Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 5

We return once again to the series on my car troubles back in December.  You can find the previous chapter here. 

It's Friday morning, and originally I was supposed to leave town that day, before the New Years holiday.  But seeing as TC still had my car, I knew I was definitely in town for at least that night.  The big decision was going to be that if I finally got my car back that morning and if it was really fixed, would I leave Saturday or stay through New Years, since I did have the room available if I wanted it.

But first things first…..would my car indeed be returned to me that morning? I called him up before 10 and yes, he said the car was ready.  I finished dressing and ordered a Lyft.  I hurried over to the front of the place I was staying to wait for the driver.  Even though it was a bright sunshiny day, it was still damn cold.  The driver showed up in a few minutes.  He was an older guy and the first thing he did was thank me.

"Thanks for being easy to find.  I always appreciate that and make sure to thank the passengers that make themselves easy to find."  I wasn't expecting that, but I told him I do try to make it as easy to find me as possible.  And I said that when I get dropped off at a casino, I made sure to ask the driver dropping me off where the pickup was since I knew it wasn't always the same place.

He loved that.  "That's forward thinking.  You're ahead of the game." He was chatty so he told me the story of some woman he was trying to pick up at Bally's recently.  She actually called him to complain that he was the fourth or fifth Lyft driver she'd tried to get to pick her up there and none of them showed up and instead she got charged a $5 cancellation fee from each of them.  Well where was she, the driver wanted to know.  She insisted she was in the official Bally's designated pickup location.  But by this time the driver had arrived and and there was no woman (or anyone else) around.  The lady was furious, insisting she was in the right place.  Eventually she explained to him where she was, and he told her she was in the drop off location, but the pickup location was in a totally different spot.  So the lady asked him why he couldn't come to where she was and get her.

The driver explained that it's against the law.  He'd actually be fined $200 for picking her up in an unauthorized location.  Was she going to pay that? Of course not.  Well, then, if she didn't want to get another $5 cancellation fee—and miss her ride again—she needed to walk through Bally's and get to the pickup spot.  She did that and didn't stop complaining about it the entire way to her destination.

Actually he agreed with the lady that it was ridiculous that the drop-off/pickup spots weren't always the same.  "You would think the casinos would make it as easy as possible for us to get their customers to them, but they really don’t do a thing for their customers.  It used to be a lot different."

He had the right audience.  We spent the entire trip talking about the good ol' days of Vegas, and how they used to treat their customers right and no longer do.  Of course I brought up the whole paying for parking thing but I swear, if I hadn't, he was just about to. He told me he had just dropped somebody off at the Linq and noticed a sign saying that there would no longer be a grace period for free parking, every car entering the garage would pay $20.  I assume that was just for the NY's weekend.

He talked about their revenues being down and we both kind of said simultaneously that we wondered if the new parking fees could have something to do with it.  I said something like, "They say that gambling revenue as a percentage of their revenue goes down each year.  But which came first—the chicken or the egg?  People only have so much money to spend on a vacation.  If you make them pay more for the room, the food, the drinks, the entertainment, the clubs, of course they are going to have less money to gamble with."  He said, "It sounds like I'm hearing myself talk."

Then he kvetched about the Diamond card (or whatever level it was) that he had had forever is no longer worth all the perks he used to get for it. He mentioned some of the things he no longer gets for it, but I couldn't recall what they were later.

He was definitely a kindred spirit.  I so thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, I gave him a bigger tip than usual.

Well he dropped me off and I saw my car.  TC wasn't there but they gave me the keys and let me drive it off.  I didn't get very far.  I wasn't even on the street yet when I noticed a problem.  It seemed like the driver's seat had been moved forward a little and I tried to move it back just a bit.  I pushed the button and nothing happened. The power seat would not budge. Damn.

Now I sort of remembered that I had this issue with the passenger seat (see here).  But I thought the seats were independent.  And also, I was so sure they had moved the seat while fixing the car that I was certain this must have been a very new development.  I figured that maybe somehow, while working on the car, they had knocked loose a plug or maybe blown a fuse.  Something simple. 

I hadn't left the parking area so I walked over to the garage.  The trouble was TC wasn't there and the rest of them didn't speak very much English.  When I tried to tell them about the seat, they somehow conveyed to me that TC would be back in 20 minutes and I should wait.  Then they suggested that I call him on his cell phone.  Which I did.  He said he would be back soon.

When he returned about 15 minutes later, I told him what the problem was and he said he'd check it out. I also said the passenger seat wasn't working, but I mentioned that it hadn't been working for awhile, but I was sure the driver's side was working when I first took the car in.  It was too cold to wait outside while he looked at it so he let me wait in the office.  Which, as I explained before, was locked.  So once let in, I was basically locked inside. 

I was there awhile.  A couple of times I walked over to the door to see if I could see what was going on. The lady that was always there let me out and then back in.  Finally, after maybe an hour or perhaps closer to two, he got me and took me to the car.  He had all the electronics of the driver's seat apart and he said, "It's the motor. The fuse is ok. You need a new motor.  Maybe you can find a used motor, very expensive.  Or better, a used seat to replace this one.  But fuse is ok."

