Thursday, February 28, 2019

"I Put The Over/Under at 2-1/2....."

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 11

Warning:  This post will have some actual poker content!  That's right, even though this post is the next chapter in my car troubles saga, I have decided to include my New Year's Eve festivities—in an actual casino, playing poker—as part of it.  Up until now, I've skipped over the parts where I got to a poker room to play, planning on catching up with those stories later.  But for this night only, I will discuss my long poker session that took place immediately after the lost radiator cap incident.  It makes sense, because I was only in Vegas to play on this night because of the car problems.  And besides, I know you folks are all hungry for some poker content by now, right?  Oh, and I just might have a few words to say about the scantily clad young ladies dressed to the nines for NY's Eve as well.

As a reminder, the previous chapter can be found here.  And you can find all the posts in this epic saga using the label "Stranded in Vegas."

I left you hanging on NY's Eve, around 5:45pm, with my radiator cap secured, hoping I could make it to the MGM before they closed all the streets for the big New Year's celebration.

I decided to see if Google Maps had a suggested route that was still open.  I could see from the map they knew a lot of the roads were closed. But they suggested an interesting route, which they said was "fastest route due to road closures."  It was actually the simplest route—straight down Flamingo, turn right on the Strip, turn left at Tropicana.  Now, I spend my entire time in Vegas steadfastly avoiding driving on the Strip, it's a traffic nightmare.  So I would not normally go that way.  But the thing is, my best non-Strip routes were already closed to traffic.

I hurried to see if I could make it before they closed the Strip, which they were about to do any second.  Sure enough, the traffic going down Flamingo was incredibly light.  People were already avoiding it.  I turned on the Strip and couldn't believe it.  I practically had the street to myself.  Seriously, I had never seen the Strip that empty. It was a pleasure driving on it.  Tropicana was also light traffic, and I had no trouble turning into the MGM parking structure.  I probably made it to the garage with just minutes to spare before they closed Flamingo, Tropicana and the Strip!  Thank you, TC!

Parking was a little more difficult.  I wanted to go up to the 6th floor (instead of my usual floor, either 4 or 5) but signs said the 6th & 7th levels were closed.  Great night to close some of the parking levels, only their busiest night of the year.  Well I found a spot on the fifth floor, just not as close to the elevators as I would have liked. I knew I was pretty much stuck at MGM for the next 8-9 hours or so.

I figured I should get dinner out of the way before starting to play.  There was really only one decent option for me.  I didn't have enough comps to eat at the sports bar and it is way too overpriced for me to pay for a meal there.  The deli that replaced the Stage Deli is an abomination, terrible food at unreasonable prices.  Fortunately a year or two ago they put in a Subway just before you enter (or exit) the parking garage.  It would have to do.

The good thing about the Subway is that they had a bunch of wrapped, plastic straws over where you got your soda (no free refills, not at a Subway in a casino, no sir). I took a few extra because I knew that it was still MGM policy not to provide straws for drinks in the casino. Finally figured out a way to beat the system.

I was at the poker room around 7 and was seated right away.  And I got lucky. I was not only sent to a table right up against the rail separating the room from the walkway, but my seat was facing all the foot traffic.  In other words, I had a prime seat for enjoying the New Year's Eve Slut Parade which was about to commence.  And damn it, after all I'd been through with the car the past 10 days, I felt entitled to a free show. 

And there was plenty to see.  Hakkasan always attracts a huge NY's Eve crowd and they were arriving early.  Now at first, a lot of the ladies were wearing pants.  Some nerve!  Actually I couldn't blame them, it was just so cold in Vegas.  But pretty much all the females I could see walking by the poker room were at risk of getting severe chest colds.  Every conceivable way to display the female breast while still keeping the outfit legal was featured this night. There was a high percentage of really attractive women, to be sure.

Before you ask (for the umpteenth time), no, I didn't get any pics.  Sorry. I always thought it was impossible, but every now and then I have tried.  I've even tried to take some video.  But it never comes out well.  And worse, trying to record it totally ruins it for me, I end up missing the action trying to document it.  It's just not something I can do.

Anyway, the guys at my table (and at this point, it was all guys), were definitely noticing the girls.  One guy said, "Don't they wear bras in Vegas?"  I saw girls obviously wearing bras, but I did see a few who definitely needed them but had apparently forgotten to put one on before leaving the house. One guy, a serious player who was only playing at this game because he was waiting for a seat at the 2-5 game, actually moved so he would have his back to the walkway so he would be less distracted.  I suppose that made sense, but if you can't have a little harmless fun while you're in Vegas on NY's Eve, what's the point?

When a female dealer pushed in, some of our comments on the girls stopped, but everyone was still enjoying the sights.  The dealer noticed and said something like, "Yeah, all these girls walking by, with just one tiny little piece of fabric covering them."

The male dealer who replaced her was certainly enjoying the view.  The dealer's seat was the perfect spot to notice the ladies.  Almost immediately after sitting down, he said, "What's the over/under on how many naked girls we're gonna see from this spot tonite?"  One of the players asked, "Naked naked?"  The dealer said, "Well not naked naked. But partially naked.  Titties falling out.  I'm gonna put it at 2-1/2 titties."  The player asked for a clarification of what he meant.  So he pantomimed where the dress might be cut down to and said they would fall out.

By that standard, I saw no titties that night.

