Monday, January 15, 2018

More adventures in Uber in Vegas

Ricardo picked me up from the Gold Coast. Within thirty seconds, he was pulling up his shirt to show me the bullet wound he got in Salvador, and I was starting to wonder where this was going.

"I saw things man. Horrible things. Was fucked up man. Kids raped and tortured. Nuns. Old ladies. So many man. They don't take the bullet out because they say no harm. So I carry it man. And I carry the memory. Was fucked up. So fucked up I become junkie man. 7 kids and 17 grandkids now. I tell them man, you work hard, you don't do drugs, you learn man. But they don't know. They have it easy man. But I try to tell them man. But they can't understand man. But I try man. They work hard man. You gotta work man. Stay away from drugs and crime man. What's the gate code man?"

My next car pool driver was Juan. I was first into the car, and then we picked up a well dressed reasonably good looking lady in, I'd guess, her early to mid 20s.

I greeted her from the front passenger seat as she climbed into the back, on her phone. She looked at me, her face somewhere on the spectrum between disinterest and disdain, and decided I was not someone whose greeting needed to be returned.

She spoke on her phone for the next ten minutes, endlessly repeating herself
"I think he knows. Who could have told him? Only you and me knew right? But I feel like he knows. I'm almost certain he knows. But who would have told him? But yeah, I think he knows. I'm not sure but I feel like he knows"

We pulled up outside a very big house, and she hung up and climbed out looking tense and sheepish.

Hopefully, he did know.

My last Pool driver was Ramon. It quickly became clear Ramon had almost no English, which to be honest I didn't feel would be an issue until we stopped in the middle of who knows where and he said

"Get out!"
"Huh? Why?"
"You live here!"
"No I don't"

He tried to continue the conversation but had apparently exhausted his vocabulary of English. Instead he pointed at the GPS which had directed him to this address.

"I do not live here"

He referred me to Exhibit A, the GPS. I pulled out Exhibit B, my IPad with the address 5631 White Dune St.

He looked at it (then me) suspiciously, then the GPS. After looking at all three of us several times, he apparently concluded the GPS was the culprit, and started punching it. When he calmed down, he looked again at the IPad, then said "I don't know"

I had never used a GPS before, but it seemed that of my three options here, it might be the most feasible (I didn't fancy my chances of learning Spanish on such short notice, or teaching him English). So I gave it a lash and before I knew we were on the road again, heading in the right direction.

At least until Ramon got a call. He pulled up. He spoke in Spanish. I got the gist. Back where he'd tried to convince me I lived, there was another passenger waiting to be picked up. So back we went.

We spent a few minutes outside a gate while Ramon tried to get the client on the phone to get the gate code. A very menacing and clearly frustrated male voice barked it at him. It didn't work. He tried ringing again. Before Mr Personality could pick up, the gate opened to let someone out and we were in.

We circled a maze several times before the GPS and Ramon agreed they had the right house, out of which tottered an almost naked lady. She climbed in to the back seat, and seemed alarmed by the sight of me in the front. It's hard to know what one should say in these situations other than "Pool", so I went with that. She smiled blankly, her pupils the size of saucers, and then closed her eyes and possibly passed out.

Meanwhile we are driving around the maze because Ramon and the GPS can't agree on the best route out of here. We stop in front of a locked gate. I direct him back to the gate we came in, which would have been helpful if either of us knew the code, which we didn't. Mr Personality declined Ramon's calls. Ramon suggested waking the hooker in the back seat in case she knew. I thought it was far more likely she'd freak out if we even touched her, so I shot that one down. As Ramon tried to phone Mr Personality for the umpteenth time, another car sped out and we tailgated.

What should have been a ten minute ride lasted over two hours. I decided there and then I was done with Uber Pool.

Mellow Winnie picked me up from the house and brought me to the Gold Coast. She was listening to Satie. She asked me a few questions, the usual where who what's, but seemed unconcerned by the answers. She spoke in a hushed tone that suggested she'd never been excited in her whole life. It's all good, man.

As she dropped me off, she told me the buffet there was sensational.

A couple of weeks later, she picked me up again. This time Mrs Doke was with me, but other than that, same soundtrack same questions. She apparently didn't remember me. As she dropped us off at the Gold Coast, she told us the buffet there was sensational.

It isn't.

Another repeat offender told me his name was Frank. Maybe this really was his name, or maybe only because his night job was Sinatra impersonator. He looked enough like Sinatra that I could believe this, even before he belted out Take Me To The Moon.

I liked Frank. He chatted away happily about Sinatra, canoeing (his other passion), and it was through him that I learned our neighbours in the next house were Rumanian poker players. I never saw them, but my friend Traian confirmed they were there.

Frank was full of the joys of life, although less so the second time he picked me up. His hands were cut up: canoeing accident he told me, and he was in a lot of pain. But it would pass, and his natural bonhomie would return. Of that, I had no doubt.

Winston had dreadlocks, played reggae non stop and was almost certainly Jamaican, or very much wanted to be. He was a listener (to the reggae) not a talker, so not a single word passed between us. The reggae soundtrack made that ok: I came out of his car outside the Wynn the most chilled I'd felt all Vegas, despite being late for a meeting with two impatient ladies, one of whom was sending me "Where are you?" messages every 30 seconds or so.

Earl was a mine of information. Through Earl I learned quite a few facts about the elevation and topography of Vegas. It turns out it's a lot higher than you might think, or at least I did, and that the Strip is more or less the low point in the valley.

That topic exhausted, he asked me what I did. When I said poker he looked disappointed. Not wishing to be a disappointment I told him I used to be an ultra runner, expecting to have to follow it up with the usual answer as to what the Hell that was. But no. Earl knew exactly what it was. In fact, he was almost as knowledgeable as me.

Turns out Earl's brother used to be the number four ranked marathoner in the US. That's the cruelest ranking, because in running everything comes in threes. Medals for the first three. Three competitors maximum per country in the Olympics. You get the idea. Earl certainly did.

Earl's brother, like me, tried to move up to ultras after his marathon career wound down. Unfortunately, unlike me, he didn't get the distance. Like me, he never made it to the Olympics either, regardless of what Tony Cascarino might have you believe.



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