Damn.  I didn't feel like trying to find a replacement seat.  I assumed that meant Woody and I would be paying a return visit to the place where we got the part to fix the driver's side window.  I asked about the passenger side seat and he said, "same thing."  Hmmm…..I was thinking that it was too big a coincidence for both seats to go out roughly the same time.  I figured there might be a simpler, less costly solution once I got back to L.A.  But for now, I would have to live with neither seat being adjustable.  Oh well.

I was a little too close to the steering wheel but I could live with it.  BTW, I eventually came up with a theory about the seat being too close.  This was maybe the first time I had driven the car with my heavy jacket on, and also a sweater underneath.  Maybe I was too close because of all the layers I was wearing?

He reassembled the seat and I was good to go. As I was about to drive off, TC said one last thing to me.  He warned me that the check engine light was on.  He said, as best I could tell, "It's says camshaft sensor.  I think maybe the timing belt is a little off.  But you should be o.k."


I stopped dead in my tracks and called Woody.  And had him speak to TC.  Then I got the phone back from TC.  Woody said it sounded ok.  He didn't believe there was any issue with the timing belt ("You couldn't drive the car if there was") and the camshaft thing was just a sensor that I could replace once I got back in town.  He was confident that, at least as far as he understood fron what TC was saying, there was no issue that would prevent me from returning to L.A. safely and without incident.

But he said one more thing.  "Drive to Red Rock.  On the freeway.  Stress it.  Give it a good test."

I was already planning to do that.  I got in the car and took off.  It was now lunch time anyway.  So I headed to Costco (right across the way from Red Rock) and that delicious hot dog and pizza lunch I mentioned last time.  The car seemed fine—other than the check engine light.  Woody also reminded me that I needed to keep adding coolant as I explained last time.  So after I finished eating, before leaving the Costco parking lot, I added coolant.  And I did so again later before driving to the poker room.

I got back to the hotel without incident and actually got some work done.

Now, assuming I was able to get to my poker destination (and back) that night ok, I had a big decision to make.

I had my current room available through the New Year if I wanted it.  It would cost me hundreds of dollars and it would mean I'd be in Vegas for the New Year.  When I was planning this trip, I had decided I didn't want that.  Two full weeks was plenty for me, and I didn't need to spend another New Years in Vegas.  So I really didn't want to stay. I'd save money if I left the next day (Saturday).  The logical thing to do was do just that.  Also the responsible thing to do, save the money, get back in town, have a nice quiet NY's Eve at home and then take the car to The Wiz for the final repairs (and to check TC's work).

Of course, I knew there was a risk.  What if the car wasn't quite fully fixed?  My experience with TC thus far hadn't exactly given me confidence that he was the world's best Lexus mechanic.  It would be a total disaster if I had more car trouble somewhere between Vegas and L.A.  And if I checked out of the hotel in the morning and then discovered I needed to stay over longer—through the holiday—I would be so screwed, not having a place to stay.  It would cost me a fortune, several times more than I would pay if I just stayed put where I was over the holiday. That's assuming I could even find a place to stay.

Other factors came to mind.  I was running low on some of my meds, but I figured I had just enough for the extra days.  However, I would definitely run out of clean clothes.  One of my activities if I stayed would have to be doing some laundry. 

Then there was the drive home on Saturday.  That actually really appealed to me. When planning the trip, I figured the Friday before NY's would be a perfect day to drive home.  No one would be leaving Vegas that close to New Years.  But Saturday would even be better, right?  I mean who would possible have stayed in Vegas the Friday before New Years and leave Saturday, when NY's eve was Monday night?  No one, right?  I was sure I'd practically have the road to myself.

What to do, what to do?  I pondered this all afternoon, and into the evening while I was playing poker.  The car was behaving perfectly the whole time.  As I was playing, I decided to make it a fairly early evening.  I decided that if the car was still fine on the drive back to the hotel, I would check out in the morning and drive home.

It was the responsible thing to do.  I was looking forward to a relaxing Sunday at home, catching up on sleep.  Saving the money I wouldn't be spending on the room.

So I went to bed fairly early that Friday night, comfortable with my decision to leave Vegas and return home the next morning.

It turned out to be one of the worst decisions I would ever make in my life.  But more on that in the next chapter. Which you can now find here.


  1. Day-um! This is all so much worse than I thought.

    1. Lightning, you ain't see nothin' yet. Wait til yu see what happens next!

  2. A problem with a car that ranks as one of the worst decisions in a guy's life leads me to believe a fire was involved at highway speed and you had to jump out of your speeding car on fire on the way home???? And once you stopped tumbling and rolling you were surrounded by a band of Death Valley nomads that wanted to use you for a New Year's Eve sacrifice????

    1. Oh wow, Lester, that's great. I guess my story will only disappoint you after that scenario you've created. I guess what happened to me isn't quite that bad.

    2. Hmmmmm.... food poisoning in Barstow?

    3. Oh man....if only I could have gotten to Barstow....