I was third in line at the 3rd street stop downtown. A lesser known stand on the south side of Fremont nestled in a cul-de-sac between the Four Queens and the Fitzgerald, 3rd street has become something of a home for me lately. The stand has been treating me good but tonight was slow enough to the point that I had my book out. I've been focusing on American classics lately and these days even Saturdays are depressed enough to get some reading in. Almost a full chapter had passed since the last time I had a customer. I finally peeled my eyes from the pages when I heard a large group of kids, most of which wearing board shorts and T-shirts, making their way towards the line of cabs. There were more of them then I could count before they all climbed into the two cabs in front of me. The sedan and the mini van both loaded and pulled off, flipping a bitch to head back towards the strip. I set my book down just long enough to put the cab in gear and move it up to the first position. I had just started reading again when somebody knocked on the window
Can you take us to the Palms?
The kid said.
I said, as I noticed some more kids standing nearby.
Can you take five?
I can't. One in the front, three on the bench and luggage space in the back. By Common Sense and State Law, you can't take more passengers than you have seat belts. But before I could reply he went on.
We'll take care of you, don't worry about that.
Heard that before but alright fuck it. I was sick of waiting there, so I told them to get in. That was my first mistake.
The lone female sat shotgun next to me and the four guys crammed into the backseat bench. It took them three tries before they were finally able to get the door closed. They guys were all drunk, loud, moderately out of control and solidly annoying. The girl seemed sober and tired of babysitting but she's not going to get any sympathy from me for that. I turned my meter on and wrote Palms on the sheet. As soon as we got turned around an Ethiopian guy appeared out of nowhere jumping around directly in front of me with his arms up and waving. I glanced over to see the sedan cab pulled over, doors open and empty. I stopped and he ran up to my window:
THEY OWE ME $3.30. I TURNED MY METER ON AND THEY GOT OUT OF MY CAB THEY OWE ME MONEY!!!
You can't take five? It's alright, just hit "time off" and go back to the nut. Those guys will let you back in front. Then just hit time off again when you load. No problem.
I was unsure if he knew that he could do that or if he was just trying to extract $4.00 out of the situation.
Bullshit, I turned the meter on they owe me the money.
Don't be a dick, just hit time off and that's your drop for your next fare. It's all the same.
Besides, he should have realized how many people were going to, or had gotten into his cab before he turned his meter on anyway. That's for one. For two, what the fuck? He only traveled twenty feet. One of the guys in the back leans up and said to me:
He didn't want to take us man, fuck that guy.
FUCK YOU! WHO ARE YOU?! YOU GOT IN MY CAB!
I said to both of them.
It's not a big deal, you're meter hasn't even clicked over once, just hit your "time off" and go back to the nut. Those guys will let you back on the stand. No worries, it's all the same in the end.
THEY GOT IN MY CAB! I TURNED METER ON! THEY OWE MONEY!!!
Either this guy was an idiot or an asshole, either way I was through. I was trying to help him out not steal his ride., He didn't take them, I did. Whatever. I'd had enough of this so I began rolling up my window, and that was when the dumb ass tries to jump in front of the cab because he knew I was about to leave. I successfully dodged the idiot as we drove off, catching a jeer from my patrons in the process. The light at Carson was still red and it allowed us to catch up to the mini van with the other half of my partys'party.
We made the left turn to go east but the van got in the left turn lane to use 4th St. to jump on the freeway. I had to honk a times few to get his attention when I pulled up beside him on his right and told him not to the go that way. I knew that on-ramp was closed for some fucking reason. He acknowledged and followed me straight to to the BLVD where we headed north two blocks and jumped on US-95. We'd be at the Palms in 8 minutes.
As soon as we got on the on-ramp I turned up the radio pretty loud to the Punky Reggae Party I was spinning that night. I needed to drown out the noise and I knew these guys wouldn't mind some tunes. As soon as the girl heard the music she looked at me and said "sorry". I passed the van and he had a hard time keeping up.
Less than ten minutes later at the light to turn into Palms, the van was surprisingly right behind me. We got the green and went up the Palms driveway. When we reached the stop sign on the Palms property the security guard made us go left and down the little side road instead of up to the main door drop-off. The Kid Rock show had just completed and people were everywhere so the drop-off traffic was stuck. We drove as far as we could and I parked it near the Palms' limos.
