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Vegas Tourney Journey — Stuck in Line at a Starbucks Edition

Special to Great Pacific Review - by Jason James Barry

Why do the simplest things never work out so simply? Of course I‘m talking about coffee. And in all places — Las Vegas. And at all moments — en route to a full morning of girls volleyball games. Last year I had cracked the code on all this, or so I thought.

At the time, rather than stand in line, defeated, and feeling like a shlub, I field-tested full-on breakfast — with coffee — at no less than three restaurants between The Luxor and Mandalay Bay (read the results of THAT adventure). But no! Just about exactly one year from then, here I am more or less loosely “intermittent fasting,” which to me is just Millenial-speak for “skipping breakfast”.

So, with breakfast out (for now), it’s back to square-one for my tournaments-at-a-casino coffee hacks. And I’m pleased to report, I have one! But not counting the importation-of-a-French press setup, like one of my new friends in the team parent realm.

Instead, I triangulated sociological theories of group dynamics, psychology, and a middle-age propensity for laziness to offer this: Walk. Just keep walking. And walking, until you’ve reached a Starbucks but are fairly far from where the tournament actually is. Huzzah!

Brilliant, I know. But with all snark aside, as they say, I have the receipts. This morning, I set out before 7, and walked against the flow of every other volleyball parent. Past the glimmer of slot machines. Past the still-closed buffet. Away from the tournament. At the foot of the escalator that leads to the Luxor, the proof was already clear: would-be coffee drinkers stood stone-faced in a line more than 20-deep that spilled out beyond the escalator itself.

I pressed on. Through the mall-ish corredor known as the Shoppes at Mandalay Place. Out I popped at the Luxor, where the Food Court Starbucks still wasn’t open. F@#$. This didn’t look promising. And this is why I do these adventures alone. Still, I had hope. I had been passing Luxor tournament parents with their matching shirts, who juggled their iced and hot coffees along with their backpacks and snack totes, so deeper in I went — now even further from the tournament. I thought briefly about how in the movie Jaws, Chief Brody warned the boat captain about the shark luring their boat away from shore, and further out to sea. And like the boat captain in Jaws, who stubbornly went on anyway (and eventually was eaten alive by that big-ass great white) I too pressed on.

Down the escalator by the still-closed Diablo’s Cantina, and onto the lower level I went. Don't go to the Starbucks off the Luxor casino floor. It's a slaughterhouse of sugar drink waiting, plus they ran out of regular drip brew one morning (?). Instead, go past the check-in desk, and Eureka (!) there was yet another Starbucks, which in all honestyI had dutifully scouted out the night before. How long the line was would be the question.

Eureka again (!!) with the line at only four customers deep. A cluster of customers waiting for frilly drinks to actually be made had massed at the far end of the counter, and honestly that had me more than a bit worried. But as customary, the baristas taking the orders poured drip coffee on the spot at the register, and without delay. Huzzah, once again!

So, ladies and gentlemen of the caffeine-addled sort, I am pleased to report that my latest hack to NOT be stuck in line at a Starbucks goes as follows: Walk. Walk to where no one else would bother to go — away from the event location. And where no one else is, there won't be a line. Ridiculous, but it works, at least here in Vegas.

As a bonus, rather than stand in line for 20 minutes, I got in a brisk morning walk. And with coffee in hand, I sauntered somewhat smugly back past all of the schlubs who were (still) stuck, waiting in line. And as for the lines for Starbucks by the arena and the convention center closest to where the tournament is — time stands still there. Those unfortunate souls have withered and frayed, and their next of kin have taken over since, where they remain, waiting…

Jason James Barry is an award-winning essayist, journalist, and author. This summer he is releasing a collection of Gen X stories entitled, "Eat it and Like it: A 1980s Journal (That’s Totally Awesome & Rad, Plays in the Woods, Drinks From the Hose, Passes Notes in School, & Stays Cool Over Summer), Vol. 1".

His police-life memoir, "The Midnight Coffee Club: A Memoir of Grit, Glimmers, and the Pull of Police Life" is currently available on Amazon.


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