Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"They Were Wearing Practically Nothing"

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 4

Returning now to the story of my car troubles in December.  By the way, since I am breaking up this story with other types of posts, I've created the label "Stranded in Vegas" for all chapters in this saga.  So you can just go to that label to find all the chapters. The previous chapter is here.

I didn't sleep well that Wednesday night, thinking about my predicament.  No car, no place to stay Friday night of NY's Eve weekend if I didn't get my car back.  I had reason to suspect that my car wouldn't be ready Thursday.  So the first thing I did in the morning was call the hotel manager.  I explained my situation to him.  He said he could extend my stay if I wanted, just let him know.  I was really concerned about the place being booked so he just locked it up for me.  So much for the hotel being booked solid.  What do they do with the folks who already reserved my room?  Oh well, not my concern.

There was one problem—there was no way he could give me the rate I was paying for the two weeks I'd been there.  He had to charge me more—about 20-30% more each night.  I didn't argue, because that was still a ton less money than the woman at the front desk had told me they were charging for rooms for this weekend just yesterday—assuming they had rooms, which they didn't.

So that was a weight off my shoulders. At least I was covered and wouldn't be homeless over the weekend.  Of course I could always sleep in my car except….well, if I had a car, I wouldn't need to sleep in it, I could drive home.

But that was just the failsafe, I really wanted to get my car this day and drive home on Friday as planned.  I didn't need the extra expense of staying over the busy weekend. I felt like I needed to push TC to get to work on my car.  So I called him late morning.  It wasn't ready and honestly, it sounded like he hadn't even started on it.  I gave my sob story, which had elements of truth in it.  I reminded him that I was planning on driving home to L.A. tomorrow and that I needed to pack up the car first thing in the morning in order to do so.  I told him I had no place to stay if I was stuck in Vegas (well that was true as of yesterday) and that if I had to find a place to stay over the big weekend, it would cost me a fortune.  I even told him if I had to pay for a room over the holiday weekend, I wouldn't be able to afford to pay for the repair (fortunately that wasn’t true).  So he said, "OK, I work on it right now.  Be ready in two hours."  Yeah, I was pretty sure if I hadn't called and really pushed him, there would have been no chance of it being ready that day.

So I called a couple of hours later, in the early afternoon.  He said it would be ready in a half hour.  "I can pick it up in half an hour?"  He said, "Ready in half-hour." OK, so I decided to just go over there.  It'd take me almost 1/2 hour to get there and if I was there and he wasn't finished, maybe my presence would help motivate him.

I got a Lyft over there and I saw him working on it.  So I was standing outside in the cold while he finished up.  And it was really cold.  There was a fair amount of wind and it really cut through you.  I was still wearing my mid-weight jacket which wasn't enough.  I couldn't get to the back seat of my car to get my heavier jacket.  It was unpleasant. 

It did occur to me that maybe it wasn't such a good idea that I was there.   After all, I didn't want him to feel rushed because I was waiting for it. I wanted him to do it right.

I did see him add coolant to the reservoir. This was important, something Woody warned me about.  He told me to find out if he had to dump a lot of coolant out to do the repair.  You see, as I found out a few months earlier when the Lexus nearly overheated, there is a bug in the design of the radiator for this model. When you need to fill the radiator with coolant, it is a bit of a process.  The coolant doesn't drain into the radiator from the reservoir all at once.  You have to fill the reservoir, warm up the engine, and then it will empty into the radiator.  You have to repeat this process multiple times in order to fully fill the radiator.  When I had the problem during the summer, I had to add coolant about half a dozen times before it filled up.  By the way, the Lexus nearly overheating months before turned out to be a fairly minor issue to fix (The Wiz took care of it, of course).   

So I asked TC if he had to dump a lot of coolant.  "I added coolant."  I said, "Did you have dump a lot?"  "I added coolant."  Ok then.

Just remember what I'm telling you about adding coolant for future segments (that's called foreshadowing, folks).

TC showed me the old part and I asked him for it (Woody wanted to inspect it to make sure it was actually bad). 

Woody was concerned with the quality of the replacement part.  So he told me that the first thing I should do when I got the car back was "stress it."  He said the part would most likely either fail almost immediately or be fine.  He suggest a trip on the freeway to Red Rock and back would be a good test.

So finally TC told me it was ready and I paid the agreed upon price.  I was very happy to drive off in my Lexus.  I headed for Red Rock.  Except not Red Rock.  I really had no reason to go to Red Rock.  However, across the way from Red Rock is a big shopping center.  Among the stores in that shopping center is a Costco.  Perhaps the best bargain in all of Vegas—or all of America for that matter—is a Costco hot dog at the food court.  For $1.50 you not only get a pretty big hot dog but they throw in a soda for free.  And the soda is all you can drink. Furthermore, they also sell excellent pizza by the slice for $2.  So I just figured after all I'd been through with the car, I deserve a little treat, right?  Woody told me to drive out there anyway.

