Friday, Aug 6th
“Ive had 2 different rides ask to go to Golden Gate tonight. While en route with the 2nd, a regular calls me and guess where he’s at? Insane.”
11:41 Aug 6th
“…In 6 years I’ve never had 2 rides to the Golden Gate in the same night.”
It was those two tweets that reignited an idea that I had years ago. Shortly after I started blogging, many ides ago, I had an idea for a post where instead of sharing a tale of a single crazy ride, I would do a sort of Night in the Life of a cab driver. I could offer an actual portrayal of a single shift in my cab from start to finish. Perhaps, I thought, if you could see how boring some if this actually was then maybe you would stop giving me shit for not posting so much. That was how it played out in my mind anyway. But for reasons probably stemming from laziness, I never saw that idea through to it’s fruition. That was until I had two rides in one night go to the Golden Gate, which I decided was noteworthy enough to tweet about, and shortly after that it occurred to me that maybe instead of blogging about my Night in the Life, I could tweet about it. I could simply update my twitter page via text from my phone every time I picked up and where I went and what I was doing. I even took it as far as to convince myself that twitter was probably a better medium for the concept anyway. So I decided that the following night I would set out on the Night in the Life of a Las Vegas Cabbie-A Real Life Twitter Adventure. But first, breakfast at my house in the middle of the afternoon, where I would announce my idea to the world in between spoonfuls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Saturday, Aug 7th
“The 2 rides to Golden Gate last night game me an idea. 2nite will be a night in the life of a cabbie. Tweeting everywhere I go so you can see.”
“An experiment in self importance…”
“So yeah, I’m at home right now, getting ready to head out the door to go to work. Hope it’ll be a good night, last night not so much."
I finished my cereal and after responding to an email or two I headed upstairs to take a quick shower and get ready for work. I’m a two shower a day person. I don’t like going to bed after working all night without taking one and when I wake up the following day my hair is so fucked up that another quickie is required to alleviate the problem. In no time I was cleaned up and back downstairs packing up my work bag with my computer and a few other items that find their way in and out of my carry-on on a daily basis. Thankfully, the place I call home is less than two miles away from the place I call work and I arrived there in no time at all. I wondered what the world would have in store for me tonight.
Once I arrived at the company yard, I checked in with my dispatch and picked up my trip sheet and keys to my cab. Many drivers love to get rolling as soon as they can so they hit the road the instant they have their keys and medallions in hand. I on the other hand take a more leisurely approach and generally decide to take a half an hour or so to clean my cab so it’s nice for my customers, in addition to taking some time to catch up with friends. If the mood strikes, we may even enter into a little friendly competition.
“Reported to work and got my cab. Im gonna wash it and bullshit with the boys for a bit, maybe a game of chess before hitting the road.”
“Leaving the yard, going to Bellagio to get my 1st ride. I lost my chess match today.”
Just before leaving the yard to begin my night I time-punched in my trip sheet, one of many TaxiCab Authority required duties, and off I went. I didn’t get 100 yards away from the yard when I was flagged down by a 30 something mother of 4. This is certainly an odd situation, finding a customer like this in this neighborhood. I can’t say it’s ever happened to me before. The woman looked lost and in need of some assistance and considering where we were, it was clear she was out of her element. So I pulled my cab over and rolled my window down. After I asked, the woman of African decent told me that her and her kids needed to get back to the strip but they didn’t have any money. This is a swell way to begin things, I thought. First I lose my chess match to an inferior player and now my first potential “customer” doesn’t have any money. Beautiful.
“What are you doing out here?” I asked through the retracted window.
“We came up here to try and find my friend but I can’t find him,” the mother said.
“How did you get here?”
“You’re staying on the Strip?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Where are you staying?”
“You walked all the way here from the Stratosphere with the kids?”
“Yes. If you can just get us back to anywhere on the Strip we can walk from there. Give me your number and I will call you later and I’ll pay you back I promise,” she said.
A few things about her story struck me as odd but mainly the fact that we were in the middle of a commercial district, miles from the Stratosphere and no where near any residences that I knew about. Nonetheless it was clear that the woman, and the kids in particular, had no business being around here and could use a helping hand.
“I promise I will call you later tonight and pay you back,” she pleaded again.
For a Las Vegas Cabbie, taking someone for free is actually more of a philanthropic act than you may be aware of. Unlike many other cities, I don’t pay a per diem to the cab company and what I make is what I take in above that number. I get paid a percentage of the meter and the remainder is my employers. And it’s not like I can just take them somewhere without turning the meter on. Not only is it the law, that when passengers are in the cab the meter must be engaged, but considering the pay structure it’s naturally company policy as well. If you fail in this protocol the company will view that as your stealing from them, which you basically are, and that’s a surefire path to termination along with denial of unemployment benefits, to say nothing of the fact that I can be cited as well. So if I give out a free ride, not only am I out the time and the gas, but considering the meter would be engaged, I will actually have to fork over the dough out of my own pocket to cover the companies take. So for you to ask me to give you a free ride is really to ask me to pay for your ride. It’s a big favor to ask of any total stranger, however it is one that I will indulge from time to time. Particularly when you play it correctly like this lady did. Most anyone else would just get in the cab and tell me to take them to the Stratosphere and then after we got there they would drop the bomb and tell me that they had no form of payment. Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time should know by now that you shouldn’t fuck with me like that. I don’t take kindly to it and I love to teach people a lesson who have it coming, as misguided as I may be with that at times. However, this middle aged mother was honest with me from the beginning, and it was clear that the kids needed some help, so I decided to take one for the team and pay it forward the many times I’ve come out ahead. I decided to help them, knowing with 100% certainty that there was no way I would be hearing from this lady ever again for my payment.
“Listen I was going to the Bellagio anyway,” I said unlocking my doors, “so I’ll take you that far but you’re on your own from there ok?”
“Oh thank you so much,” she said and the group piled into my cab. A short while later we were pulling into the Bellagio and to the ladies credit, she insisted on getting my phone number so she could “pay me back later“. I gave it to her, but experience has taught me that I won’t ever be hearing from them again.
There have probably been 50 instances in all my days of driving where someone has proclaimed that they will “call me later” to make up for some wrongdoing of theirs. Be it not paying, or being a few dollars short or giving me a shitty tip and promising to pay more later or any number of other events where people screwed me over somehow and promised to right the wrong at a later time. I will tell you this, and listen up; of those 50 times, not once has a person contacted me for restitution. Not one time. So to say I had little faith in this lady would have been a gross understatement. You can talk shit about cabbies all you want to, and a big part of that would be deserved no doubt, but you, the cab riding public, are far from Saints. I changed this blog’s slogan a short time ago which now reads, “If you want to know why your cabbie is crazy, just look in the mirror.” And this is the type of thing that I am referring too. The mass amounts of bullshit and undesirable customers coupled with the constant pressure from the cab companies to engage in unethical behavior in the name of productivity slowly but surely chip away at the armor of psyche of even the most idealistic and well to do cab driver. It won't take many months of getting screwed over until you decided it’s time for you to get yours and everyone else can piss off.
The group of 5 got of my cab and walked away, my business card in hand, and I tweeted my status.
“Crazy already. Just caught a flag, a mom plus 4 little ones. She begged n pleaded with me 4 a free ride bc they were stranded with no cash.
“I decided to help them out and I gave them a free ride to Bellagio. She asked 4 my # and promised to make it up to me later, no way she does.”
“About to pick up at Bellagio…”
I loaded two middle aged couples that appeared to be half drunk at four in the afternoon. At least, I figured, they had money to pay me. Their drunkenness at this hour could be a very good sign or a very bad one and you won’t know which one it is for another 8 hours or so. They requested to go to Encore and along the way, as we cruised Las Vegas Blvd. northbound, the intoxicated man sitting shotgun rolled his window down completely, stuck his head out and began shouting at random people walking on the sidewalk.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT PROPOSISTION 9 FAGGOTS?”
The first time he said it made me laugh because I wasn’t expecting something like that to come out of his mouth. After his initial outburst he began telling different individuals to vote either yes or no on Prop 9 which I deduced hinged on whether he thought you were a homosexual or not. His friend and the two girls were laughing too so naturally the obnoxious man dialed it up even more. Clearly these people were from Jersey. They were a bit annoying I will admit, but fun and interesting at the same time. I’d much rather have people like these in my taxi as opposed to some snore fest. It didn’t hurt that they were good tippers as most from that region are generally familiar and comfortable with proper cab riding etiquette. Upon clearing at the Encore I realized right way that staging there would be pointless, as there was no business to speak of. So I called no joy and minutes later found myself staging next door at the Riviera.
