I was in Las Vegas once before. The year was 1995 and I was 20 years old. My friends Angie and GW and I drove out to the desert following our sophomore year finals for a Dead show. It didn’t seem a very Vegas-y thing to do, but hell, why not? I don’t remember being particularly nervous about the situation, but then again, I was 20. We stayed at some awful, awful motel. We made the mistake of shutting off the air conditioning when we went out to explore for the night. When we returned, we realized why the air had been on full blast — in the absence of a freezing condition, dozens of bugs had come out to cover the walls. We quickly turned the air back on and slept with our heads under the sheets in total fear of living things dropping on us throughout the night. I don’t remember how many nights we were there, but it must have been at least two because one night we could afford to stay in a run-down casino instead of the motel. It must have been a Sunday night when rates are cheaper. All I really remember about the casino was people staring and sneering at us, knowing we were there for the Dead show and not for Vegas itself. The most memorable part of the trip, though, was not the show, but getting caught playing the penny slots with GW’s fake ID. Go big or go home was not our motto. While go big is still not my motto, last weekend’s trip was a tad different.
My friends and I headed out to Vegas to celebrate Mollie and her waning bachelorette status. Stephanie and I were to arrive first, at 10:30 pm on Thursday night. Instead, we arrived last, at 7:30 am Friday morning. What a drag. Our Frontier flight was delayed out of Madison almost three hours due to mechanical problems on the flight coming from Denver. “Mechanical problems” is not something I ever want to hear in an airport. By the time we landed in Denver it was 11 pm and there were no more flights to Vegas until the morning. Frontier had reserved us a room at the Ambassador hotel, put us on the 6:40 am Friday flight to Vegas and given us a $200 voucher should we choose to fly Frontier again. Annoying, I thought, but fine; these things happen. We arrive in the hotel shuttle area of the airport around 11:30. I call the hotel and ask if the shuttle comes regularly or if we have to ask for it to be sent. I am told, “Oh no, you definitely have to call for it if you want it to come.” I am a bit surprised, as there are dozens of shuttles making the rounds right in front of me, and there are certainly dozens of us that just arrived on Frontier waiting for the Ambassador’s shuttle, but I politely respond that I am at the airport and would very much like a ride to the hotel. We wait. And we wait. And we wait. Stephanie asks a cab driver how much it would be for a ride to the hotel. Disturbingly, he does not know where our hotel is, but estimates it would cost us $35. Zoinks. So we wait. Shortly after midnight, a young man who was in line behind me in Madison says to the crowd (which has waned down to the sad lot of us that are waiting for the Ambassador — we had looked longingly at the people who had gotten on the shuttles for the Marriott, the Comfort Inn, the Holiday Inn, even — gasp! — the Hyatt), “Are you guys waiting for the Ambassador? I just got off the phone with the hotel and she told me it would be a half an hour until the shuttle gets here.” ARGH!!! Is this a joke? Unfortunately not. A cab driver who had helped us earlier when we did not know where to wait overhears this and says, “I can take 6 of you there for $8 a piece.” Well, Stephanie and I are sold! Done and done! It’s after midnight, we don’t actually know when this shuttle is coming, we certainly don’t know whether we’ll all be able to get on it, and our flight leaves in 6 hours. Apparently, though, not everyone in the crowd sees it that way. One annoying, mathematically gifted woman says, without making eye contact with the cab driver, “Six times eight is a lot of money.” With gas at $4 a gallon, the driver’s megacar and the hotel 12 miles away, I want to tell her it’s really not so much money, but all I think is, “Who cares? It’s not $48 for you and I’m exhausted!” Instead, I say nothing but watch with increasing regret as the bartering cab driver walks away. We wait. Finally, Stephanie — ever the savvy traveler and savvy all-things woman — says, “I’m going to ask him if he’ll take us for $20.” I quickly say, “Make it $25!” She does, he does and we’re all smiles! As I walk toward the cab, a desperate man nearly grabs me and says, “Are you going to the Red Lion???” I sadly inform him, “No. The Ambassador.” I felt bad — he clearly would have paid $8 to get him safely to his bed. We drove off as the wannabe Ambassador crowd watched on.
Twenty minutes later we were at the hotel (it is not close to the airport at all). We started to check in when the hotel’s phone rang. The woman said, “Yes, he’ll be there any minute” and hung up. We already knew we’d made the right choice, but that was the icing. Twenty minutes later and the group was still waiting for the shuttle. When we arrived at the airport at 6 the next morning, I half expected them to still be waiting. I suppose by that time, though, they were in line for security.