Walking into the Desert Inn Sheraton, which recently underwent a $200 million renovation, was a soothing experience. The seven-story vaulted lobby was all marble; the casino was nowhere in sight, and the hotel's only theme seemed to be "elegant Mediterranean resort." I think even my Vegas-loathing mother-in-law would like this place. The DI would qualify as a large hotel in most cities, but after the Luxor, which has six times as many rooms, it had the intimate feel of a boutique hotel.
My plush room in the main tower had a view of the pool and golf course. It didn't take long to realize this would be a tough stay, involving tough choices. I had two sinks and three phones at my command. The toiletries, I noticed, were stamped with one of those royal seals that indicate they had been concocted "by appointment" to some majesty, a cool concept I've always fallen for if never quite understood. I made a mental note to swipe them daily for Kat. After all, the room was setting me back $285 a night.
I picked up one of the three phones and called Citibank's toll-free number to report the loss of my credit card (something else I'd accomplished at Luxor). I felt sheepish asking to have a new card sent to me at a Las Vegas hotel, of all places. But instead of forwarding my call to the fraud department, the voice on the other end told me she, too, was in Las Vegas.
Citibank is one of Las Vegas's prized trophies in the uphill battle to diversify the local economy. To lure one of the New York giant's credit card processing centers, which now employs 1,700 people here, Nevada's legislature in 1984 passed a law allowing out-of-state banks to establish a Nevada subsidiary. And because Citibank felt queasy about the notoriety of its new address--would customers appreciate sending their hard-earned money off to what comedians have long called the city of Lost Wages?--the bank was allowed to call its parcel of land The Lakes, Nevada. I wonder if this geographic subterfuge would have been deemed necessary nowadays, Las Vegas having come such a long way in the past dozen years.
Citibank is not alone. Williams Sonoma and other companies also find Las Vegas an ideal location for call centers, and not just because of the low cost of living and welcoming tax climate. What makes this city ideal for an around-the-clock operation is its 24/7 casino-inspired culture. Residents don't think twice about being asked to work night shifts. Go off the Strip and ask a bartender, a grocery store manager, or a fitness club attendant what time their business closes, and they will look offended. "We're here twenty-four-seven," they'll respond--as in twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I find this all deeply appealing. I have never shopped for groceries at three in the morning, lifted weights at four, or driven to a friendly neighborhood bar at five, I must confess, but I'd find it comforting to know I could, if I wanted. Even when I was a child, those "Always Open" signs at Denny's invariably made me smile.
This 24/7 world has its own alluring language. People work either daytime, "swing," or "graveyard" shifts. At most casinos, daytime means noon to eight, swing is eight to four, and graveyard is four to noon. The swing shift is a casino's busiest, and the nightly migration of dealers and cocktail waitresses from the Strip back home (or to the neighborhood tavern or health club) makes Las Vegas's roads some of the most congested anywhere at four in the morning.
Excerpted from 24/7 by Andres Martinez. Copyright © 2000 by Andres Martinez. Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.