April 13, 2001
Desperate to find a new teen anxiety, I've
noticed a recent surge in stories about teenage gambling.
We've apparently beaten to death the
traditional teen traumas of drinking, drugs, gangs, and pregnancy.
Cigarettes, pimples and peer pressure barely register as problems
now. In fact, there's hardly any room left for even a good "I
Was A Teenage Werewolf" story ever since "Buffy the
Vampire Slayer" made it fashionable. Today being a teen
werewolf is considered just another and equally valid lifestyle
Don't get me wrong. While in the midst of
your teenage years (which for men starts at thirteen and goes to
somewhere in the mid-forties) everything feels like high drama. If
you have a drink - you're an alcoholic. If you have a fight with
your girlfriend, it's the end of the world, or at least equal to
when Richard Burton left Liz Taylor - or for the younger crowd, when
Jennifer Lopez left Puffy.
So the new Movie of the Week teenage
disorder is gambling. Kids addicted to playing the ponies, or card
games or even Internet casinos where you play with real money. And
then there are lotteries, but it's no surprise teens try their luck
there since the government does its best to make even losing the
lottery look fun.
To a teen hitting the jackpot means not
having to go to Dad when you need the money to get your tongue
As a teen and an adult I was always too
cheap to gamble. I know gambling is for suckers, unless you're
running the game. Those big hotels in Las Vegas don't give out free
drinks because they're losing money.
A long time ago my grandfather used to run a
craps game at lunchtime in the alley behind his office. He also
liked the dog races in Florida and was pretty handy with a deck of
cards. Sad to say, none of that adventurous entrepreneurial spirit
or gambling talent rubbed off on me.
My other grandmother taught me an early
lesson in gambling. On rainy days at the cottage she would bring out
a little device called a "put and take". It was a top, and
when you spun it the side that landed up told you to either put a
nickel in or take one out of the pot. Grandma either had a lot of
luck or a magnet hidden under the card table, because pretty soon
she would have all my money.
And in order for it to be a real lesson in
gambling, she kept all the proceeds. As a tender young teen, this
was unlike any other adult I had ever made bets with - the kind who
paid off if you won and forgave you if you lost. Not Grandma - she
ran her tables like a Vegas Pit Boss. If you were lucky, after
cleaning you out you'd get one free drink and a coupon for dinner.
Maybe I owe her a debt of thanks for
teaching me a hard lesson about of the evils of gambling at such an
early age. I still look on all lotteries and card games as sure ways
to lose money.
If we could just get Grandma out to visit
all the high schools with her "put and take", we'd have
this teenage gambling licked in no time.
And she'd be set for life.