Much later, after we had entered 2019, there was a different male dealer at the table and by now a couple of ladies had joined our table. This guy was apparently making a double-entendre having to do with something that had happened while he was shuffling or dealing the cards.  He said, to the entire table, "When I double fist…."  but he never finished his thought.  However, the woman across from me said, "Tell us more."  But he must have realized what he was saying was totally inappropriate and didn't continue the conversation.

As for the poker, it was pretty good.  It was mostly non-regs. There was one really good player from the east coast—the guy who moved so he wouldn't see the girls walking by.  The rest were pretty average or worse.  I won a few small pots but nothing major, and was about even when the big hand happened.

There was one fairly aggro at the table who built up a good stack but eventually busted out.  The other player in this hand was a newbie.  Well, he was new to brick-and-mortar.  He said he is used to playing with just his friends.  He kept making the kind of mistakes a player without much card room experience would make, like making string bets.

On this hand I called $12 from the aggro with pocket 8's.  A number of others called—it was 5 or 6 way—including the newbie.  The flop was King-10-8 rainbow.  The preflop raiser (the aggro) bet $26.  With a number of players behind me and no flush draw out there, I decided I could slow play it and just called.  It folded to the newbie who shoved $112.  The aggro tanked for a bit, finally said, "OK, let's gamble," and called.  It was back on me.

I put the newbie on one of two hands.  He either had pocket 10's and I was screwed, or he had King-10 and I was in very good shape. There was no way he was doing that with a draw, or with just top pair.  He had at least two pair or a set.  I suppose King-8 or 10-8 were possible, but I couldn't see him calling the raise with those hands.  I figured a set of  Kings was unlikely, I think he would have three-bet pre with those.  I couldn't rule it out completely, but it a set of 10's seemed so much more likely.

Of course I wasn't folding my bottom set.  The next day, when I recorded my notes, I couldn't believe I didn't shove then.  But I just called.  I wish I could explain my thought process, but I can't.

The turn was a blank and after the aggro checked, I shoved.  But he folded.  I was now heads up against the newbie.  The river also blanked and the newbie showed, King-10, just as I thought.  He was stunned when he saw my set of 8's.  But he rebought.  Meanwhile, I now was sitting behind over $400. 

At some point in the evening, before midnight, two Indians joined our table, and then things got wild.  One them had blond hair.  I dunno, but it was a bit disconcerting to see a man from India with blond hair.  The blond Indian was an absolute maniac.  Fortunately he was sitting directly on my right.  His friend was next to him.  The non-blond was a rather timid player, most likely new, and not much of a threat.  He busted out fairly soon, borrowed some money from his buddy, re-entered the game and lost that too.  Then he mostly sat behind his blond buddy and watched.

At one point, the one still playing went up to use the restroom.  And his buddy, by now just a spectator, took his seat and intended to play his friend's stack.  For some reason the dealer was distracted and didn't notice.  I had to stop her from dealing him cards by pointing out that they had pulled the switch.  "You can't do that!" I said to the guy.  "I can't?  Oh, ok."  Once the dealer realized what had happened she slid his card to me.

The blond guy was usually betting big, big preflop raises, big bets on all the streets when he stayed in a hand (which was most of the time).  He bullied people into a lot of folds, but I swear, on those rare times when he had to show, he usually had a monster.  One time he had King-Jack and flopped a boat.  He had a high variance  game to say the least.  He was spreading chips all over the table, except to me.  I was totally card dead after the set of 8's hand.

Remember the tough player who was waiting for a seat in the 2-5 game?  Well, once that guy saw the Indian putting tons of chips in play, he decided to stay in this game.  His stack went up and down, as did the Indian's.  The tough player once shoved the turn with King-high and the Indian called—with just a draw.  Of course he hit his flush on the river and a big stack of chips changed hands.  I said to the tough player, "Easy come, easy go."  He just nodded.  He wasn't upset. He knew there was a good chance he'd get them back.  And he did.

Now before the set of 8's hand, I had won a smallish pot with a set of deuces that boated up on the turn (no call on my turn bet).  I had also flopped trip deuces with 3-2 from the big blind.  Again, no call on my turn bet.  But that was earlier.  Now I was getting nothing to play.

Meanwhile, after distributing stacks around the table and rebuying a few times, the Indian's game had settled down.  Although he was still making big bets on later streets, and even shoving into very small pots, he had mostly taken to limping instead of raising preflop.  So I limped behind him with pocket 9's and it was four way.  The flop was 9-high, my third set of the night.  I bet $10 and everyone called.  The turn was a 10 and put a second diamond on the board.  I decided to bet big so I made it $75.  It folded back to the Indian and he called without a thought.

The river was the Ace of diamonds.  So now there was a flush possible.  When he checked, I decided to play it safe and checked behind.  I hadn't seen this guy do a lot of check-raising but I didn't want to be put in a difficult spot if decided to try it now.  I showed my set and he turned over Queen-7off suit.  Which meant he had nothing, absolutely nothing.  There was no Jack or 8 on the board that he could have made a straight with.  It looked like he had a pair draw.  Why the hell he called my bet on the turn with that, I have no idea.  But I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have called anything I could have bet on the river, because he had to know his Queen high wasn't good.

Last hand I'll mention, I had pocket Jacks.  The Indian opened to $20.  By this time, he was mostly limping so it was a bit of a surprise.  I think if I had gotten Jacks when he first sat down and was raising big every time, I would have three-bet.  But now I had to assume he had a pretty good hand.  There were a few callers and the flop was Ace-10-x.  He bet big and I just folded.  There was one caller and then on the turn he bet big again and took it down.  He showed his hand though he didn't have to.  Pocket 10's. So I was ahead of him pre but he would have called my three-bet and then taken the pot with his set.