“Went to Encore, four loud n annoying new Yorkers. Good tippers tho. Left Encore, no rides there. Waiting at Riviera now…”
“Loaded Riv going to Airport”
The Riviera proved to be the right decision as their cab line was moving and I got a ride 20 minutes later. Lord knows how long I would have waited at Encore. My next passenger was also from New Jersey but was traveling alone and not intoxicated. The man was in Las Vegas for business and his company undoubtedly set him up at the Riv because he had business to tend to at either the Convention Center or somewhere close by. Guys like this don’t choose to stay at the Riviera on their own. On our way to the Airport we had a lame conversation about his work which I successfully transitioned into a conversation about how awesome the carpet at the Riviera is. On my way up the ramp towards Terminal 1 to drop off the gentleman, I glanced to my left at the staging area for taxi’s, otherwise known as “the pit”, and it looked as though it would be wise to hang out here after dropping off. My observations told me that I should be able get a ride out of the airport in no time.
For years now and perhaps even in these pages previously, I have compared cab driving to fishing. In that, if you fish the same pond long enough you start to figure out where you’re going to catch a fish and where you’re not, where you might catch a few small fish and where you might find a trophy to hang on the wall. Typically I avoid the airport on Saturdays as I know that there are not too many arrivals in the middle of the weekend. However, I also know that if you can get there early enough, say 5:38pm, then you still have a good chance of catching something because the bulk of the flights that do arrive on Saturday do so before 8 O’clock. I would never get underway to the airport on a Saturday but I caught a ride here and considering what I know, it doesn’t make sense to go underway to less abundant waters so the airport it is. Every time a cab driver drops off, he must immediately determine where his next fish will be found and set his course for that location.
“Cleared the port, Il wait here, it’s movn fast…”
French people don’t tip. 20 minutes later, which is more than a decent turn around at the airport on a Saturday, I was loaded up again. Two older French couples climbed into my taxi as I loaded their overweight luggage into my trunk. They stank like French people.
The influx of international travelers has increased dramatically in our down economy. The current weakness of the dollar, reduced room rates, as well as the casino companies realizing that Americans are broke and or out of credit, has led to increased marketing overseas. Naturally these factors combined has a huge impact on the demographic of our visitors. This actually would not bother me in the least if tipping wasn’t such a strictly American phenomenon, and Europeans in general and more specifically Frenchmen are some of the worst out there. Taking into account these elements, combined with their very limited English speaking capabilities, made it basically pointless for me to engage this group at all. Now some would say that my lack of effort could most certainly be the cause of my lack of gratuities in these instances, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Well to that I would say that I respectfully disagree, as my years fishing have most decidedly proven otherwise.
The man sitting shotgun informed me of their destination in his broken English, and I made no attempts at chatting with them as they spoke amongst themselves the entire way to the Bellagio in French. Once we arrived I manhandled their large bags out of my cab and promptly received thirty cents for the pleasure. Note to self, let French people get their own luggage next time. I pulled around towards the back of the cab stand and it looked as though I would have a few minutes so I pulled out my reading material for the day.
“Port to Bellagio. French people, no tip of course. Waiting at Bellagio, reading @lostvegasbook”
Paul McGuire aka “Dr Pauly” is a clever veteran poker writer who has been a avid supporter of mine for some time. I suppose we are more e-friends, if you will, as our only face to face meeting was a brief one at the now infamous Rio Hooker Bar. Considering our online acquaintance and ample mutual interests, I was eager to read his book as soon as it came out. “LostVegas” is a hilarious tale about Pauly’s dog days covering the annual World Series of Poker Tournament in Las Vegas. A few years ago I would have never dreamed of bringing a book along with me on a Saturday night, as there would have been no way I would have even had any time to look at it. But business is depressed these days so much so that you can even get some meaningful reading in on the weekends. I could certainly use a laugh right now as my night has been far from stellar so far. Lest we forget that I am after all, just a cabbie who likes to read.
Unfortunately for my readings sake, the cab line at the Bellagio was moving halfway decently and I had another ride in no time. A younger couple got in my cab and told me their destination.
“Loaded Bellagio going to Rio”
Not long into the short ride we ran out of uninteresting things to talk about so I decided to tell the young couple about the free ride that I had given out earlier. They were surprised, gasp, that a cab driver would do such a thing. I guess they have a low opinion of everybody however because after I posed the scenario to them, they were both as certain as I was that I would never be hearing from that lady again. But to their credit, they tipped me more than what that ride cost me so in effect I made it back simply by having the story to tell in the first place. The couple was going on their way to see Penn & Teller so I graciously thanked them and told them to enjoy the show.
“Nice folks, going to Penn N Teller tonight. I told them about the free ride I gave, and they were both sure that lady isn’t going to call me.”
“Waiting at Rio now…”
“Loaded Rio going to Ballys”
I loaded 4 absolutely stunning Southern California girls via South Korea. Even though my Korean is very limited, it always perks up an ethnic group when you make attempts at their language. Note to self, learn some French. I’ve learned quite a bit from various languages during my time driving a cab and since there is no point in learning if you’re not going to put it to use I oftentimes will use passengers as test subjects for my pronunciation. Language to a fisherman cabbie is really just a lure. I said a formal “hello” and “thank you” flawlessly and the girls were surprised and giddy. My efforts netted me a decent gratuity but they were gone before I knew it, as Rio to Bally’s is just over the freeway and across the strip for $7 bucks. A short fare but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I dropped of the girls and decided to wait at Bally’s for my next one. No reason to go deadheading all over town at this point when I’ll have a ride here in a just few minutes.
“Hot asian chicks, my kryptonite. Waiting at Balls now…”
“Loaded Bally’s to MGM”
Speaking of kryptonite and arch nemeses, the MGM came up next on trip sheet. I loaded a younger couple at Bally’s who were headed to MGM to catch a show and it didn’t take them long to ask me for a dinner recommendation, such a thing is a common occurrence but I must have chuckled.
“That’s funny?” the man asked.
“Well I kind of have a thing against the MGM,” I said.
“What do you mean?” he said.
“It’s a long story, one that I’m certain you won’t care about. The short of it is that I’ve been boycotting the MGM for over a year now. I don’t pick up there, I don’t patronize that place and I never recommend it to anybody if I can help it.”
“Damn, what did they do to you?”
“Like I said, it’s a long story, one that I’m sure you won’t care about.”
“Well we’re already going there so if it’s all the same to you do you know any good places to eat in there? We wanted to get dinner before the show.”
“This is my town sir,” I replied, back with my usual gusto, “I always know a good place to eat. What are you the mood for?” I said.
“I don’t know, we had Italian last night, we’re not in the mood for anything outlandish, just a good meal. Maybe something with some variety.”
“Ok, go to a place called Nobhill Tavern. It’s a Michael Mina place, one of the few in town and his restaurants always deliver. I’ve had a good steak there before and a really good white sturgeon there before. Come to think of it every dish I’ve had there has been excellent.”
“Yeah that sounds good. See, that wasn’t so hard was it?” the man said.
“Well it’s like they say, if you wanna know a good place to eat-you ask a cab driver right?”
“That’s right,” they both replied.
“And if you want to know a great place to eat,” I quickly continued, “you ask a fat cab driver.”
They both laughed pretty good at that line and I’m sad to say that I’ve used it 100’s of times. But it always works, thus the justification for it‘s continual use I suppose. However it saddens me more to tell you that I can’t take credit for it. I stole it from another cabbie, couldn’t even tell you who. I’m guessing he was fat though.
I dropped the stylish couple off at the MGM for no other reason than because the law says that I have to. I believe it would be considered kidnapping to do otherwise. Even though I told those folks about a great place to eat inside, there still is no fucking way I’m going to picking up any customers here tonight or for the foreseeable future. After all, my real beef is with the asshole doormen in charge of the cabstand. So for what must be the 1,000th time already I left the MGM empty. Generally I would shoot across the street to the Tropicana in search of a fish, or some other place nearby on the South Strip but tonight was just gearing up and talk of delicious steaks and sturgeon has me hungry so it was time to get a quick bite to eat before the flow of business made it cost ineffective to do so. I’m going be in this fucking cab for 12 full hours tonight, I gotta stop and eat at some point.
“Leaving MGM empty…time for a quick bite to eat b4 it gets too crazy out here.”
