His chaotic and purposeful stroll reminded me of the younger Forest Gump. I had a feeling he needed a cab as he walked out of the Four Queens so I took one last drag off my Parliament and tossed it on the ground. He got so close to me it was obvious he was clueless as to the idea of personal space and his stroll made sense after the reek of booz filled my nostrils.
"Yes sir" I replied, "did you need a cab?"
He pulled out a crumpled piece of paper with illegible writing on it and tried to hand it to me.
"YES SIR! I'm go to five thousnnd somethn...Boulevard. You takin me? My name's R.T. Merker!"
"I'm sorry, where are you going?
"5000, something, Boulevard? As in Las Vegas Boulevard? Would that be North or South?"
"Shit I donno why you askin me these questions? I'm just trying go out the track."
"Did you need a cab sir?"
"... So you gonna take me out there or not?"
"To the track dummy, I toldya I got my RV parked out there, five thousand....something...boulevard."
"You're here for the race? Your RV is parked out at the speedway?
"That's right. I just lost my ass playing poker and now it's time to go home, out the track there."
"5000 doesn't seem like a big enough number for the track. I thought it was 7000 somethin. You sure that's where you need to go? The Speedway right?"
"Yessum, right by the Red Bull tent. Say what's your name bow?"
"MY NAME"S ARTIE MERKER! MY NAMES ArTie and I need get goin to my R.V., in the track there"
"Congratulations. Your R.V. is parked inside the track? Like in the infield?"
"My name's Artie, but they call me R.T. for short. I'M R.T., NEED TO GO OUT TO MA R.V."
"Your name is Artie but they call you Artie for short?"
"Now yur gettin it Rizzo."
"Artie, do you have any money?"
"I lost my ass playin poker, I think told ya that, but I kept 50 bucks in ma pocket so I could get back to my R.V. ... I'm R.T. need to go out to ma R.V.! R.T! R.V!"
"Ok Artie, why don't you give the 50 now just in case ok?"
He wasted no time in handing over what appeared to be the last of his money.
"Do you have your credentials? Your passes or whatever you need to get inside the track?"
"Yes sir I do but we don't need um cause everybody knows me out the there. Hell, I'M R.T. MERKER! I tell you that? Hell, you probably know by now."
"Yes sir I guess you are, why don't you get in so we can be on our way Mr. Merker?"
I opened the rear passenger side door for him and it took his drunk ass some time to get his liquified legs situated in the backseat. After I shut the door I walked around the cab, got in and turned on the meter. I don't know what it is about the 3rd st. stand but I'd been getting some real doozies out of here lately. At least this guy was harmless.
One smart thing that Vegas seems to have figured out is the way the town seems to take on the persona of her visitors. What's really just preconceived cross-promotion comes across as a seamless adaptation of entertainment experiences and the annual NASCAR weekend is a prime example of that. Throughout that weekend you'll see cabs with "wraps" making their paint scheme identical to an actual stock car. You'll see a complete lineup of musical acts throughout the weekend that reflect that demographics tastes. You'll see Fremont transform into a haven for the same people. All of these things and more combine to make an ideal weekend trip, giving visitors multiple excuses to come. Artie was no different. He came for the race, for the poker, and for the booz apparently.
I forgot that the on-ramp to 15N was closed so we had to continue north on US 95 to Rancho north to Washington, go back east on Washington and hop back on 15 there. The problem with this plan was that when we got Washington & I-15 we discovered that that on-ramp was closed as well. At this point we had no choice but to continue east on Washington until we got to Main st. and then went north again until it merged into Las Vegas Boulevard. Once we arrived at Las Vegas BLVD & Lake Mead BLVD, I made a left turn to head west again until we ran back into the 15. I think any other customer would have inquired as to what the fuck it was I was doing with all the zig-zagging by now. I would have expected it but sometimes you end up long-hauling people even when you don't set out to. I could tell you some stories in that vein for sure. But thankfully in this case it didn't matter because my new friend Artie was drunk as hell and making me laugh my ass off. And it got even better when he made a comment about his legs.
"Oh, you have a problem with your legs?"
"I just thought you were drunk?"
"I'm drunk. Yep."
"You mind my asking, whats the problem with your legs anyway?"
"Well I'm R.T. Merkur, don't know if I told you that, and I got a construction company back home in Michigan. One day I was fucked up on that meth and was trying to load the backhoe onto the trailer..."