Although many games broke as midnight approached and folks left to go outside to watch the fireworks in the freezing cold, our table never stopped.  It was almost always full even as the casino was mostly empty. Our dealer wondered if it was going to get busy again after the fireworks.  She was new to the room and this was her first NY's Eve. She was hoping it wouldn't so she could take an early out and leave before her scheduled time of 3am.  But I told her it was going to get real busy by 12:30.  "They are going to be opening tables left and right, watch."  Well I was right but I guess I should have told this to the folks running the room, all of whom were fairly new to the room and apparently didn't know what to expect on NY's eve.  They actually sent a bunch of dealers home during the lull and then suddenly the dealers who stayed were all working seven straight tables without a break.

After midnight this real character got into the game.  A friendly guy from Arkansas.  They must have different rules where he normally plays.  He liked to talk about his cards.  All the time.  When he was facing a bet, he'd say, "Well I got King-Queen so…"  He kept talking about what he was holding.  Was he telling the truth?  Sometimes he was.  But one time he said what he had, then actually flashed his cards.  The other player didn't see it but the dealer did and said his cards were not what he said they were.

Well all of that is strictly forbidden at MGM.  You can't talk about your cards, and you surely can't reveal them as long as there is still action pending.  The dealer warned him about this time and time again.  He didn't care. He was there to have a good time and for him that mean chatting about his cards.

He would say, "But it's heads up. I've got Ace-3."  He was told he couldn't say that even if it was heads up.  "Well, I don't believe that. I'm talking about my cards."  The floor was called and warned him sternly.  He didn't say anything and then when the floor left he went right back to saying what his cards were.

The more he was warned, the more pissed off he got. He started swearing.  "I don't care what the f*** they say, I'm talking about my cards."

The other players didn't mind of course.  In addition to all this information he was giving us, he also was dropping numerous buy-ins and reloading.  I'm pretty sure he had quite a few alcoholic beverages before joining us to celebrate the new year.

But eventually they did kick him out.  He didn't go quietly, shouting, "They're mother-f***ers."  One of the women at the table said, "Hey, you can call me a mother-f***er if you're giving me your money."

I grew tired of being so card dead and more importantly, I was just plain tired.  So I cashed out up $225. 

It was still too early for the roads to have reopened, so I wandered around, enjoying the view.  There were provocatively dressed young ladies everywhere, most of them quite attractive. I saw one young lady sitting down in her very short dress, and for a brief second I thought I noticed that she wasn't wearing any underwear.  Being a gentleman, I looked away immediately so as not to see something that should be only be seen by her future husband (or, her gynecologist).  So I really can't be sure if perhaps she was just wearing flesh-colored undies.

I guess it was around 3am when I saw that all the roads had been reopened and I could get back to the Gold Coast easily.  And fortunately, the car was still behaving fine and I made it back there without incident.

And that's it for this chapter. I'm not sure, but I think I will be able to wrap up this saga in one or two more chapters.  But since I haven't listened to my recordings yet, and it has been awhile at this point, don't hold me to it.  We'll just have to see.  Back soon.  (Edited to add:  Yes!  Our long national nightmare is over.  I was able to wrap it up with one last chapter, and you can find that chapter here.)

Sunday, February 24, 2019

I Hate it When I Lose Things. Like Cars. And Radiator Caps.

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 10

You can find the previous chapter here and remember you can find all stories in the series using the label, "Stranded in Vegas."

I parked in the self-parking garage at Gold Coast and headed to the front desk.  Fortunately there wasn't much of a line. My room was still being held for me.  Phew.  Even though I paid for the room--$470—upfront through Agoda, they still had to charge my credit card $100 for the resort fee ($22 a night) and "incidentals."  But I got my room key, went to the room, saw that it checked out fine and started hauling all my bags up to the room.

By the time I finished getting everything up there, I was nearly dying.  Yes, my back and feet were hurting something fierce (remember, I had taken that long walk to the Outlet Mall earlier in the day) but I was dripping with sweat.  You see I had to wear my heavy jacket and my sweater to handle the outdoors, but most of my trek to the room was inside the casino, where it was nice and warm.  And I was walking as fast as my aching feet could carry me.  So I was just sweating profusely.

And once again, I was mentally and physically exhausted.  Once I had the last of my bags up in the room, I abandoned  my original plan of taking a Lyft to the strip to play poker.  I knew I wasn't up to it.  I just wanted to eat and then lie down—perhaps forever.  Oh, and in case you didn't know, Gold Coast does not have a poker room.  They used to have a small room, but it closed quite a few years ago.  In fact, it closed down well before I started working in the poker biz. I never played there.

I went downstairs for dinner.  It was late—past 8pm—and the only (relatively) cheap option was a Subway that they added a few years ago.  For a few years I almost couldn't eat at GC as most of the other eateries are Chinese cuisine.  They also have a TGIFriday's but I didn't want to wait that long.  I had a feeling I would be having a lot of meals at that Subway for the next few days. Oh and this is cute.  When I checked in they gave me a whole bunch of coupons good for discounts at various places in the casino, like the bowling alley and some of the restaurants, including the Subway.  I actually got two Subway coupons (I think they were for 10% off).  But all the coupons expired 12/30/18.  Which happened to be the very day I checked in. So the only coupon I got to use was one of the two Subway coupons.