I made a right turn to go west on Tropicana avenue and 5 minutes later pulled into my favorite fast food drive thru, In n Out Burger. They have the best burgers in town, by far the best milkshakes and oftentimes I will even catch a fare leaving that place as there are always tourists milling around their near Strip location at Trop & Industrial. I placed my usual order of a double-double spread only and a large vanilla shake.
Much is made of the threats that a cab driver in any city faces on a nightly basis I suppose, but there is no question that the stress, the horrible eating regimen and the sedentary nature of the job will be the death of me. It sure would be nice if I could take my full hour of allotted lunch time and head to China Town for a nutritional meal where I could relax and eat my vegetables, but that just isn’t nearly in the cards in my current predicament. To do that would be to waste too much time, lose too much money, which results in facing the wrath of a my employer for below average performance. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the fleet of long haulers as it is I can’t afford to be lackadaisical on a Saturday night. Not that taking one break in 12 hours constitutes lackadaisical, of course it doesn’t. Now maybe you can see what I’m up against.
I sipped from my milkshake while waiting at the light to turn back east on Tropicana and two minutes later I was back staging at New York-New York. I set my milkshake down in my cup holder and updated my status.
"grabbed some grub, eating quickly while waiting for a fare at NYNY…”
There were less than ten cabs on the stand when I arrived and even though I ate fast I was barely able to finish my burger by the time I was on the nut with the whistle blowing again. Four gangster wannabe kids got in my taxi and gave me a destination of the Wild Wild West, ironically a location featured in the "Lost Vegas" that I happened to be reading. It’s located in the heart of the Redneck Riviera, as Dr. Pauly lovingly calls the neighborhood, which happens to be directly across the street from the In n Out I had just came from minutes ago. Though I like the title, these kids were far from rednecks, in actuality looking like they were emulating the jargon and attire seen from their favorite hip-hop videos. It always astounds me how individuals express their individuality by mimicking things they see on TV.
The 20 something male, who sat shotgun beside me and wore his seemingly brand new Dodgers cap crooked at about a 4 o’clock clip while his belt buckle rested closer to his knees than his waist, tried to impress his friends by giving me strict directions regarding how to get to the Wild Wild West. Now, in this day and age of the super-longhaul and cab drivers playing dumb about where things are located strictly as a means of jacking up the fare, I can’t really blame people for giving me specific directions, but it sure is annoying as fuck when it happens. It’s really just an oft way of calling me a thief, an ignorant and insulting my intelligence all in one neat little bundle. However this instance was particularly absurd considering the desired location was less than a mile away on the very road we were already traveling on.
If that wasn’t enough to hate these future security guards, this ride is also considered a “short ride”, or somewhere closer to deserving walking shoes than a cab ride, which means that I have to put up with the bullshit directions in addition to not making any money. A double whammy. Thankfully the doorman at the New York New York is a pretty cool guy and he told me when I loaded to simply come back to the front of the line after I dropped off so he could load me up again right away. This practice, of awarding cabbies given a short ride another fare, is becoming more and more rare but the old school doorman realize that short rides piss off cabbies and if he wants to have his guest continually serviced he’d be wise to stay on the cabbies good side. I dropped off the wannabe thugs at the Wild Wild West and naturally received no gratuity. I knew that this was going to be the case quite early during the fare. In reality this is really the triple whammy; a short ride, douche bag/future security guards and no tip combine to make the trifecta of suck. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t such a seasoned fisherman and I could just be blissful in my ignorance.
After I cleared I raced back to NYNY to receive my gift ride, and tweeted my predicament while waiting at the stoplight at Industrial in front of the In n Out. I took a few more pulls off my milkshake.
“Fuck. Loaded NYNY and went to wild wild west, just across the fwy. Mo thug was trying to give me directions n shit. Whata turd. Lol.”
“doorman at NYNY was cool and told me to come back for another load…”
“Loaded NYNY again this time to Bellagio…”
I sped right to the front of the line and the courteous doorman promptly loaded me with another fare, this time a single gentleman wishing to go to the Bellagio. He informed me that he was going to the poker room so I jumped on the freeway for the mile trek to Flamingo so I could easily access the North door at Bellagio as it’s considerably closer to the poker room than the main entrance off the Strip. Along the way, in-between our uninteresting conversation, I figured that I would soon be getting stiffed on the tip again. I have some sort of sense for this apparently. Like the French, poker players are notoriously horrible tippers, even the temporarily rich ones can’t seem to get a fucking clue. I have no choice but to believe that this excessive and continual bad karma is the sole reason for their rolls’ soon departure from their bank.
Thankfully there was another fare waiting for me at the north door which is an excellent score because there isn’t even a cab stand at this entrance. Nevertheless, the guests at the hotel aren’t aware of this so it’s still possible to snake a ride at this location from time to time. Such was the case here. Dropping and picking like this reminds me of how this business used to be. Throw some tips into the mix and we’d be making some decent money if we went all night like this, but I knew better. Those days are long gone. I loaded a single white female who needed to go to the Palms. Again a pretty short fare but I did not care because I did not have to wait for it this time and I figured this one would get me back on the path of paying my rent, as she surely would be giving a brother a few extra dollars for his efforts.
“2 rides in a row w/ no tip. Leaving Bellagio, loaded at the north door, going to palms now…”
“Dropped at Palms, about to load again. Should be a steady push the next 6 hrs.”
The line at the Palms moved quickly and I could tell that the night was really starting to gear up. Typically Saturday nights start slow for the night shift, as people are still recovering from their Friday night festivities, and end with a bang and that certainly seemed to be the case so far. A few minutes later I loaded a younger couple needing to go to the Excalibur.
“Loaded Palms gong to Excalibur.”
En route to the Excalibur my phone rang and it was one of my regulars who needed to be picked up at 9pm sharp. I glanced at the clock and realized it was going to be difficult to try and squeeze one more ride in after this one and still make my deadline, but I sure as fuck don’t want to wait and do nothing for a half an hour to ensure success so this only means one thing- I have to hurry. I pressed down on the gas pedal harder so I could drop off as soon as possible and give myself a better chance to sneak one more ride in.
Minutes later I dropped off at Excalibur, but on the way up the main driveway I noticed that the cab stand was fully loaded with cabs waiting for fares so I knew I had no shot of getting a ride here in time. So after I cleared I left the Excalibur, plowing over the speed bumps in a big hurry in search of more abundant waters.
“Dropped at Excalibur, too many cabs there so went next door to Luxor, waiting there for a ride. Have a regular at 9pm I need to get.”
Murphy’s law always prevails. It never fails that anytime you try and squeeze a quick ride in, be it because of something like this current situation where you have a booking you must be on time for, or perhaps it’s near quitting time and you want to do one last ride before you have to bring the cab home, that’s inevitably when you’ll get the really long fare that takes you all the way across town which of course totally fucks up your plan. The best laid plans of mice and men I believe it goes. This or a dozen other things that seem to go wrong precisely at the only moment when you absolutely need for them to go right. However the suck wasn’t meant to be this time. Maybe it will be my night after all.
“Loaded Luxor going to Maverick helicopter tours…”
Perfect. The line at Luxor moved quickly enough and I did get a short fare simply down to the Maverick Tours office which is located just south of Luxor on Las Vegas Blvd. on the west end of the airport property, just across from the famous, “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. I love it when a best laid plan comes together. I cleared with enough time to make it to my good tipping prostitute personal at the required time.
“Cleared maverick helicopter, off to local address to pick my regular up, going to Mirage.”
Chanel, as I will call her for this piece, is as attractive as she is generous. Typically your African American girls of the night are horrible tippers, even surpassing the poker players and the French, but nothing about Chanel fits that mold. She’s smart enough to know that if she takes care of people then they will take care of her, thus the reason for my short lived stress about getting to her on time and thus the reason she always has a cab ready for her when she needs one. It’s very common for working girls, escorts and strippers alike, to take cabs to and from their gigs and a cabbie would be wise to try and procure some of this regular business. The strippers don’t like to drive to work because a good lot of them get wasted while they’re working. Meanwhile, for obvious reasons, many escorts don’t like to have their personal vehicles parked at properties that they are working at. In terms of regular, local, clients for a nighttime Vegas cabbie, the working girls probably make up the biggest percentage of those.