The second we came to a stop all of the doors opened at once and it seemed everyone scattered rather quickly. I got out and it appeared the same thing happened in the van. It looked like he might have even put six in there. These kids were standing all around. I wasn't worried about getting paid, I just got out to open the rear driver side door which has the child lock on it. One of the guys was still sitting there, I couldn't remember if it was the guy who had asked me to to take them or not. He had a twenty between his fingers and was going through his wallet looking for more. The meter read 22 something. I looked down on the bench seat beside him and noticed a crumpled dollar bill accompanied by a small amount of silver change sitting there. Further down the bench on the passenger side I noticed a brown sandal sitting there upside down. I looked at the guy again and had a feeling I was about to get jacked on the tip, but at the same time I figured the guy was just drunk enough to leave the dollar plus change behind. I took solace in the dollar plus change. As expected the asshole hands me the twenty and three ones as he climbs out of the cab. As soon as he walked away the cabs behind me started honking because I'm blocking the only way out. I quickly grabbed the dollar plus change and got back in the cab. I only got 50 feet before I was flagged by a younger rockin couple and they asked if I could take them to the MGM.
Hurry up get in.
I said over the rekindled horn honking. We were waiting at the light to exit Palms' property when the girl said
Did you know there's a flip-flop back here?
Oh yeah. I was meaning to take care of that but those guys were honking. One of my last passengers left it behind I guess. Although,I'm not sure how you leave a shoe behind. I've found all kinds of shit in this cab over the years but never a shoe. A shoe is the kind of thing that's easy to keep track of. Or so I thought.
Were they drunk?
The guy said.
Yeah they were I guess. They were having a good time.
I lost a shoe once when I was drunk.
I waited for the rest of the story that never came.
Well there ya go.
I finally said to fill the silence.
So what should I do with it?
The girl said
Shit I don't know. Just chuck it out the window, or throw it in the back or something I don't care.
All of the windows were down and it became very noisy as we took the 15 south to Tropicana. Once we merged onto Trop and the wind died down the couple told me about how that was their tenth Kid Rock show that they had seen and it was by far their favorite one. That made me happy. I always get along with people that enjoy music, regardless of its roots. I think people that can appreciate a good performance, and can appreciate greatness, can look at life in a different and better light. There is something about that ability that enables a person to forget about all the bullshit in their life and truly enjoy themselves. Even if it is only for 3 hours, even if it's only for 3 seconds. I could pinpoint exact moments of shows where everything in my life was perfect for a moment. When the music is good, you can lose your life in it. Anyone that can capture those moments are capable of seeking a beautiful mindset. A beautiful life. They asked me if I had ever seen Kid Rock before
Well yes and no. I've never been to a "Kid Rock" concert, but I was right up front once at a Phish show when he made a surprise guest appearance. He sang on some Grand Funk, Rappers Delight and some AC/DC. Something else too I think, I forget. It was awesome though. I doubt anyone can do a better Bon Scott than that guy. I wasn't really into him prior to that night, the stuff on the radio didn't really do it for me, but the guy brought this energy that night that was infectious. You just know he brings the heat every night and I left that show with a newfound respect for him that's for sure.
I did have a great time that night and although that performance was outstanding, I probably did make it out to be better than it was. It's always a good idea to show someone that you can appreciate their favorite music. If nothing else it will make them much more receptive to any suggestions you may have for them later.
I dropped off the good tippers at the MGM and didn't roll my windows up as I made my way around to the back of their staging line. I thought about the Ethiopian guy and wondered if he had caught a ride yet. I put the cab in park behind the 25 or so in ahead of me, turned on my reading light and opened my book again. I staged for a while, periodically placing the book in my lap, putting the cab into gear and moving it up. My phone rang and I told my fellow cabbie that I was reading and I would call him back later. I continued this pattern until finally making my way to the nut again a half hour or so later.
The doormen blew his whistle and I pulled up to find another younger hip looking couple. They climbed in and gave their destination of the Stratosphere.
Can you roll up the windows please?
The girl asked me.
Sure no problem.
I began rolling up the windows when she said
Did you know there is a shoe back here?
What? That sandal is still there? I thought my last passengers threw it out the window.
I guess not. Did somebody forget it or something?
Yeah I guess. Some drunk kids I think.