After dinner I wandered around the casino as best I could.  I considered playing a bit—more table games?—but actually it was almost too crowded.  Now of course they did have Pai Gow tables.  Back when I was playing that a lot, Gold Coast was always one of my favorite places to play.  In fact, when my pal Norm and I were visiting Vegas together regularly, we played so much Pai Gow at Gold Coast we actually got to know some of the regulars.  But the casino was just maxed out. The Gold Coast has always had a huge Asian clientele and around this time of year, a lot of folks from Asia show up.  I don't think I'd ever seen as many Baccarat tables as they had going, and they were all full.  Those that couldn't find a spot at a Baccarat table were playing Pai Gow.  But I was so tired and hurting anyway I'm not sure I would have played anyway.

I ended up buying a few snacks at the gift shop and heading back to the room.  I didn't bother to unpack.  I plopped on the bed with my phone, looked at it for a minute or two and almost immediately dozed off.

I woke up just in time to unpack, have my midnite snack, and retire for the evening.  So for the second day in a row, I was paying through the nose for a room in Nevada and not even playing poker, which of course is what I come to NV for.

The room I had was—well not great.  But it was not great by design.  When I first started staying at this place, many years ago (and probably soon after they opened), the rooms were fine.  Nothing fancy, but quite satisfactory and of course they were generally reasonably priced, that's why I stayed there.  But a few years back, they started "upgrading" their rooms. The last time I stayed there—which was likely right around the time I started with PokerAtlas—I got one of their newly remodeled rooms.  I preferred the old design.

The rooms look very nice, very modern.  But the modern style has a few impractical features.  The bathroom is just weird, especially the shower.  There is no shower curtain and only half a shower door.  On the half of the shower near the faucet, there's a glass window that doesn't move.  The back half of the shower is wide open, there's nothing there.  Now it is fairly well designed so that water doesn't generally splash (too much) on the bathroom floor.  But a little bit does.  The really bad thing about this, however, is that there is nothing to keep the steam and the warmth of the shower inside the shower while you are in it.  I mean a door or a curtain would keep you warmer, but the cold air from the rest of the room comes right into the shower with you, unimpeded.  You have to get the water warmer than you'd like to have it just to keep somewhat warm.  Also, it's just a shower, there's no tub.  I like to stop up the tub while I shower so I can soak my feet.  But no option to do that here.  If you stop up the drain, you'll flood the bathroom within a minute or two.

The poor design of the shower presents another problem.  Since there is an unmovable glass door in the front half of the shower, where the faucet is, there is no way you can just reach in with your hand to turn the water on.  You have to get in the shower to get it started.  Thus when you turn on the shower, pretty much your whole body gets hit with a jarring blast of cold water.  Yeah, it gets warm fast, but the initial blast is chilling to say the least.

Another bad feature of the room is the work desk they provide.  It's a very high desk.  To make up for it, the chairs they give are super low.  It's really impossible to work on the desk as is, your hands are much too high to type.  I recalled that last time I had this issue, I complained, hoping to get a taller chair.  All they could do is offer me extra pillows to put on the chair to prop myself up.  So I tried this again.  The trouble is, the desk is really thick.  And so when I sat on the pillows, my legs bang up against the bottom of the desk.  Very uncomfortable. It's just not a very well thought out design—like the shower.

Also, there were not nearly enough outlets in the room, a problem in this electronics dominated age.

On the plus side, when I got to the room I requested a refrigerator, and they said no problem.  The brought one up, it was a little bigger than the average portable hotel fridge that I'm used to.  Now they didn't say what they were going to charge me for it.  Typically they say it's $10-$20.    Now that's usually for the entire stay.  Although the one time I stayed at Excalibur they said they would charge me $10 a day for the fridge, so I told them to forget it.  Well, when I checked out, they didn't charge me a penny for the fridge.  So that was nice.

I slept pretty well and didn't leave the room the next morning until 11am.  I nervously checked under the car and saw no sign of leaks.  Hooray.  I knew had to stress the car, per Woody's instructions.  You know, give it a good test.  And I also had to add more coolant (burp it).  It was not only cold but extremely windy this morning.  The car was on the roof of the garage.  When I tried pouring coolant into the radiator the wind blew some of it all over the place, creating a major spill.  But I did get the reservoir filled up.

First stop was a nearby 7-11 from which I could use an ATM that wouldn't charge me any fees.  After parking, as I was walking away from the car, I noticed a liquid coming down from the engine.  It was green.  Damn it.  But it was in a different location than before, it was right under the coolant reservoir.  I wondered if maybe, just maybe, it was from the spill and it really wasn't leaking.  I decided I needed some time to figure this out.

So I drove back to Gold Coast, parked it and went in the casino and killed a little time.  When I got back to the car I saw no evidence of any leaking.  Phew.  I decided it was time to test the car by making another Costco run.  I needed lunch anyway.

The car seemed fine and I parked at Costco.  I picked a spot where I thought it would be easy to add more coolant after my lunch.  Now for some reason, this particular Costco parking lot is sort of my nemesis.  Every time I've parked there I've always had a bit of difficulty finding my car when I return to it.  So this time, I swear that I took extra care to note exactly where I parked it.  I parked it parallel to the front entrance, and in an aisle that was the last one before a driveway.  And, I was absolutely sure, I had to veer slightly to my right to get to the entrance.