I called Chanel when I was two minutes away and true to form she was downstairs waiting for me at her eastside apartment when I pulled up to her building. After a brief exchange of pleasantries her phone began to ring multiple times and she was chatty Kathy the entire way to the Mirage, the place where her first appointment resided I presumed. I’d like to say that Chanel and I are friends, considering how many times she has been in my taxi, but the truth of the matter is we barely even speak. She is always on the phone and that time is divided into two basic categories. She is either talking to other girls getting the low-down on the Metro Vice cops, the nature of the security at the respective properties and in general how business is around town, or she will be sweet talking potential clients. As I dropped her off at the north door she said she would be calling me later for a ride home. I waited at that door for another fare unsuccessfully until security made me leave.
Just like at the Bellagio there is not a cab stand at the north door of Mirage, so I swung around to the Ti. On the weekends it’s generally wise to avoid the Strip if at all possible, particularly southbound leading up to Flamingo Rd.. And since the nature of the cab stand at Mirage requires that one exit the property onto LV Blvd., I steer clear of it whenever possible. Luckily right next door at the Treasure Island you have a multitude of options as to which route you might want to take when exiting that property. As a cabbie, you like to keep you options open at all times if you can. Be that as it may, my next fare, the one I loaded ten minutes later at Ti, took me all the way to the western edge of the valley towards the middle of nowhere which made me think that I should have just stayed at the Mirage.
“Cleared Mirage, next door at Ti staging…”
“Loaded Ti to Red Rock Station”
Red Rock Station Hotel & Casino is located in the foothills of the valley on the west side. If you were to go much farther west you would be climbing mountains in no time. The Red Rock Hotel is a beautiful resort, however like all of the others in the Stations family, is one that is intended primarily more for the local Vegas crowd. It’s pretty rare that I get a ride from the Strip or airport up there. It’s a nice fare however, a good $40 from the mid-Strip even if you take the short way. But on a busy Saturday night, this is really the last thing you want to be doing. Yeah I’ll get 40 bucks on the meter, but I’m going to lose at least an hour because there surely will not be any business waiting for me in the boonies when I arrive, which means I’ll have to dead-head all the way back into town burning gas and not making a dime. On a night like tonight, I would rather stay on the strip and do four rides in the same amount of time and come up with the same end result on my meter. However by doing four rides instead of one, I give myself three more opportunities to earn a tip. Three more chances at free money. All things being equal, he with the most trips wins.
Considering I had some time to chat with this kind couple from Ohio, I mentioned my first ride of my night again and told them about the free ride. I guess it was becoming more of a survey at this point, however one that served no purpose other than confirming my own cynicism regarding the promised future retribution. The both of them concurred and were certain that I would never be hearing from that lady ever again. Part of me felt better that they saw things the same way that I did, but the negativity did nothing to quench my thirst for righteousness.
I dropped off the couple at the Red Rock Hotel entrance and true to form the place looked like a ghost town as far as the cab business was concerned. After my two-way radio netted no cabbie fruit, I called no joy and jumped on the nearby freeway US 95, setting my headings South toward downtown.
“Cleared out here in BFE and it’s a ghost town so im deadheading downtown…”
“Lots of cabs downtown but I’m pot committed. Wiaint on 3rd st. by 4 Queens. Chance to get some more reading in @lostvegasbook.”
Generally the cab stands downtown will contain considerably less cabs than their Strip counterparts. This is due to the fact that the stands themselves are significantly smaller and the flow of business is much slower. The good news is that you can generally score a good twenty dollar fare headed back to the Strip from anywhere downtown and they also offer a cabbie a chance to get some more reading done.
In about a half hour’s time two sexy females emerged from the front door of the Four Queens and climbed into the back of my cab. My initial guess, that they might be “working girls”, was proven somewhat wrong when they offered their destination.
“Loaded 4 Queens, two strippers to back door at Rhino.”
It’s somewhat odd to pick up two out of town strippers that are staying downtown and this oddity made sense as soon a the two of them started to strategize their best course of action for making money on this particular night. They debated mostly on the point of would it be better for them to try and work together or to split up and fend for themselves. The finally settled on working as a team but either way it was clear from their dialog that they were new to the Vegas strip club scene, maybe even the strip club scene in general.
Now you might think that having two beautiful girls in your backseat, who will undoubtedly soon be taking of their clothes for any douche with a twenty spot, would be totally awesome. Heck, they might even take them off for you, for free! It’s the bees knees of the cabbie business. Right? It’s not true. I would say that these two were rather annoying to listen to and they were the type who were not interested in the least in their cab driver. How ironic that people who take their clothes off for a living would be, in their mind, so significantly above a hacking stiff such as myself. It speaks to how fucked up the public perception of cab drivers really is. I sat in total silence while they attempted to plan out the best course for their upcoming evening of work. They never addressed me, and I never made any attempt to include myself in their ridiculous conversation. My brain cells are far to important to engage in such behavior I believe.
“Those girls talked over one another that entire ride, I never uttered a word. Nobody leaving Rhino yet so deadheaded to Wynn. Staging…”
“That ride out to Red Rock really fucked up my flow."
And that much is true. Sure I got some tips, I got a chance to read some more and got two hotties to look at for a few minutes, though I did also have to listen to them. But in reality, I would have been better off not getting that ride to Red Rock an hour and a half ago. Thankfully I made the right call deadheading to the Wynn from the Spearmint Rhino and was loading again in no time, this time a middle aged couple that didn’t appear to be having a good time at all. Actually no, I take that back, the guy looked like he was having lots of fun and his presumed wife was playing the role of party-pooper.
“Loaded Wynn to Mandalay bay,.”
The man was drunk, though not that much as he was still very much in control of himself. Nonetheless his wife, for some unknown reason was quite upset about that.
“Why do you have to get drunk every time we go out?” she said.
“Because I have to go out with you,” I believe was how it went.
There are times will I will try and interject, and even mediate lovers quarrels. It’s kind of fun actually and oftentimes I am successful in my endeavor. So much so I feel as though my years in the cab qualify me for some sort of relationship counselor certificate or something. The basic formula is as follows: First you break the ice. You have to get the conversation away from whatever the dilemma is. Once you have the problem out of your rear-view mirror and the tension is gone, you revisit it, you bring it back. You bring up the issue and the most important part of this step is to aid them in empathizing with each other. Usually by this time, after the ice is broken, you can get them to understand each others’ point of view and to the nexus of why they’re bothered. If you can make it this far, and the couple really does care for one another, then you’re usually good. It’s squashed. If you understand why your spouse is pissed off about something, and that something is a legitimate gripe, and you fail to do anything about it or continue the same behavior, well then that’s not love if you ask me. If there is hate, or no desire to be with that person anymore than there isn’t much I can do. There is little I can do but those do make for interesting cab fares most every time (perhaps you’ll remember He Caught the Katy). But if there is love behind it all, I seem to be able to help folks find it again. Dr. Phil ain’t got shit on Dr. Funk I’m telling you.
In this particular case, I believe that there was love but for whatever reason I didn’t feel like playing family feud tonight. Perhaps because this was not turning out to be my night. I didn’t get paid on my first ride and I had no hope for restitution. My tips weren’t that great so far. Been stiffed 3 times already. The French people, the wannabe hip-hop future security guards telling me how to do my job and the poker player. I had a ride take me all the way out of town, out of the mix, which undoubtedly cost me more money. I have yet to collect any side money from the various means available to me. I haven’t even had a good opportunity for any of that. Maybe it was a combination of these things. Or maybe I just didn’t want to. Either way, I dropped the couple off at Mandalay Bay, having made no attempts at reconciling their difference.
The woman steamed off and the man proclaimed he was going to the bar, and soon enough I was loading again. Back in the thick of things, back to work. I updated my twitter.
“That couple was feuding. Dropping at m bay and picking up now going to MGM signature towers…”
Again my arch nemesis. You do 30 or 40 fares in a evening and you’re bound to get one or two to the MGM. Ironically this couple asked me the same question the last couple going to the MGM did.
“Do you know any good restaurants at the MGM? We need a place for dinner tomorrow.”
“Nobhill Tavern,” I responded again, “it’s a cool room, they have a wide variety of excellent food and it’s not overpriced like some of the other high end joints in that place.”
“What’s so funny?” the man asked. I didn’t know, maybe I chuckled.
“Dropped @mgmgrand signature and there was a customer there but I left empty bc I don’t service that piece of shit hotel anymore.”