I couldn't stop laughing. I thought, this is how a good story begins: hardcore drug use meets heavy machinery. You got me reeled in with that opening so hopefully you deliver the goods.
"...and once I got most of the weight on the back end of the trailer ramp I fucked up and stopped it. You're supposed to just keep on drivin it up and you'll be fine but I stopped and the back wheels of the damn truck came off the ground and she kicked out of of gear and next thing I knew we were rolling down the fuckin hill. So I jumped out of the backhoe and started running after it. I finally got to the truck, opened the door and commandeered that motherfucker..."
I started laughing uncontrollably. That was the best use of "commandeer" that you'll ever hear in your entire life. Even though techinically, I don't think it's possible to commandeer you own vehicle.
"...but I couldn't pull myself all the way inside and I was stuck laying down on my stomach on the floorboard. I just dove into it and decided the best course of action was to just reach up there and turn the wheel and throw her into the ditch."
"Why didn't you just hit the brake?"
"Well that idea came up later. Way later."
"So what happened?"
"Well the truck slammed into the ditch and the impact threw me out of it and then the damn thing ran me over and fucked up my legs for life."
"Yep, I'd had two heart attacks before because of that shit and that wasn't enough to stop me. But that day when my own truck ran me over, that's when I knew I needed to stop that meth forever."
It looked like he was about to cry. I guess there's betrayal and then there's your own truck running you over.
"Yeah man, that'll do it." I finally said.
We pulled up to the tunnel under turn two and stopped at the security gate. I rolled the window down and Artie waved at the guy. "Oh hey Artie glad to see you made it back." I guess Artie was right, we didn't need his credentials after all. R.T. was notorious around these parts and it was easy to see why. Artie is the kind of guy you just want to get drunk with and then just wait for him to entertain you.
The number of RV's in the infield was staggering. They try to keep little alleyways open but there are so many of them and in varying sizes it's a pretty tight squeeze in a lot of places. Add to that the number of lawn chairs, canopies, picnic tables, fires and drunk people and it quickly becomes a cabbie minefield. It undoubtedly was the first time a cab had rolled through these parts and I felt like I was on some sort of Safari tour and the wild were checking me out. All of these animals were friendly however. I was offered a beer twice and somebody also pointed out to the me a security guard that had passed out in his truck and the hundreds of beer cans that were now tied to the back of his tow-hitch. And Artie certainly fit in. All he told me was make a right once we drove in and look for the Red Bull tent. After that he spent most of his time hollarin at folks as we idled by.
"Yall know where the Red Bull tent is? Say man you know a Red Bull tent round here?" "RED BULL RED BULL RED BULL!" "Fuck man, do you know did they move the Red Bull tent? I know for damn sure I parked my R.V. by the fucking Red Bull tent where the fuck is it do you know?" "Red Bull tent? I don't think there is one" a man finally replied.
"Artie, you don't remember the space number?"
"Space number schmace number, just find the Red Bull Tent and you'll find ma R.V."
"Congratulations Mr. Merker" I said, "I've been driving for 5 years now and you're the first person to successfully use 'schmace' in a sentence."
"Really? What do I win."
"You win the satisfaction of knowing that you're awesome."
Some time later we found ourselves somewhere in the vicinity of turn three, on the opposite end of the facility that we entered from and Artie saw a few things that he thought he recognized. A few turns, a few back ups and a few more people to holla at later and we finally found Mr Merkers abode. I stopped the meter and climbed out to get his door.
"What time is it cabbie."
"I have 12:35 sir."
"FUCK those bastards. I told um I'd make it past midnight!"
"Those rejects parked next to me. I was already hammered at noon and they bet me $20 bucks that I would pass out before midnight."
"Well I guess you won that bet huh?"
"Please, those fuckers'll never believe me. Look at um, they're already sleepin."
"I'll tell you what Sir" I said urging him out of the cab, "if they don't believe you you tell those fuckers to call me. I got your back."
"Thanks cabbie you're the greatest. I could use that 20 bucks."
"No problem. Say, where is that Red Bull tent anyway? I don't see one."
I shut the door behind him and while walking back around to my side of the cab I seen a space marker in front of Artie's rig that read #5532. It took me almost as long to make my way out of that labyrinth as is it did getting in but a few nice folks along the way inquired as to Artie's well being and I assured them that I got him home safely. Although, his neighbors never called me.
This time it was easy jumping on the freeway and I was back downtown in no time. Back to work.