Before eating my delicious (and cheap) hot dog and pizza lunch, I checked inside Costco for some desperately needed shirts (yeah, I was out of those too) but I couldn't find what I was looking for. So back to the car. 

But the car was not where I left it.  Or where I thought I had left it.  Seriously, I knew exactly where it was and it wasn't there.  It was the last aisle before a driveway and it wasn't there.  There wasn't a similar setup for many aisles on the other side, and I absolutely knew I hadn't parked that far in that direction.  I wandered around the parking lot, in the blustery cold wind, desperately looking for my car.  And I started panicking.  I looked up and down the aisles in aisles I knew it couldn't be because it was in the generally vicinity of where I knew I had parked.

Desperate, I went back in the store, more for warmth than anything else, and then asked the person who checks your Costco card for help.  She enlisted the aid of some kid who collects the shopping carts.  He grabbed my key chain and started pressing the panic button on the fob, hoping to hear the horn go off.  But nothing.  He spent about 5-10 minutes helping me look in the same area I had been looking but finally gave up and I was on my own.  I was so upset.    After all I went through to get it working, had my car been stolen out of the Costco parking lot? Was that even possible?

The fact that I was freezing my ass off outside looking for it made it whole lot worse. I finally had no choice but to head over to an area where I was sure it couldn't possibly be, where I would have had to have walked to my left, not my right, to get the entrance.  As I said, I knew I had walked to the left.  But suddenly, magically, it was there, about 5-7 aisles away from where I was looking (same set up as I recalled, in the last aisle of a section, next lane beyond it was a driveway). How could I misremember that badly?

I was both relieved and mad.  Mad at myself for being so stupid.  Honestly, I felt like a total moron.  Up until that point, I had never felt like a bigger idiot in my life.  But keep reading, I actually managed to feel like a bigger idiot just a few hours later.

I put some more coolant in the car, which was no fun in the freezing cold wind, and then stopped at a Walmart on the way back to the hotel.  I knew Walmart would have the exact type of shirts I was looking for and they did.  I also picked up another jug of coolant because one thing I'd learned in the past week, you can never have too much spare coolant.  And it was very cheap at Walmart.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of other items I could have gotten at the Walmart that I really needed and didn't think of at the time.

Back at the Gold Coast (where for some reason they had not made up my room), I tried to nap so I would be ready for another New Year's Eve poker session in Vegas, but was unsuccessful.  Originally I had planned on being home by now, but since I was stuck in Vegas paying ridiculous prices for a room, I was damn sure planning to play some poker that night, forgetting about my car troubles and the various expenses I had incurred, and doing my best to enjoy celebrating the new year. 

Now if my car had still been problematic, I would have had to have used Lyft to get to the Strip for the evening.  That was not a great option because I assumed that the rates would be jacked up for the big night. One of my Lyft drivers the previous week had mentioned something about "triple time" or something like that for NY's Eve.

But I appeared good to go.  So around 4:30pm I headed down to my car ready to get to the Strip just before they closed the Strip for night.  I had parked in the garage, not the top floor, so it would be less windy putting yet another batch of coolant in.

So, there I was, hood opened, radiator cap off, pouring coolant in the reservoir.  It was still a tad warm so I used a rag to loosen the cap, and I had the cap sitting on top of the rag, resting on some nearby part of the engine. And when I had filled it up, I somehow grabbed the radiator cap and the rag in such a way that the radiator cap slipped out of my grip, and it fell into the engine!!!


I looked under the engine, using my cell phone's flashlight feature.  But it wasn't on the ground under the car. I assumed it hadn't gotten stuck somewhere in the engine, possible in that plastic cover thing that's at the bottom or perhaps somewhere else.  But for sure I couldn't drive the car without risking the cap damaging something, coolant spilling out of the top, and possibly the cap coming loose while driving and losing it.  In other words, I was stuck.

I seriously had never felt so awful in my life.  Yes, I felt like a bigger idiot than I had just a few hours back while I was looking for my lost car at Costco. This was a new low.  To say I felt suicidal would be an understatement.  After all I had gone through with my car and now it finally seemed to be working ok, and then this?  It now appeared my NY's Eve was going to be ruined. How ridiculously stupid.  I just couldn't believe it.  This was a form of depression I had never experience before—depression and self-loathing for being such a monumental fuck-up. I was screaming at myself for being so lame. I told Woody & LM that I'd rather have a WWE wrestler perform a colonoscopy on me without anesthesia than re-live the past 10 days of my life, culminating with this moment and the lost radiator cap.

On the phone to Woody, he suggested calling AAA.  Retrieving that radiator cap was a service they would cover. So I called them. Nope, they don't cover that.  However, they did refer me to a provider who would come out and help me, at whatever they wanted to charge.

At 5pm on New Year's Eve.

So they connected with a company and they said they could come out.  They would charge $95 for the service call and it would be about 45-minutes for them to show up.  I wondered if that estimate took into consideration that streets were already closing in my vicinity for the celebration taking place at midnight?

I was cursing and pissing and moaning and beating myself up and of course waiting for them to show up. Then I had a crazy thought.  TC's shop wasn't far away and if he was still there, he'd probably be closing soon. So what the hell, I called him. I told him the car wasn't leaking but I had done a boneheaded thing and dropped the radiator cap into the engine.