So I headed to Red Rock, I mean Costco.  There was a car problem I noticed almost immediately, however.  The "check engine" light was on. It wasn't lit when I dropped the car off.

I should have turned around immediately and taken it back to TC, except for one thing.  That damn check engine light had come on a few times recently and it was always the same thing.  Something to do with a Catalytic Convertor sensor.  Well I had actually replaced that, but the check engine still came on with the same code.  I had just used a code reader myself to check the code and reset it because there was nothing wrong with the damn CC.  So when I saw the check engine light come on, I kind of assumed it was just the damn CC sensor with another false positive.  However, by the time I parked at Costco, I decided I needed to play it safe and double check the code in case it was something else.  So right there in Costco parking lot, in the freezing cold I plugged in the code reader and checked.  But the code that came back had nothing to do with the CC.  Nope, it said something about a faulty Crankshaft sensor.  Oh shit.

Well that was a new development and I knew I had to get my ass back to TC asap before he closed.  No pizza and hot dog for me.  I headed back to TC's shop. 

Then, just as I was just about an 1/8th of a mile or less from his shop, all of a sudden, the battery light came on dash board panel.  That didn't seem good.  So I pulled into the shop and told him about the check engine light and the battery light.  And he immediately went to work on it.  I noticed that the first thing he did when he looked under the hood was rip out some kind of belt.  Yikes.

I watched him work for awhile.  The car was in the driveway and I could at least easily access the back seat and get my heavy jacket.  I even got a sweater out of there to put on underneath the jacket.  But I was still freezing.  The weird thing was that the door to his office/waiting area was locked.  I realized why that was.  The only way the door would stay closed was to lock it.  Otherwise it stayed slight ajar, blasting cold air inside with each breeze, and it was plenty breezy.  And there was always someone inside.  In addition to possibly one or two of his employees, there was an elderly lady who was always there.  I'm guessing she was TC's mother who had nothing better to do all day but sit in the office while he worked.  She sat there reading stuff on her cell phone.  She didn’t speak a lick of English.  But they kept that door locked to keep her warm.

But TC did unlock the door and he told me wait inside.  I could see what he was doing from the window.  But I couldn't go outside and talk to him without unlocking the door.  I was actually sort of  a prisoner there—locked inside, with no car to escape with anyway.

As I said, the car was in the driveway.  It appeared TC had half the engine apart.  So one time, as it was getting dark, I saw someone drive the car—with the hood still up, blocking the windshield—into one of the bays.  Yikes that was scary.  But I guess one of this workers was guiding it in there, since the driver couldn't see anything.  Still wonder how they got the car moving with half the engine missing!

At one point he came to me and told me that that it needed a new gasket.  Do I want to just replace the gasket, which was very cheap, or the gasket and the thermostat?  I had no idea.  Fortunately Woody answered my call and I had him talk directly to TC.  I believe Woody decided that just the gasket would do for now.  TC told me he didn't have the gasket but he ordered it and it would be delivered soon.  I later saw a woman drive up and hand him a part, which I assumed was my new gasket.

TC's shop closes at 6pm.  At least that's what he told me and that's what it said on the sign.  But it was now getting to be past 6pm and he was still working on my car.  Obviously he intended to get me out of there that night.  But it was past 6:30 and there we all were.  At one point the woman let me out to check on it and there were actually four different people huddled around the Lexus, all working on it.

Meanwhile I was starving, and had gone too long without food.  I had been trying to think of what I was going to do that evening, two different plans, one for if I got the car back and the other if I didn't.  But it was getting to the point where I had to eat really soon.  I had noticed there was a Subway just up the street from the shop.  I decided that as soon as I got out of there, that was my first destination, either on foot or by car.  It was literally just a few hundred yards from his shop.

Finally he told me the car wouldn't be ready that night.  He said the belt didn't fit.  It was too small.  He had to order a new belt and it would be there at 9am in the morning.  The car would be ready at around 10am.

Well ok, that's that then.

I immediately walked over to the Subway in the freezing cold.  It was pretty deserted.  The nature of the neighborhood (a lot of car repair places and similar businesses) made it obvious that wasn't a popular place for dinner.  But I bet it did a landmark lunch business.

The sole employee working there was a character. As usual, I asked for "a lot" of toppings.  He asked, "Do other Subways put on this much toppings for you? Or is it just me?"  I said, "No they all do.  Well one did give me a hard time, but I complained to corporate and they ended up having to give me a free sandwich."  He said, "Really?"  I assured him I wasn't joking (see here).

