Over the last several years several casinos on the Vegas Strip have added roller coasters. I guess gambling with Junior’s college fund just isn’t exciting enough. Actually, I think these are some sort of holdover from the ill-fated campaign to make Vegas a ‘Family Destination’, one of the more poorly considered marketing ideas ever developed. Right up there with New Coke, and the Green Hornet movie (just as an aside, I saw the movie or at least as much of it as I could stomach recently on a plane, and it puts the ‘ful’ back in the word awful).
But if roller coasters and gambling aren’t getting the blood surging through your veins, like it did when you were fifteen and Mom found your stash of Playboys, then maybe you should try a cab ride. Sure, you might end up with some surly uncommunicative guy who just takes you from point A to B with a minimum of fuss and bother. But, if you roll the dice correctly, you might get a driver like Omar the Mad, the grinning Ethiopian kamikaze!
Omar, which probably isn’t his real name, I mean it could be, but I didn’t catch his name when he introduced himself, so I just picked Omar, since Omar the Mad sounds a lot more impressive than, say Walter the Mildly Excited. Mary, who glanced at his medallion, wasn’t any clearer on the driver’s actual identity, since the guy in the picture was a good twenty five years older than our driver, who easily could have passed for fifteen. Not that I’m saying he was mind you, just that he could have been going to the junior prom rather than piloting a cab. Omar we met one fine spring night in Las Vegas, outside the Wynn. We only needed a five minute ride back to the Four Seasons. The ride seemed to take considerably longer, but only because terror slows down one’s perception of time.
Omar the Mad, is a recent and really, really enthusiastic immigrant to these fair shores. As he told us repeatedly, he had been in the country for a year, and he loved America! We agreed, we loved America, too! Everyone loves America! Omar also loved R&B and soul! Really loved them! Would we like to listen to his music with him? We didn’t mind. And if you really love something like good music, you should play it really loud, so everyone else in the greater Las Vegas downtown area could hear it too! We might have minded temporarily losing our sense of hearing for the next three or four hours, but that’s largely quibbling. Aretha, you rock!
Apparently in Ethiopia, or so we can assume from inference, if there are white lines demarking lanes on the roads, they are intended strictly as suggestions. And not strong ones at that. At no point during our journey did Omar actually stay in a lane for more than three or four seconds. The majority of the time was spent straddling the lanes, as in Ethiopia (again by inference), possession is ninety nine one hundredths of the law. When we were not straddling a lane, we were swaying from one to the other, with occasional side trips just over the yellow line, just for a little spice. Whether or not this was Omar’s normal mode of vehicular guidance, or due to the fact that he spent most of his time clapping his hands in time to the music, is something that will occupy our discussions for years to come.
Suffice it to say, our surprise at arriving alive and undamaged at our destination was as nothing compared to Omar’s surprise at getting a rather generous tip. I believe that our largesse was probably similar to the votives offered to the gods over a miraculous survival, or other propitious and unexpected events. So if you happen to be in Vegas, and you’re looking for some maximum excitement, just keep your eyes peeled for the yellow cab with the windows vibrating in time to the sweet, sweet tunes of Marvin Gaye. Say, hello to Omar for us.