Free Tickets to Purgatory

This was a partially true story I wrote and performed for the July 2016 Vancouver Story Slam. This story won 2nd place.

Free is an attractive word. It cuts through the noise. It turns heads. Who wouldn’t want free things? My boyfriend and I did. It was our second day in Vegas, and we were already broke.

A man approached us and said “Would you like free tickets to any show? How about dinner and a gondola ride at The Venetian?” Of course, we did. All he needed was two hours of our time. A limo would pick us up and take us to a resort that needed more foot traffic. Free breakfast, gifts, no pressure! What could go wrong?

We should’ve bolted when we found out their “limo” was just a bus painted black. We should’ve left when they fed us stale breakfast. But we stayed. Why? Free shit is tempting. The entire ballroom was full of couples lured by this offer. See, the resort wanted their guests to feel at home. A black couple next to us had a black salesman, and a ginger couple a few tables away had a ginger salesman. Since we’re Asian, they assigned an Asian salesman. Specifically Filipino, just like me. They wanted to relate to us and make that sweet, sweet commission money.

We claimed to be two young punks who made t-shirts. That was a lie. Mr. Salesman claimed to make t-shirts too. We said we were from Richmond. Richmond, Virginia? What a coincidence, because he had family there! We corrected him. “Richmond, BC.” Guess what? He had family there too.

Two hours went by. Two hours of Mr. Salesman talking at us while we smiled and nodded. The place was lovely, but there was no way we were buying a timeshare. We were naïve, not stupid. But, we were too polite to leave.

The only time Mr. Salesman left us alone was when we went to the washroom. He waited for us outside the doors like a jail guard or a parent. Now, in the movies, the hero could leave through the washroom window. Not possible. Those windows were small and difficult to reach. And even if we escaped, what was next? Call a cab? If we could afford one, we wouldn’t be sitting through a timeshare pitch. Ah, but in movies, the underdog hero could stop a car, pull the driver out, and then speed off. Not possible. So we stayed.

We were too poor and too proud to leave without the rewards they promised. Two more hours later, they moved us to a conference room with a different salesman. When that didn’t work, they took us to an office. And then a cubicle. Each consecutive room got smaller, and each successive salesman got bigger. They tried to appeal to our emotions, but we were dead inside. The only thing that kept us going was the mantra: “free shows, free food, free shows, free food.”

Finally, they took us into a closet containing a tiny desk, two chairs, and a large man with sunglasses, knuckle tattoos, and a nametag that said “Tony.” We thought, “Holy shit, we’re going to get whacked here.” But then again, “Holy shit, this is the closest we’ve been to being secret agents. Just like in the movies” This was the main villain. The final boss!

Tony said, “Think about your future kids! Don’t you want to leave a legacy?”

“We don’t want kids. If we did, our legacy would be the t-shirt factory.”

“Think about the money you’ll save when you travel the world!”

“We can’t travel the world because t-shirts don’t make enough money.”

“Your parents can lend you the money!”

“Our parents disowned us after we threw away our future for a t-shirt factory.”

45 minutes later, we were free. The bus dropped us off at The Venetian. Turns out, our free shows had already expired because of how long the timeshare pitch took. But hey, at least we had free dinner. And it wasn’t stale.