Well what should I do with it?
She held it up in my rear view mirror as we merged onto the 15 again. This time going North.
I don't care, just throw it in the back there.
I said as we approached highway speed. Not a split second after that I heard her shriek
AAARGHOH MY GOD!!!
I slammed on the brakes and began merging over to the shoulder her scream scared me so much. She must have seen something that I didn't and regardless what it was, slowing down seemed like the right thing to do. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary in front of me or beside me so I looked in my rear-view and everything seemed normal. I was just about to open my mouth and ask the girl what the fuck she was screaming about when I seen a leg, a portion from a thigh to a knee, sticking up from behind the bench in the back of my cab.
What the fuck?
I thought out loud. Miraculously, as soon as we came to a stop and everything became silent, the kids phone rang.
Hey...I Don't know man....I'm in the back of a limo!....I DON'T KNOW! WHERE ARE YOU?...PALMS? Have you guys been there long?...What time is it?...I DON"T KNOW!!!
I engaged the four-ways and the three of us sat on the side of the highway in battle with wonderment and confusion. In the rear view I watched him close his phone, sit upright and fold his legs Indian style. As soon as he did he finally sighed and broke the silence by addressing his fellow cab mates
Where are we going?
We're going to the Stratoshere.
I interjected and continued
I guess you were with that group that went to the Palms?
Yeah. How did I get here?
Well I'm the guy that took you guys to the Palms. I guess at some point you jumped over the bench and got into the back and passed out. I never saw you there.
I couldn't figure out how I didn't see him. I was standing right there. How did the doorman not see him?
Tell ya what, lemme just take these folks to the Stratosphere and then I'll take you to the Palms alright?
Ok. How much is that going to be?
Just give me ten bucks and I'll take you over there.
I felt kind of bad about the situation.
Finally feeling like I had my mind around the situation, I sped the cab up and merged back into highway traffic and turned my four-ways off. I didn't say much during those five minutes to the Stratosphere. My ala carte passengers spent that time getting to know one another and the girl said repeatedly that she had thought he was dead.
Your scream scared the crap out of me. I didn't know what was going on. ... But I try my best not to kill my passengers. If if does happen, I'll generally conceal the body before I pick up again.
We arrived at the Stratosphere and the young couple paid me and said goodbye to their new friends. It's amazing how bizarre circumstances can bring people together. I've always thought that if you went through, and survived an exceptional or tramatic event with a group of other people you end up with some sort of bond with them. A brother and sisterhood. If you were in a bank when it was hijacked and robbed you'd feel a oneness with everyone else who endured that. Anytime you saw any of those same people later you would want to see how they were doing. That's how I felt. I felt like someone had just robbed my conscious. I had endured some shit and now I was a part of a team.
I got out of the cab, walked around and opened the trunk door. The kid climbed out and I noticed the wad of bills crumpled in his hand.
I only have 9 bucks. Is that cool?
That's fine. Let's go.
He sat shotgun next to me and along the way we were both still reeling from what had just happened. I told him about an incident I heard from a TA cop that last year: a cabbie had driven off with a baby in a car seat. Apparently the parents got out thinking that each other had grabbed the baby and the driver drove off without checking the make sure his passengers had gathered all of their belongings. I guess he made it all the way across town before his dispatch got him on the radio and asked him to check his cab for a baby. I remember thinking at the time I heard that story, how was that possible? How could you drive off with a baby in your cab and not know it?
Well in your defense, I was passed out, and in the way back. It's not your fault man.
Thanks I feel better now.
Having dealt with the madness that was the last hour, I was ready to move on to small talk.
So what brings you guys to Vegas anyway?
Well me and the guys are Marines. We just finished boot camp and had a few days libo before we ship out to Iraq next week so we're here to blow some steam.
WHAT? For real?
Yeah man, why?
I wasn't sure what it was at first, but something just seemed wrong about the whole situation. Then it came to me.
THOSE GUYS LEFT YOU BEHIND MAN! That can't be a good sign.
You're right that is fucked up isn't it? I'm going to have to kick their asses when I see them.
I think so.
We parked at the Palms and for the second time in an hour I was stiffed by the same party at the same location. This also, was a first. The kid walked away into the Palms and I noticed each of his feet had a flip-flop companion and I wondered if that Ethiopian guy got a ride yet.