“Deadheaded over to @phvegas and I picked up in no time going to Encore…”
Speaking of fishing, the Planet Hollywood is a hop, skip and a jump away from the Signature towers and I know that the up and coming nightlife scene at Planet Hollywood would be enough to net me a ride in a short period time. I knew earlier this afternoon that staging at the Encore would have been a waste of time so I went to Riviera instead and caught an airport run. I knew that I would be able to get a ride out of the airport if I got there early enough. I knew if I went to Luxor I might be able to squeeze in a small fish before got underway to get my regular. I knew the Red Rock ride was not going to be good for my days catch. I know the mother of four isn’t going to call me.
I also knew that the Planet Hollywood was not going to net me any trophies but it was close and it was going to offer me enough protein for a meal that I wasn’t going to have to wait long for. I loaded four party girls at Planet Hollywood and true to my knowledge, I did not have to wait long at all. They were going to Encore to make an attempt at going to the nightclub XS that resides at the Wynn/Encore property. I say make an attempt because XS is arguably the most popular nightclub in Las Vegas currently and in all likelihood will be at the top of the list for some time to come. Not only that but these four honeys were, shall I say, deficient in a few major categories vital to successful Las Vegas nightclub attendance. And that is not even a knock on them so much as just a testament to XS’ popularity. At this place, you could be millionaire Perfect 10 models and if you didn’t know what you were doing you could still end up waiting in line for 2 hours.
The four ladies failed to tip me which didn’t really surprise me. More importantly, this sort of behavior is just the type of thing I am speaking of when I say that they were lacking in certain capabilities. This group makes it 4 times I have been stiffed on the tip already tonight and that’s not even including the ride I didn’t get paid at all for. This is a really bad number, made worse by the fact that I still had four hours to go.
“Cleared at Encore. Stiffed for the 4th time 2nite. Four Mexicans, I knew no tip for me b4 they did. Waiting at encore now…”
“I have 230 booked at midnight. 2 yrs ago woulda had 300 easy by now.”
Customers ask me all the time about the economy, so much so that I am thoroughly annoyed with the topic. It could be that I suppose, or maybe it’s that the issue really hits home. Thinking and talking about how driving a cab in Las Vegas used to be so much better of a job and how much it’s starting to suck these days isn’t what I would call my ideal state of mind for an evening of work. I would rather focus on some more pleasant topics. Nevertheless the issue always comes up, albeit never by me. Perhaps because people believe the amount of activity in Las Vegas is a fair gauge as to what’s going on in the country and for that matter the world, or maybe they're just interested in the health of Las Vegas. Either way it’s safe to say that when people don’t have money and have concerns about their employment, trips to Vegas are the first things to go. Let’s face it, Las Vegas isn’t exactly the cure for being broke. When people ask me when I think people will start coming back to Vegas, my response has been the same, “Probably sometime after they get jobs.”
So if visitation to Las Vegas is a fair gauge as to the national and possibly even world economies, the business of a Las Vegas Cabbie is most certainly a fair snap-shot of the business in the city itself. See what I did there? I just correlated the cabbie in Vegas to the world economy! As you’ve just read, my numbers on this particular night are down significantly from what I feel I would have had on the same Saturday night 3 years ago. On a Saturday 3 years ago there would not have even been a Night in the Life as there would not have even been time for tweeting in between rides. It would have been non-stop succession all night and I would have been blogging about how a college degrees were overrated instead.
3 years ago on a Saturday night I could have booked $400 and logged 40 trips with my eyes closed )although not accident free mind you). Tonight I will be lucky to get 30 rides and finish with over $300. You can do the math, our economy is for shit.
Back in the boat, the Encore is a different story altogether now. As dead as it was earlier this afternoon it will be a madhouse for the rest of the evening. I told you before about the popularity of the XS nightclub and that is not the least of it. There are other nightlife opportunities at Wynn and Encore as well, places like Surrender, Encore Beach Club, Blush and Tryst, all of which have a lot going for them and all of which I would recommend. What this means for the fisherman cabbie is that there is going to be a lot of comers and goers from that property. That’s my focus. As anxious as I was to deadhead away from this very spot hours ago, now I’m guaranteed to get a ride from here very quickly and I would be a fool to leave here without a fare.
I loaded a couple that was headed to the Bellagio and it was obvious from their demeanor that they had had enough for the evening.
“So what’s going on tonight kids?” I asked.
“Oh not much,” the man replied.
Whoa, look out for these guys I thought. “You guys aren’t calling it a night are you?”
“Yeah I think so, we’re tired.”
“Tired? It’s Saturday night! If you go to bed before the sun comes up you’re doing it wrong!” I said.
“We know, but we’re from the east coast so it’s three hours later for us.”
Never heard that one before. “Also,” I continued,” if you’re checking account isn’t overdrawn when you get home from Vegas you’re doing it wrong.“ Which netted me no response at all. What downers these folks were. I didn‘t give up though. “It’s three hours later on the east coast huh? And, what does that have to do with the west coast again?”
“What, are you giving us a hard time?”
“I feel like it’s part of my duty, as a nighttime cabbie in Las Vegas, to give people who good to bed early a hard time. Pay me no mind sir.”
“I told you it’s three hours later for us, just take us to the Bellagio would you?”
Sometimes as a cabbie you’re Dr. Phil, sometimes you’re Mills Lane and sometimes your just a wheel man, which is ok too. I suppose part of being a cabbie for the people is perpetually knowing your place. But I’m not proud, this does not bother me. But I do like to have some fun when I’m working and holy shit these folks were total snores. Their lack of energy makes me want to go to sleep too. Seriously, go to Branson next time I’m sure you’ll have the same amount of fun. Or in your case, un-fun.
The three of us sat there in silence the rest of the way while I drove. I was pretending to look at the scenery for the first time when my phone rang. It was Chanel and she was ready to be picked up. Good, at least I had another ride lined up. Considering the hour, I was surprised that she was calling no joy so early but it did make me feel a little better to know that I wasn’t the only one having a bad night.
I dropped the couple off at the Bellagio and true to my projection my tip was not fantastic. Excuse me for trying to liven up your evening folks. Branson, look it up.
Sunday, Aug 8th
“Loaded encore to Bellagio and dropped. My regular called so now deadheading to mirage to get them, then to their local addy…”
3 years ago, back when I would have had 30 plus rides and well over $300 on the meter by now, going from Bellagio to Mirage would have been a serious pain at this hour. The traffic situation on the Strip would have been closer in resemblance to a parking lot than an actual road of travel. From anywhere else this problem could be averted but when exiting from the front door of the Bellagio, you have no option but to go out to Las Vegas Blvd.. There is no access to Frank Sinatra Dr. (a side street that runs parallel to the Strip) from the Bellagio which is beyond moronic especially considering the fact that Frank Sinatra Dr. pre-dates the Bellagio. But for whatever reason, Mr. Wynn wanted all traffic entering and exiting from the front. The Bellagio to Mirage route is further complicated if you consider the fact that the Strip, once you’re on it, is really the only sensible way. You could start making all these grandiose plans to try and improve your time by cutting through other properties or venturing over to the side streets to the east of the Blvd., but it was always my experience that this sort of thing is very easy to over think and in most cases you would have been better off biting the proverbial screwdriver and just inching down the Strip. However, this isn’t three years ago, this is now, and these days traffic on the Strip is considerably more manageable. So I made a left turn to head north onto Las Vegas Blvd from the Bellagio and in a matter of just a few minutes I was at the side entrance at the Mirage, where I found Chanel sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette while waiting for me.
True to Chanel’s word, she did want to go home even though it was only just after midnight. However, my thoughts about not being alone in my money making misery were quickly put to rest when she told me that she had made twelve hundred bucks already and that’s why she was calling it a night early. This information was exchanged before we even made it off of the Mirage property and she spent the rest of the ride on the phone making plans to go out with her friends. In Vegas, people are just getting started going out at midnight. The cool ones anyway, not like certain, ahem, passengers.
I dropped Chanel off and figured it would be best to make get underway for the Hard Rock. The Hard Rock has a younger customer base to begin with so their nightlife scene is always well represented. True to form the cab line moved swiftly and I soon loaded four black girls on their way to Aria.
“Loading Hard Cock errr Rock going to Aria…”
Black people don’t tip. There, I said it. This is the rule, to which there are exceptions of course, but the rule is the rule for a reason. And before you go getting all self righteous on me, remember I said it about the French first. However, it has been my experience that black people are even worse than the Europeans for one simple reason, they’re American. In most every case they are fully aware that I am working for tips and yet they still refuse to throw a brother a couple of dollars. This to me is exponentially more offensive. Ignorance is one thing, and I’m not going to beat you up about that for the most part, but cheapness is not to be tolerated. I suppose we could put the poker players in this mold too.
