In Las Vegas gaming, a Cooler is a dealer or pit boss who comes to a table game that is hot, and through distraction, bad vibes, or outright rudeness, changes the spirit of the table and turns it into a loser. If you’ve played more than a few hours of blackjack, you probably know the effect – whether a Cooler was employed or not (it is consensus that big casinos no longer employ Coolers, relying instead on the simple mathematics that are distinctly in their favor) – of when the dealer changes and he/she is a real bummer, and your general winning streak ends immediately.
Coolers might be extinct in Vegas, but they still live, breathe, and eat at the tables in my station. And yours, too, I’m sure.
Here’s A Cooler
Here’s the four top: 42-year-old guy and his 35-year-old wife; both are nice-looking, well-dressed, worldly, social. Their partner couple is about the same age-set. They look fine, but less successful, less worldly, and less-social. It could be either one of them, but I’m gonna arbitrarily pick on the wife. She is The Cooler.
Now her husband, he is at least game – excited to be out and excited to have a chance to get drunk, instead of the wife remonstrating him from across the home dining room table. Removed from the friendly confines of her domicile, she has to maintain pretense of not being a tight bitch. But you can still feel her tightness.
While being seated, she cranes her neck in the familiar endeavor of searching for some other more-desirable table. When her visual scan returns the datum that all other tables are already occupied, you can sense her frustration (here, her frustration = your satisfaction). The Cooler is pale, appropriately, and doesn’t remove her jacket because she’s cold. She keeps to herself mostly in the conversation.
As I said, hubby is excited to be out. Hey, he used to be Frat Brother with the guy on the other side of the table! He’s gonna get a cold one! (Which instead of a beer or a martini, turns out to be his wife, as we will see.)
Here’s how The Cooler works. Our other three are smiling and chatting with each other. They are settling their bodies, bracing for a good meal. Well there I am, greeting the table. ‘So, enough with the water. Would anybody like a cocktail?’
‘Oh no! I can’t have any more than one drink,’ says The Cooler even before the words escape my lips.
A Cooler understands that she can’t speak for the whole table, but she can speak definitively for herself. This tack, together with always being the first to speak, creates an preemptive strike. On fun.
So first Hubby – who was just about to spill out ‘I’ll have a Grey Goose martini!’ – swallows his cold, crisp, dry words and goes, ‘Uhhh …’ and looks to the other couple (ironically, they’re the Cool couple, but for continued clarity we’ll call them the Fun Ones).
The Fun Ones are naturally accommodating. They would have definitely have ordered their martini and Cosmo, but they want to make their friends comfortable. So they demur. (Score one for The Cooler!)
‘Well let’s have some wine then,’ says Fun Guy, grabbing the wine list, but then offering it to The Cooler’s caddy (aka Hubby). ‘Oh no,’ says Hubby, ‘you go ahead.’ He wants Fun Guy to pick out a nice wine, hoping to avoid blame from The Cooler. Hell, hopefully Fun Guy’ll start with a white, then get red with dinner, thereby insuring at least two drinks for Hubby.
‘You like white or red?’ Fun Guy asks of The Cooler, as it’s already obvious who needs coddling.
‘Oh, I don’t usually drink wine. It gives me a headache.’
I say I’ll give them a minute to look over the list and come back to tell them the specials.
Fun Guy chooses a Chardonnay when I return. I give them the specials: ‘We have an appetizer special of Hama Hama oysters on the half-shell –’
‘Oh no, I couldn’t have an appetizer. I probably won’t finish my meal as it is,’ interjects The Cooler.
‘Well then, speaking of meals, our entrée special is a braised Veal Chop. It’s a thick cut, slow-cooked in Pinot Noir and –’
‘Oooh! That’s too big! I could never eat that.’ The Cooler again. This despite manifest interest from the other three.
I do not finish the Veal Chop description, to punish the entire table for The Cooler’s selfish behavior. I return in a couple of minutes with the Chardonnay. Pouring for The Cooler, she stops me with the hand wave just as I’m about to stop anyway – at half a glass. Next (and I have done this), I switch her glass with Hubby’s empty glass. Then I pour just a few drops for The Cooler. ‘That should be more like it,’ I say, affecting a congenial expression that reads “I understand, and I have sincerely taken good care of you.”
A little later, it’s now Go Time. I ask if there’s any interest in appetizers, or if they’ve made selections on their main courses. Predictably, The Cooler launches, ‘Oh, I’m sure dinner will be enough for me.’ I notice that while I will not pour more wine for The Cooler, someone else has – her glass now being appropriately at the half-full mark I’d poured originally.
Now don’t get me wrong. We’re talking about up-sells here, and it’s fine if people resist all of them. Cocktails, appetizers, special entrees, a la carte salads, side add-ons, bottle of wine vs. by-the-glass, dessert, etc. are things people will pretty much always enjoy, but they cost more money and, yes, they might be more than they actually wish to/can consume. So that’s fine. The rub is that The Cooler does his/her work to prevent the entire party from ordering such items.
The Cooler orders the Grilled Chicken and Veggies. ‘Would you like to substitute something for the vegetables?’ I ask. ‘For instance pasta instead?’
The Cooler is vexed. Her head involuntarily swivels in refusal – the nervous tic of a Cooler – but she can’t quite say it out loud because that does sound good. I help. ‘It doesn’t cost any extra.’
‘I, uh, I … no, that’s okay. The vegetables are fine.’ She’s even Cooling herself out of something with no downside!
So basically a very willing group (3 out of 4 of ’em) has now been hobbled into an entrees-only program.
By now you get the idea. Second bottle of wine, and The Cooler weighs in negatively on it, even though she has no intention of partaking. And on through dessert and after dinner drinks, even coffee.
There is no surprise ending. What these poor people (the other 3) have is a mostly joyless barebones meal that has somehow been dampened by an implication of negative political correctness. The Cooler posits (well, actually negates) everything with the shading that what’s not right for her is also not right for everyone else.