But then he asked me something odd.  "Are you gonna eat all this in one sitting?"  Yes, it was a foot long.  My usual.  I said, "I sure am….I'm a growing boy."  But I did kind of find the question somewhat insulting.  He shouldn’t be implying that his customers are pigs, right?  Anyway, since it was just the two of us in there for most of time I was eating, he was cleaning up a bit and saw that I was done and asked, "Was everything ok?"  I've heard that question many times at restaurants, but never at a Subway.

Anyway, with the car still not in my hands, I knew I wasn't driving home the next day.  Truth be told, once I secured the reservation for the weekend, I had been thinking about staying at least one extra night even if I had been able to pick up the car Thursday.  I mean the rate I got for Friday wasn't that bad and I thought with all the lost time I'd wasted with the car, maybe I deserved one more Friday night in Vegas.  It started sounding like a good idea to stay Friday and then head home Saturday.

So I probably would have decided to do that even if I had my car back.  Now that I wasn't going to be able to get the car at least until late morning Friday, well for sure I was staying in Vegas Friday night.

Meanwhile, I had to decide where to play this night (Thursday).  I had spent a good portion of the afternoon freezing.  Even when I was inside TC's office, well, it was warmer than outside but it was still a bit chilly.  And I had spent a lot of time outside in the cold.  That brief walk to the Subway was really cold.  I was about to be outside in the cold waiting for a Lyft ride.  So I decided where to play based on what poker room I thought would be the warmest.  Seriously, I did.  There were two good options, at least on the Strip.  Either the Wynn or the Mirage.  I opted for Mirage because the Wynn is 1/3 and since I hadn't been to an ATM in a few days (because, lack of car), I didn't have sufficient cash on me for 1/3).  So it was Mirage.

I requested the ride and went outside to wait.  And froze.  If it was freezing cold during the day, you can imagine how cold it was now that the sun had set hours before.  It was only a few minutes but it seemed longer than that in the cold.  But the car did show and I got in and I found heaven.  The car was warm inside.  Wonderfully, blissfully warm.  It was awesome.

The driver was a young black woman and she was quite chatty.  And a total delight.  The first thing I said to her when I got in was how great it was that car was so toasty.  I think I said, "This is the best I've felt all day.  It's great in here.  I think I'm gonna just stay in your car and ride around with you all night. Is that OK with you?"  She said sure. "You can be my riding buddy."  I told her about the experience I had with the very cold Lyft car the other night.  She said she would never do that to a passenger.  "You're supposed to make sure the riders are comfortable."

I told her how I'd been cold all day.  Then I explained why I was going to Mirage.  I said it was the warmest poker room in the city.  And I said, "If anyone ever asks you what's the warmest poker room in Vegas, you can tell them it's the Mirage."  She said she'd remember that.

She told me about some passengers she'd recently had.  First, she told me about the guy from North Dakota who was wearing shorts.  And even then, he was too hot.  He was sharing the ride with a woman who was sitting in the front seat.  She had the car nice and warm and he was begging her to turn off the heat and put on the A/C.  She refused because the female passenger was enjoying the warmth.  So the guy insisted on opening his window, and the lady started complaining about the draft on her neck.

Then she told me about the two young girls she had just dropped off.  "They were wearing practically nothing."  Wait, what?  Young girls wearing minimal clothing in Las Vegas?  That's a thing now?  Who knew?  She continued.  "Short dresses, no coats, one of them had her stomach exposed, one had cutaway leggings."  And she had dropped them off at T-Mobile Arena for the hockey game.  I asked, "Were they going to a club after the game?"  She said, "Exactly."  Now how did I know that?

She warned them that they were going to freeze to death dressed like that, but one of the girls said, "Oh, I'll be fine once I get a few drinks in me."  I pointed out that the arena would be pretty chilly too, as I'm led to believe they keep the temperature cool for a hockey game so the ice stays hard.  She said she told them that.  I said, "Well, I guess she can get some beer at the game."

So….a woman, a total stranger, basically telling yours truly about the Slut Parade?  What are the odds?

And with that, we close another saga in this long-running saga.  The next chapter can be found here.


  1. I can't wait for more! Keep posting. And, get a warm jacket and a scarf or wool cap!!!! The polar vortex is upon us.

    1. LOL....I was thinking it was kind of bad timing, posting this chapter while the east and midewest are experience temperatures that would make what I went thru seem like a heat wave. Oh well, you can't control the weather.

      And as you know....I haven't even gotten to best part yet! Well, best for the story, worst for me personally.

  2. When you told us the ethnicity of your Uber driver, and she started to tell you about her previous passengers, I was really hoping one of them was going to be a paranoid poker blogger we all know...

    1. LOL! That's really funny, Anony. However, this took place before TBC's latest trip to Vegas. Of course she could have remembered him from the previous time he was in Vegas, and my mentioning poker could have triggered her memory of this unusual poker player. I wonder if Tony tells his Lyft/Uber drivers that he plays poker?