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.


  1. Oh my god. It's the Las Vegas trip from hell. Expiring coupons, 1/2 door showers with no tub, freezing cold weather...and schlepping all your bags to and fro. Thank god you already had a triple bypass. Sheesh. But of course its your car that seems to have a mind of its own and plays with you time and time again. Just to see how much angst its owner can endure. This reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode from season 5, Living Doll where a friggin doll proves to be sentient and torments Telly Savalas! A colonoscopy by a wrestler without anesthesia...sounds about right!!!!! Now, on a lighter note, is that a sexy, half naked gal looking for her car at the beach?!

    1. Haha, thanks LM. Interesting connection you make to the old Twilight Zone episode. I'll post the link below. I actually thought about asking if they had new coupons after the first of the year, but never did. It was pretty funny to get those--must have been at least 10-12--six hours before they expired.

    2. Interesting thing about that episode: Talking Tina was a horror parody of Mattel's Chatty Cathy. Both Tina and Cathy were voiced by the late June Foray (most famous for being Rocky the Flying Squirrel).

    3. Interesting enough, after i watched the clip of the Twilight Zone episode I linked, a clip of June came on talking about the role. Here's the link for that:

  2. And one more thing....the car moved its location, on its own, in the costco parking lot just to mess with you. It surely exists to torment you! You better be nice to it...or else!

    1. Hmmm...Woody didn't tell me that the car had auto pilot and could actually drive itself.

      Meant to comment on the earlier one....interesting to see Telly Savalas with hair, at least a little.

      I hope some of my readers can identify the pic I used and figure out why I used it.

    2. That's English actress Rhona Mitra?

    3. Or is it Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly?

    4. Ace, you were totally lost with that first guess, but you got it on the second try.

      So do you get why I used that particular pic for this post?

    5. You have to admit that they could be sisters. I was not Lost but I did misremember which lady played Kate Austen at first :)

    6. Well, I never noticed a resemblance before I suppose on further review, there is similarity.

      If you ever get confused though, there's an easy distinction. Rhona is the one with large fake breats, while Evangeline has smaller, realer breasts.

  3. Wow Rob, sounds like you were definitely ready to wish goodbye and farewell to 2018.

    1. Ace, I really wanted my time in Vegas to end, as odd as that sounds. The year didn't matter, it was just getting the hell home. Be it ever so humble...