He said, sure, I could come by and he'd check it out. I don't think he actually understood what I had told him.  I said that the cap was lost somewhere in the engine and I couldn't drive it.  Could he please, please, please possibly swing by and help me out?  I think he knew where the Gold Coast was and that it was really close to his shop. He was still at the shop.  So….he said he would do it.  He'd be there in about 20-30 minutes.  I thanked him and then called back the place that was coming to help me out for $95 and cancelled them.

Now I had to trust that TC was good to his word.  But hey, if he drove all the way to Primm, surely he would drive the few miles to Gold Coast, right?  I waited, looking at the clock, wondering if my latest disaster had made it impossible to get to the Strip before traffic completely closed down.  Oh, I knew I could get there somehow after all the roads closed, but it would be a freaking fustercluck.

At least Gold Coast had aisle and row identifiers.  I texted my exact location to TC and waited.  And sure enough I saw his Toyota van driving around looking for me within half an hour.

He looked into the engine with a flash light, bent down, and within less than a minute pulled out the radiator cap.  It had been resting on the bottom of the plastic protector thing as I had guessed.  He screwed it back on, then had me start the engine and a gave the car a quick inspection for leaks.  It checked out.  He wished me a Happy New Year and started to take off.

I tried to give him some money.  He had not gotten a dime from me since I paid for the initial repair.  I wanted to give him some cash for the house call which was totally my fault.  But he refused.  "Are you sure?"  He was, he wouldn't accept anything.  He shook my hand and again wished me a Happy New Year.  I thanked him profusely.  I must say the guy's integrity and dedication were beyond reproach.

Well it was now 5:45pm.  Most of the roads servicing the Strip were already closed.  The Strip itself was supposed to be closed by 6.  Would I make it over there in time?

Sorry but you'll have to wait for the next chapter in this never-ending saga to find out. Stay tuned, my friends.  And now you can find the next chapter here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Returning to Vegas in Style

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 9

You can find the previous chapter here and remember you can find all stories in the series using the label, "Stranded in Vegas."

I woke up the next day to unfamiliar surroundings.  Damn, I was still in Buffalo Bill's.  It hadn't all been some horrible nightmare. 

But as soon as I got up, I discovered the one really good thing about Buffalo Bill's.  It was the shower, and more specifically, the water pressure.  It had been years and years since I'd felt such strong water pressure coming out of a shower.  Because of droughts in NV and CA, they have really turned down the water pressure.  I dunno how the word hasn't gotten to Primm, but man was it nice to take a shower with enough water pressure.  It was worth the entire ordeal just to experience it that one morning.

Well, not exactly.  Not even close.

But it was nice. 

I was anxious to get down to my car and check to see if there were any signs of leaks.  So I packed up my stuff and started loading up my car.  One way or the other, I had to get back to Vegas that day because that's where I had three nights booked at Gold Coast.

By the time I made my first run down to the car, it was late morning, and I couldn't believe the line at the registration desk.  I figured these were people checking out?  It was probably too early for arrivals. So I guess those people I was with the night before weren't planning to spend the NY's Eve in Primm? 

Fortunately I could do Express Check-out.  If I had waited in that line, I might still be there.  Of course, Express Check-out consisted of filling out a card and dropping it in a box.  No fancy electronics for Buffalo Bill's.

Well, I got to the car and could see the unmistakable sign of coolant under the car.  Damn it!  I moved the car (there were open spaces now) and confirmed it.  It didn't take long for me to see the green puddle under the car in its new space.  I was screwed.

I called Woody and told him the bad news.  He said there was no way I should try to drive it back to Vegas with the leak.  I agreed.  I suppose since I got to Primm the day before with a leak, I might have been able to make it back—but how many stops along the way?  It might have been better if there wasn't stop-n-go traffic.  But who wanted to experience the horrors that I went thru day before again?  Not me.

I tried calling TC, even though it was a Sunday morning.  I did have his cell phone number.  But after a bunch of rings, a recorded, female voice picked up.  "The voicemail box for the number you have called has not been set up." I was not surprised. I couldn't even leave a message.  I suppose I could have sent him a text, but I assumed that no matter what, there was no way I was hearing back from him until Monday.

Woody said I was obviously gonna have to bite the bullet and get the car towed into Vegas.  I knew I would have to pay a lot if I used AAA.  I'd had the car towed in late summer, and was told that there was a mileage charge above 7 miles.  The tow driver I had at the time purposely avoided the freeway to take me on a route to the shop that would be just under 7 miles so I wouldn't have to pay anything.  I couldn't recall how much the mileage charge quoted was, it was at least $5 a mile, maybe more.  That would make it close to $200. 

Woody and LM suggested I try to find a cheaper tow than AAA.  Call around, get quotes.  So much fun.

But before I started checking on towing costs, I had another very important mission to accomplish.  I had to buy underwear.

You see, when I had gotten dressed that morning, I had put on the last of my clean undershorts.  That was it, I was done.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I knew I would run out of clothes if I stayed more than a few days beyond what was originally scheduled.  So if I had been able to get to Vegas in my car, I would have hoped that I'd also have been able to stop by a Target or a Walmart and pick up some.

But now, I assumed I wouldn't be able to drive anywhere in Vegas when I got there.  I really didn't want to pay for a Lyft driver to take me to and from the nearest Target.  Ugh.  So then I had another thought.  I remembered that next to the Primm Valley Resort, there's a rather famous Outlet Mall. It was probably close enough to walk to, at least in the day when the sun was out.   Surely I could find some underwear there.  And since it was an outlet mall, it would be cheap, right?

