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It's All About the Abrahams

Bill and Jacqueline in Las Vegas, Oct. 19-24, 1999

By Bill Walsh

DAY 6 (Sunday): A Close Call, and an Epilogue

Oh, I could hide 'neath the wings of the bluebird as she sings -- the 4:55 alarm would never ring. But it rings, and I rise . . .

I rise with odd rapidity, as a matter of fact, and so does Jacqueline. Thinking it just a formality, I phone the front desk at the Golden Nugget to see if the every-hour-on-the-half-hour shuttle to the airport still runs the way it always has. "You're shit-out-of-luck, sir," the kindly reply goes something like. So a taxi it is!

I can't say we're all that upset we had to take this taxi -- at this point, dealing with other people is no longer cute. We approach the wide-open America West skycap counter outside the terminal, smartly beating the long line inside, only to be informed that we've just cut in on a very, very long line -- apparently one that will be there ad infinitum if its members don't know the first thing about closing a gap.

So we drag our cheap suitcases into the terminal and get into an even-longer line to the America West counters. I have a Vietnam-style flashback to my last experience here, in which we checked my bag only to watch the counter staff conduct a lengthy party-down session amongst themselves before getting around to tagging it. But tag it they did, and we walked off satisfied until we got home to learn that they had tagged it to land not in Baltimore (my destination), but in Boston. That was an educational trip, though, as we learned that the airlines believe that their duty to keep travelers united with their luggage is only a tertiary concern.

We wait in this line for a full hour, and along the way we learn that our scheduled flight to Phoenix is being delayed at least three hours. That would mean we stand no chance of catching our scheduled Phoenix-to-Washington flight. So we get to the counter about 7:02 only to learn that, either through a very fortuitous screw-up or through divine providence, America West has us not on the 7 a.m. flight, but on the 7:10 flight. [Insert "Go, O.J., go!" joke here.] The door is already closed, but they open it and we feel fortunate to have seats for the short hop to Phoenix. Jacqueline gets a window; I get a middle seat two rows back. My tummy doesn't agree with 4:55 wake-up calls, and after I sit down it stages a mild protest by conjuring up the tiniest little excuse for a fart. The guy in the window seat to my left, apparently a thespian of the Don Knotts/Laurie Metcalf school, in turn registers his displeasure with a full-blown nose-plugging-with-the-left-hand, air-fanning-with-the-right-hand, stage-whispering-"pee-yeeew" production. Surprisingly, he does not request the oxygen mask. I offer my apologies to the row, the rest of the passengers, the crew and the Federal Aviation Administration, but it could have been a whole lot worse, believe me.

The timing of the connecting flight is perfect, and the last leg is as smooth a flight as I've ever had. "Big Daddy" is the movie this time, and we pony up the cash. This selection from the Sandler oeuvre offers precisely the kind of mindless semi-fun that I, as a weary traveler, am looking for. I even semi-enjoy the music videos they play beforehand, which alternate between sentimental cornpone country crap geared toward elderly Buick owners and sentimental song-and-dance numbers geared toward 13-year-old girls. Especially impressive is a self-parodying cliche-fest -- by Brooks and Dunn, if I'm not mistaken -- about a little country girl rockin' their world.

On the ground at our "final destination," we find our progress on foot blocked not by waddlers, but by people hurrying and pushing and shoving. I'm minding my own business walking at a brisk clip down the biggest, widest corridor Dulles International has to offer, and yet the people jutting into this corridor from tiny hidden vestibules walk as though there's no doubt they have the right of way in this situation. Ah, home!

PHOTO BY JACQUELINE
Our mail slot kept busy while we were away.
Well, almost. Let me back up: I've already mentioned the getting-off-the-plane ordeal, and at Dulles the trip from the gate to the terminal involves riding in a box-on-stilts sort of shuttle contraption. Then there's the aforementioned scene in the terminal, plus the grim vigil by the baggage carousel, then the long ride to the parking lot in another, more conventional shuttle. Then the drive back to our Capitol Hill home, which is not exactly hop-skip-jump distance from Dulles.

I complain a lot, but this really has been a near-perfect trip. The only thing that went wrong was the return flight from Las Vegas to Phoenix, and even that snafu magically repaired itself. And we won, dammit, we won! I don't count the slot-machine stuff, which we didn't indulge in much this time and which can fluctuate quite a bit. But in blackjack alone, I came out $104.50 ahead and Jacqueline was $131 ahead. Last visit, those numbers were $127.50 and $138.50. We're nothing if not consistent.

Regrets? I have a few. (Sorry to drone on with this epilogue, but my producer, Quinn Martin, insisted on it.) We played craps for the first time on our last trip, and I had hoped to toss in a little this time but didn't. We didn't see any of the off-Strip casinos, which I had a mild interest in seeing, or the Tropicana gambling museum, which I really wanted to see. I had hoped to pick up some Vegas-themed cuff links for my wedding ensemble and some Vegas-themed Ethel M treats for my co-workers. And I failed to beat up a single sports-book blowhard or path-blocking waddler. Finally, I made nary a dent in the selection at the Golden Nugget's 38 Different Kinds of Beer Bar.

Maybe next time.  


Masters of the Genre
If you liked this little dispatch, you'll love the seminal work of the Matt Weatherford/Mark "Stinky" Sinclair team and Abby Schiff, available at the Big Empire site.

My Real Web Site
You've probably already figured this out if you know the first thing about directory structure, but you'll find my main Web site at www.theslot.com. Read all about my views on English usage and the editing process, then wonder "So why were there so many typos in his Vegas piece?"