However, if you still want to call me a racist, I’m actually ok with that. I don’t agree, in belief or in practice, but if you want to put that label on me I can live with it if it means you’re acknowledging my correctness. As I stated, I have been doing this for seven years now and that’s a lot of fishing. Thousands upon thousands of passengers have come and gone from my taxi and throughout those years you start to recognize the patterns that exist. If nothing else, and regardless of my supposed prejudice, my thoughts on the subject are simply a conclusion drawn from my own experience. The observational facts are there, don’t cry to me for being honest about them.
I’m sure most of you are aware of Steven Dublanica aka “The Waiter”. Steve is (was) a veteran server who years ago began to blog about his experiences waiting tables. His blog, waiterrant.net was so well written and became so hugely popular that it netted him blogging awards and a book deal and the fruits of that work resulted in the New York Times Best Seller “Waiter Rant”. Since then he has authored a second and equally successful work titled “Keep the Change” where Steve attempted, and in my opinion achieved, in becoming the guru of tipping in America. Steve spent two years crossing the country researching and writing "Keep the Change" and it was during his quest that he stumbled into me.
Naturally Steve knew that if he was going to write a book about tipping in America then Las Vegas was a town that was going to have to be investigated and covered extensively, for it is undoubtedly the capital of tipping in this country and thus the world. Knowing that cab drivers depend on tips as much as the next service worker, he contacted me in search of insight on gratuities and how they effect me. Initially we had planned to do lunch for a couple of hours where Steve undoubtedly intended to drill me on all things Vegas, all things cabbie and all things tip. But I did him one better and was actually able to secure permission from my employer and the Nevada TaxiCab Authority for Steve to ride along with me in my cab for one night. I figured instead of talking about it, I could give Steve a first hand look from the front seat. So we set the date for a Friday night and it was settled that Steve could interview me in between fares and while we had passengers The Waiter could observe the tipping practices in my world first hand. It made me laugh every time when Steve would ask me how much I got tipped immediately after a customer left the taxi. It was during our talks over his digital recording device that Steve asked me if there were any certain demographics that seemed to tip better than most and conversely if there was any group that stood out as the worst tippers. I answered his questions honestly.
More interestingly, Steve shared a story with me about when he was on his Waiter Rant promotional tour and was asked to be on the Oprah Winfrey show, undoubtedly the Mecca of book promotion, to speak about waiting tables and of course his book. Steve mentioned that the night prior he was incredibly nervous, for obvious reasons, but also because he feared that Oprah might ask him a question in this vein. Naturally such a pointed question from arguably the most prominent African American figure in this country, and on national television no less, could quite easily derail any public relations campaign if mishandled. Of course, Steve answered the query expertly by simply redirecting it along the lines of, and I’m paraphrasing here; “ a better question is why are African Americans generally not as represented as whites in fine dining establishments in the first place?” And I believe Steve makes a hell of a good point there, one that digs to a deeper societal issue. However I don’t have that same luxury. To my knowledge, as a whole whites are not better represented as cabbie patrons than blacks are as compared to their percentage of the population or of Las Vegas visitors for that matter. What Steve may have also been hinting at, that perhaps blacks are worse tippers because they may not be exposed to that experience as often as whites are, just doesn’t seem to apply in the cabbie world.
So what is it then? I don’t know. What I do know is that I haven’t given up. I try and avoid the self fulfilling prophecy syndrome I eluded to earlier and actually attempt to give my patrons of African decent outstanding service in the hopes of disproving my presumption. However the pattern is there, and despite my attempts at fixing the equilibrium by superior service, more times than not, I am not tipped by black people and the pattern is reaffirmed not disproved. As it turned out, Steve and I had just one black customer during the 8 hours we were together as hacks, and that was the only customer who failed to tip us that entire evening. We were simultaneously vindicated and disgusted.
Back in my cab I chatted with the ladies about their upcoming adventure for the evening. They were planning on going to the nightclub Haze, a popular nightlife destination inside the Aria hotel. After they expressed concern, I assured them that they were not late for any of the nights festivities and furthermore than they would not have any troubles gaining entry into the club as they were four beautiful and sexy females. Minutes later I was dropping them off at the north door at Aria which is considerably closer to Haze than the front door, albeit resulting in a shorter fare for me. I’m not sure what else I can do to garner a tip. I drove you promptly and safely. I took you the most direct route. I answered your questions. I made you feel good about yourself. I made you laugh. I dropped you at the optimum location for your destination. I don’t know what else I could possibly be doing, maybe I could pick up juggling like that one douche.
The fare was $7.70. One girl pulled out two dollars and then collected two more from each of the other three. She handed me the 8 singles as they all exited my cab in a hurry. The old me would have taken my lump and gone about my night. The current me can’t help but say something.
“Damn you’re gonna do me like that?” I said
“What you mean?” the leader of the pack said, now standing outside my cab.
“Surely you know cab drivers work for tips right?”
The girl begrudgingly opened her purse again and handed me one more dollar. She slammed the door and the four of them walked into Aria. I was vindicated, and disgusted as I pulled my cab around to the back of the line at Aria, to wait to do it all over again.
“The 4 black girls were about to stiff me for the 4th time 2nite but I beat them up about it, my efforts netted me exactly 1 dollar."
I wish I could say that things got better from here. I didn’t wait long at Aria and soon loaded two white guys going to Planet Hollywood, directly across the street.
This is where the self fulfilling prophecy can come into play. You’re nearing the end of your shift and you‘re getting tired, you haven’t made any money, you’ve had to put up with some headaches, and just when you’re due for something to go your way, you catch a fare going a stones throw away. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep positive when you’ve taken so many punches to the throat, but if you let your negative attitude impact your level of service it most certainly will have an impact on your money moving forward. For those people that do tip, they are less inclined to do so to a grouch. I hate being the party pooper anyway. My customers are not concerned with my problems, only their own good time and I am a fool to ever think otherwise.
“Loading Aria going to @phvegas. For those keeping score at home, that’s right across the street. Fuck me."
The two guys immediately apologized for making me go such a short distance which made me feel a little better just simply knowing that they knew what they were doing to me. Not much of a conversation can be had in a two minute cab ride but thankfully they made the short trip worth my short while.
The cab stand at Planet Hollywood was full of cabs but seemed to be moving fast so I began the long trek around the circle at the front the drop off area to the back of the cab line. But before I even made it around the bend two girls flagged me down and asked me to take them to Encore. “Fuck yeah get in,” was probably along the lines of my response.
Of course this act of picking up flags outside of or away from a cabstand, is technically illegal as the State has deemed it unsafe to do so. The Nevada TaxiCab Authority wants me to refuse this business and tell the girls to hoof it the rest of the way back to the cab stand. And if I were being totally honest I would also tell you that I suppose that there is something of an ethical dilemma in this scenario as well as there are dozens of cabs on the stand that are patiently waiting their turn for a customer and I have essentially cut, or “front loaded”, that line. However, and since I am being honest about the situation, I would say that I don’t give a fuck about either of these potential issues. I know the real reasons why the State doesn’t want me picking up flags, you can read about those in The Ticket, and I justify caring less about those poor cabbie souls on the grounds that there is no doubt whatsoever that each and every one of them would, and have, front loaded me before. Go ahead and ask them if you want to. Each and every one of those cab drivers would take this fare as I am, so fuck me and fuck them too. You win some and you lose some and this flag is a minuscule needle of victory in a haystack of defeats that is this evening so far.
The two girls wished to go to the Encore which seemed to be becoming the place I was going to the most tonight. The ladies still had aspirations of going to XS and all of this was fine by me because I knew that there would be rides waiting for me at the Encore when I got there. And sure enough when we arrived minutes later there was an incredibly long line of people waiting for cabs and none to be found. So much so that a doorman loaded me up again immediately after my two girls paid me and exited the cab. This sort of successive dropping off and picking up reminds me again of the golden days of cab driving in Las Vegas. But as we’ve discussed, those times are behind us, and now my new passengers needed to go to the Excalibur and I knew right away that I was going to be left searching for a fare again as soon as I dropped off there. As you may already be aware, the Excalibur doesn’t exactly contain the most robust nightlife scene on the Strip. The Excalibur is a reminder of a different time in Las Vegas and I think they are just trying their darndest to keep up with the 21st century style of the city.
