Annie Vainshtein is a Mustang News coffee columnist who writes about her adventures (and misadventures) with her favorite caffeinated beverage. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Annie Vainshtein

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Anyone who ever turns 18 will, at some point in their lives, go to a casino. Last week, my friends and I drove a collective 131 miles to Chumash Casino Resort, where all things semi-good go to die. Anyone who’s ever wasted $47 on gas knows there’s a certain novelty to the first 10 miles driven, but after it started raining and our iPhones were treading 20 percent battery threshold, life got a little scary.

We arrived at what we thought would vibe “Ocean’s Eleven” but in reality couldn’t even attempt to mimic Vegas. Fumbling over our heels and throwing away our McFlurrys, we walked up the metallic stairs, all 15 of us feeling a communal shiver of unpleasantness.

It smelled like cigarillos and Medicaid.

We were the gang of black sheep — kids who sometimes confused Al Capone with Al Gore and thought poker was always played the way it was in “The Parent Trap.”

After a few failed slot rounds and some patronizing looks from local strawberry farmers, we were losing morale. We threatened to walk out — we were so done with the failed expectations. We began to hate America and everything it stood for.

But then: the cart.

There was a coffee cart, and then two and then we realized they were everywhere. We couldn’t resist the men with mustaches manning the stations. These were real baristas. They knew what they were doing. And they would likely do it for the rest of their lives.

Suddenly, we had sovereignty over our lives. We got to choose, and we weren’t losing anything. We got to pick hot or iced, and even customize our cream and sugar orders. As we zig-zagged through the casino, we played a convoluted game of “Where’s Waldo?” with the shining carts, and it was quite the game.

Until catching wind of an Arabian roast ready and able for rapid consumption, we’d been living what Socrates would call an “unexamined life.” And that life had started to be unworthy of living. But that was over now.

The coffee was actually — dare we say — good. It could have been the mounds of caffeine that had been syringed into the industrial coffee machinery, but we didn’t care. Because after the first few decadent sips carefully crafted by Chumash’s county-ranked baristas, we started to win.

It was either a call from unknown higher spirits or the coffee, but one of us won $65 after only two clicks of a button — and I won a dollar!

As Herbert Spencer would put it, it was survival of the fittest, and by casino standards, we were at the top of the chain. The casino was a giant cesspool of people unwilling to transcend oral fixation, but who were we to turn down something not only unlimited, but free?

We pranced around, losing every inhibition we once had — we spent $6 on cigars we would later say were “definitely Cubans” and asked various adult males if they were once our Uber drivers.

Casinos do something to you — they take your money. But coffee? Coffee makes you win. Always, every time, no question about it.

Note: Net result of our generated casino winnings: -$40.

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