The Fall of Atlantis


At several different points in my career, I’ve found myself doing event planning. Usually, the experience makes me consider naming my ulcer “Event Planning.”

Whenever you’re planning an event, no matter the size, something always falls through. Someone will drop out at the last minute, or the thing you ordered won’t arrive on time, or the caterer will inform you that she’s fresh out of those stuffed mushrooms you requested.

Whenever this happens, my brain immediately latches onto the missing thing like a dog worrying a chew toy to death. “No one’s going to come if we don’t have those stuffed mushrooms!” my brain tells me. “Everyone will know the stuffed mushrooms were supposed to be here, and they’re going to blame YOU!”

I think these feelings are universal (or at least I hope they are). We all have a tendency to focus on the negative, the elements that are missing instead of the elements that aren’t. We convince ourselves that the general public is going to have the same concerns that we do.

But whenever I find myself getting wound up about the missing elements, I just think back to Caesar’s Palace.

About ten years ago, I went to Las Vegas with my pals Bradley and Justin. We spent one of our evenings strolling through The Forum, a massive shopping mall connected to the Caesar’s Palace casino. The Forum is filled to the brim with high-end stores, and we figured we would see what was on offer; you never know when you’ll get the sudden urge to dip into the Rolex store and buy a $20,000 wristwatch.

Of course, even a fake Rolex costs more than I’m willing to spend on a watch, and several days spent in a city where a club sandwich costs $18 left Bradley, Justin and myself a bit financially strapped. We were looking for some free entertainment. As we strolled through the mall, Bradley, who was the only one in our group that had visited Vegas before, mentioned that we should go see The Fall of Atlantis.

The Fall of Atlantis, Bradley explained, is a giant fountain in The Forum that features nine-foot-tall statues of the Roman gods. Every hour, these statues come to life and regale visitors with the tale of … well, the fall of Atlantis. Hidden smoke machines pour smoke, hidden pyrotechnic rigs shoot jets of fire into the sky, and an intricate laser light show is projected on the ceiling.

All of that sounded pretty entertaining, and also free, so we gathered around the fountain with a bunch of other tourists, checked the time on our cheap non-Rolex watches, and waited for the show to begin.

On the hour, Jupiter, the King of the Gods, came to life. A towering animatronic marvel, he beckoned us to come close and hear his tale. We crowded around the huge fountain.

I don’t know exactly when we realized that something had gone horribly wrong, but I think it only took a minute or so. There was no smoke issuing forth from the smoke machines, no jets of fire shooting to the ceiling, no laser light show playing out on the domed roof above. There were just the voices of the animatronic gods and one tiny green laser, the only one still functioning, etching a very slow, very small circle on the ceiling.

When The Fall of Atlantis is functioning properly, I’m sure it is a very impressive sight. However, when it’s malfunctioning horribly, it is much, much funnier.

“BEHOLD!” Jupiter bellowed, his mighty animatronic arm gesturing above. “MARS, GOD OF WAR, RIDES HIS CHARIOT ACROSS THE BATTLEFIELD!”

Above, the tiny green laser drew its tiny green circle.


The green laser silently rotated.


The green laser flickered, then continued drawing its small circle.

Bradley, Justin and I were hysterical.

At the end of the show, Jupiter bid everyone farewell and the crowd began to break apart. As we were getting ready to leave, a couple who had just seen the show walked past us.

“Well,” the man said, a confused expression on his face, “the show was pretty good, but I guess I expected more.”

It was then that I realized: No one’s going to care if the stuffed mushrooms don’t show up.

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