“Caught a lucky flag going to encore, the theme of the evening. There are at least 100 peeps waiting for cabs here…loading to Excalibur.”
True to form, the couple that now resided in my cab got to hear me give them a hard time for going to bed “early” the entire way to the Excalibur, which looked more like a ghost town than a Strip hotel in terms of activity when we arrived. Thankfully they enjoyed the good natured ribbing and handed me a nice gratuity as opposed to the 3rd degree. But like I knew I would be, I fled the Excalibur property for greener pastures soon as I dropped off.
“Left Excalibur empty again, no business there after 12. Waiting at Luxor.”
“Loading Luxor going to Caesars…”
“How is your night going?” the single white man was cordial enough to ask me.
“I can’t complain,” I responded in my best attempt to not be a party pooper.
“That doesn’t sound very good. Not your night tonight?” he said.
“You could say that.”
“How so?” he asked.
I liked how my customer was dictating the conversation for a change. “Well,” I said, “like anything else it always comes down to money doesn’t it? I haven’t exactly made a lot of it this evening.”
“Why not? It seems pretty busy to me,” he said.
“Yeah I know but what you think is busy and what I think is busy are not going to be the same. But that’s not really the issue tonight. I had a decent number of rides I suppose, considering the age we are living in, but I just haven’t had many good ones. You know, win some and lose some,” I said.
“What’s a bad ride? Like somebody not tipping you?” he asked.
“Yeah getting stiffed on the tip, which has happened to me four or five times tonight, or shitty rides right across the street. Oh and I almost forgot, I didn’t even get paid for my first ride tonight.”
“Didn’t get paid?” he asked, “Does that happen a lot?”
“It can happen, I wouldn’t say a lot.”
“What did you do? Can you call the cops or something?” he asked.
“Yeah I can, and have. This was kind of a different situation though.”
“Well it was a mother and her four kids that were stranded in the middle of nowhere with no money and in need of some help. I decided to do them a favor and gave them a ride to civilization. The mother insisted that I give her my number so she could call me later on to pay me but naturally I haven’t heard from her.” I said.
“Do you think she’s gonna call you?”
“What do you think?” I fired back.
“Yeah you’re probably right, you will never here from her again.”
By this time our cruise down the backside of the Strip on Frank Sinatra Dr. was complete, making a right hand turn into the back door of Caesars. A minute later I came to a stop at the front door where the gentleman stepped out of the cab. Through the passenger side window the man handed me $30 for the $10.10 ride. “Here, maybe that will cover that ride you gave them, hope your night gets better,” he said.
“Thanks a lot, I really appreciate that,” I said and watched the man turn around and walk into Caesars Palace. I hopped he had good luck. I spun the cab around the mini drop-off circle at Caesars, headed to the back of the cab line, when out of nowhere came a bright blue Chevy El Camino that blew right by me like I was standing still. I knew the car right away but once it passed me and I saw the familiar customized license plate it confirmed that the idiotic driver was actually an old friend of mine Carl from my initial days in Las Vegas attending UNLV. Carl was a cool guy that I lost touch with but was always a total jackass behind the wheel. Good to see that some things never change.
Between my pleasurable last ride and $20 tip, and the fortuitous happening of Carl I got the sense that maybe there was still hope for my evening after all. I had one hour left to make all the bad into good. All it takes is one great ride and a cabbie’s night can be a success. This is Las Vegas after all, anything is possible.
Minutes later I loaded 4 party kids at Caesars going back to Mandalay Bay. It didn’t take all of 1 minute into the cab ride before the kid riding shotgun asked me if I knew how to find any drugs. I doubted they were even 21. I responded with my usual comeback of, “I’m looking too so let me know if you find any.” That garnered a seemingly annoyed laugh from the group. What, I’m supposed to risk my hack permit, my job and my freedom for your unappreciative asses? I don’t think so. I dropped the kids off at Mandalay Bay 5 minutes later and received little compensation for my service or for that matter, attempts at comedy.
“Waiting at Caesars I spotted a really REALLY old friend. Insane. Loaded 4 Cali freaks to Mandalay Bay, waiting there now. 1 hr to go…”
One hour to go indeed and the small amount of good vibes I had built up from my recent $20 tip and Carl sighting was quickly washed away by the ungrateful party kids. The jury was back, this definitely wasn’t going to be my night. To make matters worse the cab lines were slowing down and it took me over a half of an hour of waiting at Mandalay Bay before I was awarded my next fare, a drunk girl going to Turnberry Towers on Paradise and Karen.
The trick with the solo drunk people is really two things. The first is simple and that is to just let them pass out. If they’re that drunk and just want to sleep than that’s ok as the chances of puking are greatly decreased when you’re snoring. And yes, I have had people snoring in my backseat before. I’ve had people snoring as well as the opposite of snoring, fucking, but that’s a story for a different time. The second thing to do, if they don’t fall asleep is to keep them talking. If I can keep you talking, and keep your mind off of puking, then I’ve increased my chances of success tremendously. But there is one caveat here however, you can talk about anything you want to, EXCEPT FUCKING PUKING! And I mean that literally. Any topic you would care to discuss is just dandy, but as soon as you say something like, “you’re not going to get sick are you?” or “let me know if you’re going to throw up so I can pull over ok?”, you’ve planted that seed in their mind and more times than not that seed will grow in the form of throw up on the back of your headrest and if you’re lucky they wont get any on you or the windows. It's a real pain in the ass to clean it off the windows. So no, we’re not even going to mention puking. Rolling the windows down is a good move too.
Thankfully the Las Vegas service industry worker was able to keep her cheeks together and ten minutes later I dropped her off at the Turnberry Towers sans incident. I glanced at the clock and realized that it was after 3 already. I’m into the 12th hour of my shift and could, if I wanted to, call it a night and just head back to the yard. On the other hand I could, if I wanted to, try and sneak one more ride in before I have to return the cab by 4 o’clock. My days of fishing taught me long ago that when you try to do “one more ride”, that’s usually when you have a problem. I’m not sure why but that’s just how it works.
Considering the little amount of money that I made tonight, I could certainly use a few more dollars to justify my cabbie existence, so I decided against my better judgment. I knew that the Encore would be moving very fast as the clubs were starting to close and there would be ample rides there. Probably even more than there was the last time a short while ago. So I set my headings for the Encore to do “one more”.
“Loaded Mandalay bay going to Turnberry Towers. Deadheading to encore to snake 1 more…”
Less than 15 minutes later I found myself at the front of the cab line at the Encore. There was a line up of cabs but with approximately 200 people waiting I made my way to the front in no time. The doorman blew the whistle to signal it was my turn but instead of making me stop right beside him, so he could open door for the next person in line, he waved me forward to a spot about 100 feet past him where I noticed two gentlemen in purple sport coats on either side of a scantly dressed blond girl.
I’d like to say “in hindsight“, but I must say in foresight I should have just locked my doors and cruised right past them on my way back to the yard and added this shift to the historical archives forever. It’s foresight because I knew that these two gentleman in purple sport jackets are hotel security and they are clearly at this point with this girl escorting her off the property. Their job is to make sure she leaves the premises. For what reason, we can not know. But logic should tell you that if the hotel doesn’t want her inside their establishment, than you probably wouldn’t want her in yours either. Lock the doors and drive right by, that’s all I had to do. Instead I unlocked them and came to a complete stop. One more ride.
The security guards opened my door for the girl and shut it behind her after she got in, but not before making sure she knew that she was not to return. The girl told me she was going to the Imperial Palace. The IP is hands down the biggest dump on the Strip but for what the IP gives you in a cheesy casino and the, there must be something dead in the closet stench in the rooms, it makes up for with inexpensive rates and perfect location. Considering these factors, the IP is home to the spring break crowd demographic 365 days a year. The funny thing about this was, the attractive blond now sitting in my backseat didn’t seem to fit the IP mold in the least. Sure she was very attractive and in her twenties, but she didn’t appear to be drunk at all and had a semblance of class. At least, that’s what I‘d concluded so far.
Our light changed to green and we made a left turn onto the Strip to head south towards the IP. I was kind of curious why she got kicked out.
“So how we doing this fine evening?” I asked, playing dumb like I didn’t know she was just trespassed from the Encore.
“I’m doing ok,” she said.
“Why are you out here by yourself? You lost your crew?”
“I lost them hours ago. I have no idea where any of my friends are,” she said.
“I take it you’ve called them?” I said.
“No. I never thought about it I guess.”
