push their way on, and then suffocate you because they've put on so much perfume, the scent enters your nostrils and pierces your brain like a dagger!
My fellow Americans, beware The Oblivions. They are taking over. Grrr!
The Lovely Smell of Cigarette Smoke
As much as I disagree with the economics of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on smoking in restaurants and bars, I have become somewhat spoiled by not having my entire wardrobe, hair and skin smell like an ashtray after having a drink at a bar. That being said, despite the Borgata's state-of-the-art ventilation system, I could not wait to get out of my smoky clothes and take a shower before going to bed. I know, I know. I'm not complaining about smokers in a casino! I can see the hypocrisy in that. I'm just saying I don't enjoy smelling like a walking cigarette. Grrr!
More Traffic Vigilantes
Here's one to add to the left lane vigilantism that forces self-righteous slow pokes to ride in the left lane: People who don't let others merge.
Now, there are exceptions, like when some bozo rides the shoulder and then cuts into an already long lane. But there are other times when a driver should just let another car merge, for the sake of his or her own and other motorists' sanity.
For instance, oftentimes you may find yourself riding in a left lane that all of sudden ends or is closed off for construction without any forewarning. You have no choice but to merge into the right lane. But there's always some person who simply refuses to let anyone merge in front of them. What is the big deal? People must merge eventually. It is a fact of life. LET THEM IN. Grrr!
Are you that self-righteous that you'll have "I had the right of way" engraved on your tombstone?
Now for your Grrr!'s
Bruce W. in Del Rio, Texas, writes: The idiot door bangers in parking lots drive me nuts. They park by braille (drive in the slot until they bump into something, then back up a few inches), then fling open their door, bouncing it off the car next to them. Grrr!!!!
Jennifer S. from King of Prussia, Pa., writes: How about RUDE people that stare at you (from a mall bench the whole time as you walk by, or from a rear view mirror at a stop light AND sideview mirrors as they turn left. Perhaps they don't realize that we can SEE and FEEL them staring -- unlike a TV set? Get some manners! Grrr!
M. Camp writes about the upcoming Oscars: There are a number of things that make me go Grrr!, but perhaps one of the biggest events in entertainment tops the list of things that make me go grrr! This would be the Oscars. This is supposed to be a night in which the best of the best in big screen production and entertainment are awarded for their achievements over the past year, sometimes in their lifetime. However, some awardees feel this is a platform to spew their opinions of politics and political leaders and to take mean spirited shots at the president. Remember Michael Moore last year?
Go on stage, graciously accept the award, thank the people who, without their help, you wouldn't be there, then go back to your seat. For this one night, leave your political viewpoints at home. GRRR!
Ann Davis writes: Hey, what about those people who park in the fire lane, leave their car running, and run into the store? What makes them so important? GRR!
Paul S. on wrong-side-of-the-roadies: My grrr! is people pulling on the wrong side of the road to get the mail or paper. The more busy and dangerous the road, the more prevalent it seems to be...Unless you have a handicap tag, walk your lazy butt across the road to get your health club membership out of the mailbox. Grrr!
T. Duedenhoefer writes: It's not the handicapped parking spaces. I can appreciate those. Some people do indeed need them. What makes me go "Grrrrrrrrr" is the idiots who think they can park their non-HP placarded car on the striped zone BETWEEN two handicapped parking spots. I just want to scream at them, "Hey, you idiot, that is there so people can get their freaking wheelchairs OUT of the car!!!!!!!!!" Grrr!
Allow me to expand on the handicap spot Grrr! Now, let me be clear. I'm not against them. People need them, obviously. But I am a little confused. If one's handicap makes it difficult to get from the vehicle into the store, then what happens to them once they're inside? Home Depot, for instance, is usually bigger inside than the entire parking lot, so I guess I'm missing the advantage of having a closer parking proximity to the entrance.
Anyway, thanks for the Grrr's. I certainly hope everyone had as much fun on Valentine's Day as I did.
Mike Straka is the project manager for FOX News' Web operations and contributes as a features reporter and producer on "FOX Magazine" (Sundays 11 p.m. on FNC), a producer on "Sunday Best" (Sundays 9 p.m. on FNC), and as a reporter and columnist for Foxnews.com. Straka appeared in the film "Analyze This" and was an actor in the long-running Off-Broadway hit "Tony n' Tina's Wedding."