Las Vegas

The noise coming from the cheesy cab radio was odd. Not music. Not conversation. More like a garbled roaring sound, punctuated by the announcer’s voice speaking what could have been a foreign language.

The cab driver was disinterested in his passengers and only spoke when asked a question. Most of the time it was, “How long before we get there?”

His repeated stock response was, “Nine minutes.” I stopped asking the question when I realized he had no idea how long it would be, since he had not activated his GPS.

His official ID that hung from the visor assured me that he was an authorized driver. His name was Max.

Max looked like he was wearing last week’s unwashed clothes. A short-sleeved shirt, multicolored shorts, and plantar fasciitis provoking flip-flops. He was bald on top and sported long, uncombed curls on the sides. He was fixated on the radio and occasionally banged his fist on the steering wheel in response to the broadcaster’s periodic announcements. He muttered disappointedly when something disturbed him, which was often.

I listened more closely. The radio announcer was indeed speaking English. He seemed to be talking about cars. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked Max, “What are you listening to.”

Showing mild annoyance he said, “It’s the NASCAR race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I’ve got some money on it.”

My initial thought was, gee I didn’t know they had NASCAR races in Las Vegas. I was even more surprised that you could bet on them. And then I banished those naïve thoughts when I remembered we were in Vegas, where you can bet on anything until they take all your money, and probably even after that.

Unlike other cities, Vegas has more taxis than Ubers. It’s as though all the old, abandoned taxis from L.A., New York and Chicago have been sent here to die, just like the elephant graveyard. 

Our first taxi encounter is at the airport where we are greeted by a line of cabs that must have circled the earth twice. Despite the possibility of a riot fomented by people anxious to lose their life savings, the line was carefully organized and reined in by workers who, like other gaming mecca employees, are either current or former gambling addicts. Nice enough people, they seem to be just biding their time waiting for their shift to end and return to the tables and slots.

The airport cabs charge a flat fee of $28 for a ride to any of the hotels on the strip. I thought it was pretty cheap, until I discovered that it only took about five minutes to get to our hotel, the Palazzo.

The Palazzo is a newish tower adjacent to its older and somewhat faded sister hotel, the Venetian. True to their names, they have an architectural design that mimics the palatial mansion that Al Pacino lived in immediately prior to his assassination by the mob in the 1983 movie, Scarface.

Descendants of some of the characters in the movie can be found wandering the casinos, disguised as pit bosses. You can easily identify them since they are the only people wearing business suits, ties, and rings on their pinkies. Most everyone else is wearing shorts, tie-dyed shirts and, like Max the taxi driver, flip flops.

Our cab dropped us in front of the Palazzo where we were swept into what seemed like a moving sidewalk of moneyless guests departing, while arrivals like us still had what proved to be only temporary ownership of our finances.

Registration was easy as we were professionally handled by Ramon, a glib young man who might have come from a Wall Street investment banking firm before falling under the influence of the devil. He upgraded our room, itemized a bunch of perks, and took multiple images of my American Express card which might, in short order, be maxed out.

Although Max brazenly forsook his cab’s GPS for directions, we could have used one to get from the registration desk to our room. Instead, Ramon simply told us to hook a left and watch for the overhead signs. “You’ll be fine.”

Any Vegas hotel planner worth his salt will design it so that you can only reach your room (and a welcoming pee break) by marching through the casino. After an absence of 25 years, I had forgotten what the inside of a casino looked like. I was soon reminded.

Bright lights and noise are the principal components of the massive money eating enclosure. Devoid of any daylight, thereby assuring the victim that the time of day was irrelevant, the casino is a Walt Disney animated movie in garish technicolor. Noise comes at you from multiple sources including ten feet tall slots that advertise jackpots that probably paid off during the last ice age.

Periodic shrieks at the craps tables announce a lucky winner who, despite multiple selfie promises of, “Just one more time”, will assuredly re-deposit his winnings with the faceless croupier.

While I was intent on finding the yellow brick road to our room, Jackie fixated on the slots and slowed my march. Her eyes glazed over, and her breathing slowed. As though in a trance she said, “I see the machine I want.” It was the Wheel of Fortune. Her eyes brightened. Her pace quickened. Her hand was on her wallet. The machine pulled her in like it was a life-size electromagnet. It was love at first sight. I felt abandoned.

But that’s another story.

1 Response to “Las Vegas”


  1. 1 jackielakshmi March 12, 2022 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for the chance to relive the weekend again!
    It sure was fun, and I know the Wheel
    of Fortune machine is feeling abandoned by me this weekend just as you felt last weekend!
    Your turn again to be my electromagnet😍

    Like


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