“I see,” I replied thinking to myself that she seemed a little like a deer in headlights. Maybe she was on drugs, or maybe she was working? I wasn’t sure but my intuition told me that neither of those were true. Maybe she was just dumb. Yes that‘s probably it. Dumb. “ Why did you get kicked out of the hotel anyway?” I finally got around to it.
“I didn’t get kicked out,” she said.
“Oh, I just seen the security guards with you and assumed they were kicking you out,” I said.
“What security guards?” she said.
By now I figured that she was either on some really good drugs, taking dumb to an epic level, or perhaps even that she’s simply assuming that I am the dumb one in the cab. It’s hard to say, but my money is on one of these three. Either way, by the time I made a left hand turn into the Imperial Palace driveway I had failed to get out of her the real reason for her being escorted off the Encore property. Oh well, I suppose it’s none of my business after all and of course by now, well into my 12th hour of work transporting the masses and dunces, I just wanted my 8 dollars and to go the fuck home.
“Ok we’re here, it’s gonna be $7.70,” I said before we came to a stop, hoping that she would situate her money quickly. But I knew better, my fishing days have taught me so. Instead I peeked around the headrest and watched the mindless youth fumble around in an attempt to gather whatever form of payment she had planned on using. A minute passed and the longer she was looking for her wallet or her money the more I became certain that she actually wasn’t looking for her wallet or her money but rather she was feigning looking for her wallet or her money. She had none, and I knew it.
“Where’s your money?” I said while the cabs behind me, who had undoubtedly already procured their payment, and who required me out of their way so they could go about their night, began to honk their horns.
“I don’t know,” she attempted in her innocent, woe is me, bashful delivery.
“You don’t know or you don’t have any?” I said raising my voice.
“I don’t know,” she said trying to hang on to her story long enough for me to just be a nice guy and let her get her way like she does in every other aspect of her life.
“Don’t fuck with me alright tonight is not the night! Where is your money?”
“I don’t have any I don‘t think?” And in a moment it became clear why she was kicked out of the Encore.
“That’s ok,” I said before locking the doors, “I’ll call the cops and you can explain to them how you got into my cab and had me take you somewhere when you had no money to pay for it. We’ll just sit here it’s fine,” I said. The 5 or 6 cabs stuck behind me laid on their horns. The driveway at the IP is a narrow one and the only thru lane is flanked by the side of the building on one side and the valet on the other. No one behind me can move until I do but I don’t care about this, I want her to feel the pressure.
“You’re going to call the cops?” she said trying to make me feel sorry for her. “If you give me your number I can pay you back tomorrow I promise.”
I thought that was incredibly funny considering how my night had begun. “You must think I’m pretty dumb don’t you? Listen, here is how this is going to work, you’ re going to give me your cellphone or your ID and then you’re going to call me when you have the money and I will bring it back to you. If you don’t want to do that I’ll call the cops and they will arrest you for defrauding a cab driver. You decide what you want to do.” I said, the symphony of horns resounding even more.
“I don’t have a cell phone and I can’t find my ID,” she said.
Fuck me, my blood pressure was rising. But in looking at her, she was wearing a dress and not carrying a purse. She had nothing in her hands so she probably was telling the truth. This is a game there is no question, and she seemed to be calling my bluff on the calling the cops play. She sat there while waiting for my next move and I began to think that perhaps the dumb bit was just that. But this is my game, my rules, my home court advantage. And if I had had a better night, or if I hadn’t already given out a free right to start my evening, or not gotten stiffed 5 times, or if I'd gotten some strip club rides, I might have just forgotten about it. Maybe. But that was not the case on this particular evening. I looked her over one more time and my decision was to deprive her of the only thing she seemed to have to spare.
“Give me your earrings,” I said reaching my open hand towards the back of the cab.
“What?” she said puzzled.
“Your earrings, give them to me now and we’re square. Otherwise I really am calling the cops and they really are going to arrest you if I tell them too,” I said. I knew the earrings were of no value, or of no street value anyway, but the move was more to deprive her of something. That was it. She begrudgingly removed the costume jewelry from her earlobes and placed them in my palm. I threw the earrings in my cup-holder and after I unlocked the door she climbed out of my cab without saying a word. Afterwords, I finally pulled forward and made a left turn to go through the parking garage out the back door of IP. Once I was in a place where I could get out of the way I brought the cab to a stop and didn’t pay any attention to the line of cabbies that drove by me, most of them honked one last time at me as they went past. I began notating my last rides of the evening onto my required trip sheet then flipped it over and entered my final meter readings into the appropriate columns. After fulfilling the State obligation, I grabbed my phone and tweeted my update.
“Loaded Encore to IP. A single white chick WHO DIDN’T HAVE ANY FUCKING MONEY! We came full circle 2nite and I want to kill something rite now”
“I took that girls’ earrings though lmao! I can’t take it anymore, heading back to the yard…”
Initially I caught up on a few phone calls and then blindly felt around the cab and gathered my personal belongings and put them back into my work bag as I drove back to the yard. My permit, my phone, my Lost Vegas book and my computer. I removed my calculator from the bag and while I was at the various red lights I furiously completed the figures on my trip sheet while I was waiting. All night is a race against the clock, a race to get the next ride, and now it’s a race to get home, a race to get this over with.
It’s nothing more than some simple subtractions, current readings minus beginning readings nets the final total fare amounts, total mileage, total paid mileage, and total number of trips. These figures are necessary by law and are also necessary to calculate how much money will be given to my employer and how much remains in my pocket. As good of a time as I have hanging out with the boys at the yard at shift start, I do everything in my power to get out of there as soon as possible when I am finished for the evening. Counting the pre-shift hour at the yard, I’m well into my 13th hour of work by this time and to say I’m usually exhausted by this hour would be a gross understatement. Nights where I make little money seem to exacerbate this problem so this means I have my calculator out and my reading lamp on while waiting at stop lights.
Ten minutes later I was one of the first to return to the yard and was rewarded with a short line at the pumps. Just like any rental car you’ve ever used, you must fill up the cab before you return it to the company. Tim, the pump attendant, was being nice although I’m sure he thought I was being an asshole. I just trying to get home was all I was and not interested in any more pointless conversation. In the process of cleaning out the cab I grabbed the pair of junk earrings resting in my cup-holder and without even thinking about it tossed them in the trash. What am I going to do with them?
“I threw away the costume jewelry earrings at the yard. Gassed up and returned the cab. Now time for paperwork…”
After my fill up, I grabbed my gas slip, removed the medallion and parked the cab in it’s space. I turned the keys and medallion in to the office and took a place to concentrate and get my trip sheet done so I could drop the company money in the safe and I be on my way. Some people I knew began to arrive and of course the only thing anyone wants to talk about is how much you “booked”. Cabbie life in Las Vegas is a competitive one and the companies see to it that the drivers are pitted against one another as a means increasing efficiency or of increasing company profits depending on your perspective. I wasn’t interested in whipping out my dick and comparing it to those who undoubtedly had a better night than I did so I tried my best to ignore the conversations and peaks over my shoulder at my figures. After my duties were complete, I promptly deposited my calculator in my bag and the money in the safe and started the walk back to my personal vehicle. I was tired, but I was done.
The sun will be up in an hour and for me it’s a race to get to bed before it gets too light. Sort of like a vampire, no exactly like a vampire. There was no question that I was anxious to get home and get a shower but I stopped by the gas station anyway because I was out of milk and already thinking about tomorrow afternoons bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I was in the store when I felt the familiar phone vibrating in my pocket. It showed an unknown number and just for a second I thought that maybe this was the mother of 4 who was finally calling me to pay me back for my good deed. Maybe she put her last ten dollars into a poker machine and hit a royal.
"Hello?" I said
"Hey Andrew what'd you book?" a loud male voice said to me.
"Who is this?"
"It's Trevor, sorry man I thought I gave you my new number already."
"No man, you didn't. I had a shitty night but I already left the yard, I'll talk to you about it tomorrow alright?" I said.
"Sure no sweat. You up for another game of chess tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I need my shot at redemption," I said and hung up the phone.
I should have known it wasn't going to be that lady, my fishing days have taught me so. Once I arrived at home I put the milk in the fridge and plugged my laptop in to charge. I grabbed my phone to plug it in as well, and then went upstairs to take a shower and go to bed. But not before tweeting my final update of the night.
“Another shift in the books. It wasn’t my night again tonight, but that’s a Night in the Life of a Cabbie in Las Vegas.”