So that seemed like it made sense.  I also knew they had a food court (I ate there once) and figured I could grab some lunch there (certainly better than the limited options at Buffalo Bill's).  So that was my next activity.  I actually used Google Maps to give me the walking route to the mall since I wasn't sure exactly where it was.

I was bundled up but even in the sun it was damn cold.  And it was a pretty good walk.  By the time I made it over there, my back and my feet were killing me.  And I was cold.  Of course once I got inside the mall, I was way too warm, what with my heavy coat and a sweater on.  I couldn't win.  One other note—and I had to look this up just now to confirm—the Outlet Mall is in NV, not CA.  I was wondering if I had actually walked back to CA!  Nope, it must be right on the border.

I didn't realize how big the mall was and I had a lot more walking to do once inside.  I saw all the stores (Gap, Old Navy, Calvin Klein, etc) and figured I could find some appropriate underwear.  But what I really needed was a Target or a Walmart outlet store.  When I did find a store that had Men's underwear, it was all designer stuff, aimed at well-heeled millennials and it was ridiculously expensive.  I couldn't believe the pricing, these were Outlet stores and supposed to be bargains!  All I wanted was some plain, nothing fancy, Haines or Fruit-of-the-Looms.  Yeesh.  Finally I found the Levi's store and they had the closest thing to what I wanted.  There was no price on it that I could see.  But there was a sign saying 50% off.  I believe the deal was, buy 1, get 50% off the second.

So I grabbed two packages of three pairs each which I certainly hoped and prayed would last until I finally made it home.  When I saw the girl ring it up I almost fainted.  Then she gave me the 50% discount on the second pack and it was a teeny, weeny bit better.  It's just too embarrassing to admit how much I paid for those undies, but let's just say, for what I paid for them, it should have been ladies underwear and it should have come complete with a Sports Illustrated super-model to wear them (and of course, take them off).

I found the food court.  That one time I ate there, quite a number of years ago, I recall eating at a Subway.  But there was no Subway there now (likely because of the Subway that was at the Truck Stop I'd been in the day before).  I settled for a pizza place and got the lunch special: one slice of pizza, a small salad, and a drink (no refill).  It was a bargain at half the price.

While eating, I used my cell phone to Google towing services, and found a few with decent reviews, one in particularly was getting raves.

So when I got back to the car, I called the one with the good reviews and first asked if they would even come all the way out to where I was and bring me back to Vegas today (of course the towing company was located in Vegas).  They said yes, so I asked for a quote.  "It'll be $200, flat fee." I thanked him for the quote.

But I had nothing to compare it to.  I knew I had to find out what it would cost me going through AAA.  So I called them.  It took awhile to get through all the automated voice prompts and give them my membership number and all that.  Anyway, the lady on the line said that after 7-miles, it would cost me but she couldn't say how much.  "It's the commercial rate. Whatever our contractor charges.  I've seen it as low as $5/mile, or as high as $12/mile."  Wow, that's a big difference.

She also mentioned that with an upgraded membership to the next level, I would be covered for 100 miles each tow.  But before I could sign up for that deal she added, "But there's a 48-hour waiting period before you are entitled to the 100-mile tow."  So in other words, if I wanted to wait around until Tuesday, aka New Years Day, I could pay for an upgraded membership and get towed for free.  I had no intention of hanging around Buffalo Bill's for another 48 hours.  I just couldn't survive that much fun. Just out of curiosity I asked how much to upgrade my membership, but she couldn't even tell me that, I'd have to speak to member services.

So I asked her how if I could find out how much the tow would actually cost. Although she couldn't give me a quote, she said she could try connecting me directly with the contractor they would send to get me, and they could give me a quote.  But she warned me that they might not be there today.  I asked, "Well, if they're not there, how are they gonna tow me?"  All I got in response to that was, "Oh, don't worry, we'll get to you."

I wasn't sure how that worked but she put me on hold and did indeed connect me with the towing company they were going to use.  And a very nice lady answered and I told her what I needed and she said the charge would be $10/mile.  Now the lady from AAA had already told me that based on the address I gave them for where I wanted the car dropped off, it was 45 miles.  Well the good thing about $10/mile is I could do the math in my head.  Let's see, 45 minus 7 is 38 miles, at $10/mile that's a mere $380.  Yikes.

I thanked the lady for her time.  Obviously the $200 rate was the way to go.  I called back that place and ordered a tow. And saved myself $180. They said it would be about 45-minutes.  So I settled into my car and waited.

While I was waiting, I noticed a text from, of all people, TC.  It said, "Your car is OK?"  I responded, "No. It's leaking like crazy. I'm gonna have it towed to your shop unless you have another idea."  I never heard anything further from him.

Well, after nearly an hour I got a call from the driver saying it would be another 15-minutes. But after almost another half-hour I called him asking where he was.  He said he was almost there but that there was just a lot of traffic.  "So many people leaving Vegas today."  Again?  I thought they all left yesterday?  Who would be in Vegas this close to NY's Eve and leave now?

Anyway, I finally got another call from him telling me he had been driving around the parking lot looking for me.  And he left the lot and drove on the street so maybe I could spot him.  That actually worked and I flagged him down.  He had this big ol' flat bed and he drove the Lexus on to it and we were on our way.

