I Have Asperger’s—And I Found My Dream Job in Las Vegas
Your biggest challenges can ultimately help you discover your biggest strengths.
I love my job at the Paris Las Vegas, which is my home away from home. As an Eiffel Tower ambassador, I escort guests and visitors as they take the elevator to the top of the hotel’s 46-story tower, where I like to point out the local attractions and help people find the best spots for taking photos. The mountain range you can see from the tower is the Sierra Nevada. It’s 400 miles long. On the base of the mountain outside Vegas is an area called Summerlin. It’s named after Howard Hughes’ grandmother.
More than 40 million people come to Las Vegas every year from all around the world. In the United States, we are second only to New York City, even though the Strip is only 4.2 miles long. Most visitors here stay three or four days and spend $500 minimum. As for me, I visited Vegas 35 years ago—and never left. I have Asperger’s, and at the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. But I found my calling here.
Surviving childhood challenges
I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was six years old. I would later be diagnosed twice more, by two different doctors, when I was 12 and 51 years old. My father is an “Aspie,” my son has autism, and my nephew and niece have eidetic, or photographic, memories. Now that I know a lot more about Asperger’s, it has answered a lot of family questions and helps me understand more about my father and my son.
As a child growing up in Compton, California, I was shy and loved to read and recite facts. This sometimes made me a target for bullies. One of the biggest challenges I faced as a child and teenager was communicating with others. I couldn’t comprehend what was coming out of a person’s mouth when talking with them. Now I know that challenges with social interaction and communication are very common for people with Asperger’s, but back then, I didn’t really understand as much about Asperger’s or how it affected me.
Having a family that stayed closely knit helped a lot. Still, I didn’t understand the bullying, and it was a terrible time in my life. I changed schools often because of it and because the teachers had no idea how to teach people like me at that time.
My Vegas journey
I arrived in Las Vegas for good on August 2, 1984, when I was in my 20s. I had visited the city before, but this time, my sister had asked if I could help her move to her new apartment, as she’d just landed a job at the Four Queens Resort and Casino. It was supposed to be a quick, one-night trip.
Since my brother and late grandfather are both named Caesar, I asked my sister if we could go in the building with their name on it on our way back to California. So, we went into Caesars Palace, and I watched a guest win a small jackpot. I was so excited for that guest! Then, a Caesars Palace employee asked me if this was my first time in the hotel. I excitedly responded yes and that this was also the first time I had ever watched anyone hit a jackpot before. The employee kindly told me that I would be a great addition to the company, and I applied right then. I’ve been here ever since. It’s been 35 years and counting!
Learning to use my strengths
Courtesy Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck at Paris Las Vegas
When I first arrived in Vegas, people didn’t know as much about Asperger’s as they do now, and some people didn’t understand me or see how I could be an asset at work, especially since I didn’t really talk much at first. I really like helping people, but it took me a while to get comfortable with the public and talking to so many people every day. I have a problem with change in everyday life, especially when interacting with people who are different from me. I tend to overthink, and a lot of times, I think it’s me. But I like to memorize facts, and that really helps in my job because people love to learn all of the interesting things about Vegas.
Everyone is different, and everyone has a gift. It took me more than 50 years to realize that I am different. I didn’t understand when people would say that before. Now, I tell people to just be yourself, to be kind, and to try to make a difference in somebody’s life. I can’t believe a couple of years ago I was considered a quiet person. Now I’ve discovered that I am a mouthpiece! I definitely love what I do, but I am still trying to look directly at guests, and it still makes me a little nervous.
Every day is an adventure
I love coming to work. The excitement! The people! How many people can say that they get to meet people from all around the world every day? Not many. Las Vegas is unique, and I treat it as such. Every day when I clock in, I feel it’s time for me to perform for and entertain the guests. I love when I learn something new because I can’t wait to share the information with others. For example, Howard Hughes checked into the Desert Inn on November 27, 1966. He wanted a penthouse, but they told him all of the penthouses were booked for the upcoming holidays. They would only let him stay for ten days. But after those ten days, he wouldn’t move. He bought the hotel for $13.6 million. Then he bought the Silver Slipper next door.
The largest jackpot ever hit in Vegas was in March 2003. A software engineer from L.A. took a hundred dollar bill and hit for $39,713,982. Almost $40 million! But there are still lots of things I don’t know about Vegas. It’s easy to stump me—just ask me about the timeshares. There are so many in Las Vegas, but I haven’t been able to learn much about them yet, as the information isn’t as readily available.
It’s hard to say if retiring is on the horizon for me. I feel that all the years I spent being somewhat mum enables me to add a lot more years. I don’t really know what the future holds for me, as tomorrow is not promised to anyone, but I will continue to enjoy my work while I’m there.
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