March 1998

Down and Out in Las Vegas; Or 711, 666, and Laser Urinals

by Auren Hoffman

"Vegas Baby! Vegas!" we yelled for half the long car-ride to Vegas from San Francisco. We were going to Comdex, the pocket - protector - high - tech - gamble - fest - with - too - many - people - and - no - interesting - products - convention. So we packed our van with 10 mega-nerds, 80's music mixes, magazines, potato chips, beef jerky, chess, cards, dirty jokes, Bill Gates gossip, and Snapple and we headed down south to the sands of Nevada.

It was an adventure--to say the least. My first time in Vegas but I since I've seen Bugsy, Casino, Swingers, and Leaving Las Vegas, I think of myself as an expert in absentia.

After we get to Vegas we check into a spacious hotel suite. The room was beautiful, close in proximity to all the major hotels, and clean. We couldn't believe we scored such a great room during Comdex--but then we realized there were two problems. The first was that we had 10 people--luckily there was lots of floor space. The second was that the room number was 666! This really freaked people out. I admit it, I was scared too.

The room had a weird aura and the air seemed a little heavier than one would expect. It had a delightfully moderate temperature, even warm, but my feet were strangely cold. In fact, one night my feet were so cold that they really hurt and I had to run them under hot water.

After a night of party-crashing and stuffing my face with shrimp cocktails and California rolls, I was not ready to go to sleep on a full stomach. So I did what anyone else in my situation would do--I went to the bathroom. It was there that I came upon my revelation--all Vegas public bathrooms have automatic flushers on the toilets and urinals. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was awesome. Even the sinks had laser sensors. After spending over 15 minutes testing all the laser sensors for the flushers (they ALL worked), I walked out of the bathroom in high spirits.

Not being someone who enjoys gambling (in fact, I find games like craps and blackjack utterly boring), I decided to spend my time wisely. I had already completed the Douglas Coupland book I had brought with me, so there was only one thing left to do--go on a quest. I knew my destiny lay in finding the poor urinal that still had a manual flusher attached to it. After scouring the bathrooms of all the major casinos, I figured my best bet would be to go into some of the more low-end joints. To my surprise, even they had laser sensors. I went in restaurants, government buildings, gift shops, and seedy bars. I made some of the quickest bathroom stops in history (and I broke the Guinness World Record for the number of bathrooms visited in one evening).

I was running out of luck and I had to resort to more drastic measures. I pulled out my Comdex media badge and begin systematically interviewing each passerby. In only a short time, some biker dudes pointed out a place across town that they claimed had old-fashioned-level-pulling-urinals. Since I could not take their word, I trekked across town to see for myself. Sure enough, I found a bathroom there that had lever-pull flushers. I was so happy that I put a quarter into the first slot machine I saw and out came $14--which almost covered my cab fair back to the hotel and room 666.

Auren Hoffman ( writes a weekly column called Summation. Auren currently works as a partner in Human Ingenuity Industries, an Internet firm specializing in databases and commerce on the web. Auren was the founder of Kyber Systems and created Guestimate, the award winning guestbook processor. Auren is also the President of BridgePath, a great site to get a job for students and recent grads.

Copyright © 1998 by Auren Hoffman. All Rights Reserved.

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