I was left for dead in Vegas
Part IIby Dave McAwesome
Don't forget to read part I.
We sped out of the heart of Los Angeles at 8 p.m. to invade the electric wonderland of Las Vegas. Twelve hours later, we exit one of the town's many windowless establishments to the scalding (and alarming) light of day. My three companions insist I stay another day. More beer. More girls. More decadence. I ignore their drunken lies. I've got a plane to catch back in LA. Back to a girl who would later leave me. Back to a job I would later quit in disgust.
I check the time. Only a few hours to get the rental car to the airport and myself into coach class. "I'm cutting it close," I announce to no one. Those three bastards have already jetted off in a cab. I hail my own and stammer nonsensically as I try to remember where I parked my rental car last night. "Those bastards," I shout at those bastards. They can't hear me. They've found a new dealer by now. I mumble a name of one of the million hotels in Vegas. It's a long shot, but that's the spirit here. I hit the triple cherries on this one, because it looks familiar—spinning a little more than when I first arrived, but familiar nonetheless. I pull my feet out of the cab and begin to wade through the oceanic parking lot.
This was never the plan. One of the three hellions had intended to drive back with me. I'd drive to Vegas; he'd drive from. That was the deal. So why am I standing alone in a parking lot at 7 a.m.? The four of us came here in two cars and I'm lucky just to have found mine. A few spots away is the other vehicle, and I hastily scrawl on the back of a business card, "I can't believe you left me for dead in Vegas." I stick it under their windshield wiper. I'd call it a clever, snarky bit of revenge if it were, but it wasn't. Forty-eight hours later I would learn it only make them laugh harder. No remorse.
I have no earthly clue how to get back, the gas tank is almost dry, and I remember something I wished remained forgotten: I'm still drunk. The carriage has indeed turned into a pumpkin, soft and rotten.
"Steady now, boy-o," I mutter, collapsing into the car. "Wheel straight. Not too heavy on the gas." The key to not driving drunk, I tell myself, is not having the foresight to sober up hours before driving to a flight you'd planned many months in advance. No. The key to not driving drunk is to pretend really, really hard to drive sober. That sentiment is inherently stupid, but to someone who has spent a week of 14-hour work days topped off by a few LA parties and a sleepless jaunt in Vegas, stupidity has lost all meaning. So, too, apparently, has my plan to pretend I'm sober. I'm weaving like a roman candle out of Vegas into an empty desert.
I pick up some fast-food not far out of town. It is filthy and rank, yet filling. My body sways at a gas pump a few miles later. I throw out my trash at the station and take a deep, long breath of gas fumes for the remaining journey ahead.
My confidence in my ability to find my way out of anywhere has always been shallow. Beer does nothing to improve one's capacity for unerring navigation. My eyelids grow heavy and weak.
Route 15 is a straight drag across the desert. The last chunk of miles to LAX is the real challenge. Luckily, I have my hastily scrawled directions and trusty map--...Ahem, I say, it's a good thing I have my hand-written directions and official map of the city and county of Los Ang--...Sweet Jupiter, they're gone, trashed along with burger wrappings and used napkins at a lonely fuel station in the flatlands.
I inherently distrust road signs. They serve the locals. They don't convey adequate longitudes and latitudes for drunken, sleep-starved wanderers. I have no idea where I'm going. West, probably, but that is all. I'm the type of person who'd get lost on the yellow brick road. It's not hard to picture. Flying monkeys are dining on that fat ass lion, the tin man lubes himself in autoerotic fervor, and I've used the scarecrow for tinder. We're deep in the woods, not a brick in sight (yellow or otherwise) and I am making boldly erroneous identifications of Oz's North Star. "Come 'round the fire, Flying Monkey, and bring some o' that white meat."
I'm not making this flight. No way. My foot crushes the accelerator. I slow long enough to avoid a speed trap. The cop squats in the median, swatting down LA-bound losers. I take a guess at one of the exits and it pays off. I'm spit out at the edge of Watts. No problem now. I dump off the car and scramble through LAX to my gate. Just as I arrive, boarding is cancelled. The pilot, I'm told, is sick, and the flight is delayed until a replacement can be found. This, of course, is bullspit. I passed his car on the way here. He was losing money at the same tables we were. He's not sick. His car is upside down in a ditch off the 15, but he's not sick.
I struggle to stay awake at the gate. If I sleep, I'll never hear the new boarding call. Gotta stay up. I pace and sit and pace and sit. I stink of alcohol and desert wind. But I'm here. As the plane finally launches towards New York, I promise to never forget the act of compassion by the stranger-pilot who engaged in massive, self-inflicted perils (spawned by a brutal Vegas losing streak, no doubt) so that I may catch my flight. Thank you, stranger. Excelsior.