The tow truck was something to see—and hear.  It was old and rickety as hell.  It rattled something fierce.  The engine was noisy.  I mean if I had a car with an engine making noise like that , I'd take it straight in to be checked out.  And the ride was the exact opposite of smooth.  I was bumpy as hell. I tried texting LM & Woody about my progress but my fingers could never hit the letters, the road turbulence kept knocking my fingers away from the keyboard.  Later when I described this ride to them, they laughed.  "You've been spoiled by the smooth ride of the Lexus."  Well, I admit that the Lexus ride is great.  But honestly, this ride was so nasty I would have felt that way if my current car was a 1979 Yugo.

On the way, I could see what he was talking about with the traffic heading to CA.  It was basically a parking lot.  Yeesh.  Fortunately the way we were going it was fairly clear.  As we approached Vegas, I suddenly had a thought.  I've arrived in Vegas by car and by plane.  This was the first time I'd arrived by tow truck.

It was pretty late in the afternoon when we departed Primm, and by the time we reached TC's shop it was dusk. My plan was for him to leave the car in TC's parking area, then order a Lyft to take me to Gold Coast.  Of course I would have to be sure to request a vehicle that could handle all my luggage (like 6 bags of various sizes).  You can make a request like that, can't you?  I sure wouldn't want them to send me a Toyota C-HR, one of those miniature SUV's I road in last week, that would never work.

However, as we drove up to TC's place, I was stunned to see a couple of the service bays open and they were actually working on cars.  On a late Sunday afternoon.  I couldn't believe it.

I saw TC from the passenger side window of the truck.  I shouted to him, "Still leaking!"  He said, "Leaking?  Still?"  So after the driver offloaded my car and I settled up with him, handing over two crisp hundred bills (i.e, a buy-in at a Vegas 1/2 NL game), TC started looking at the car immediately.  I almost wished he wasn't there.  I was looking forward to getting checked into the Gold Coast and relaxing. I'd take a Lyft to some place on the Strip to play poker that night.  But now, well, I was stuck there while TC worked on the car.  It was something I was unfortunately getting used to.

Of course, I passed on some helpful hints to TC about the car from Woody.  Like I mentioned he should pressurize the cooling system.  But he just pretty much ignored me or said something like, "yeah, yeah."

That older lady that was always there was there again, and she kept letting me in and out of the office as I checked on TC's progress.  He never told me anything.  But I realized my phone was running out of juice.  I was able to pull a charger and a plug out of my car and found an outlet in the office to charge the phone.  Then, as it was past 5pm I guess, I was starting to get worried about my reservation. It was a busy holiday weekend, I surely didn’t want to lose that reservation.  I thought about calling Gold Coast but since I hadn't made the reservation directly with them I thought it might be better to go through Agoda, the booking site I had found (through Trivago) that I paid for the room.  It was difficult to find a number to call but I did and after being on hold for 10 minutes, I managed to speak to a human and told him that I had this room booked, I hadn't checked in, and I might be a couple more hours but I definitely was taking the room.  They put me on hold and presumably called the Gold Coast to let them know.  The guy came back on the line and said I had a couple of hours to check in.

Now all I had to worry about was if it was really going to be a couple of hours, and not more.  But really, TC wasn't going to spend the night working on my Lexus, was he?

Finally, I went out there to check it again and he said, "Almost ready."  He was replacing the bolt in the middle of the engine where he had added coolant.  I noticed the radiator cap was on, but I could tell it was loose.  And then he proudly told me he was finished and started to slam the hood.  I stopped him.  Not only could I tell that the radiator cap was not securely fastened, but I noticed he had one of his tools on the side of the engine.  If he had shut the hood just then, he would have smashed his tool—and possibly damaged the hood.  I pointed these things out to him and he took the tool away and tightened the radiator cap.  And he said I was good to go.  But seeing as how he almost shut the hood prematurely, I didn't have a lot of confidence I was really done with him.

I guess it was around 6 and I drove off and headed directly to Gold Coast, which wasn't too far away.  I knew that I needed to stress the car again in the morning.  I wasn't going to feel comfortable taking it out for the evening. I wanted to see that it hadn't leaked overnight before going anywhere further than the drive from TC's shop to Gold Coast.  I decided I would be taking Lyft to and from my poker destination for the evening.

I had another decision to make.  Ordinarily I prefer not to use valet parking.  But when I stay in a regular hotel and have two weeks' worth of stuff to take up to the room, I usually do valet park to check in and check out, so I can easily use a bellman to help me with my luggage.  But I didn't want to do that this time for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, I wanted the car to be out in the garage where I could check for leaks in the morning.  And I didn't feel like valet parking, and then going back down to the valet and getting the car and moving it to self-parking that night.

But even if I was willing to do that, there was another reason not to valet park.  The damn driver's side seat couldn't move, remember?  What if the valet was some tall guy (or at least, taller than me) and need to push the seat back to drive it?  I didn't want to take that chance. Fortunately, the tow truck driver, who had to drive the car on and off his flatbed, was shorter than me.  So I just self-parked and resigned myself to making several trips to get all the stuff I needed. I suppose I could have tried to repack when I was in my room at Buffalo Bill's so I needed to take less stuff up to the room, but I just didn't have the time.

And since this post has already gotten way too long, I'll leave it right there.  Next time I'll pick up with my evening festivities, a review of my room at Gold Coast, and get started on how I spent my New Year's Eve day.  And you can now find the next chapter right here.