I was stranded in Las Vegas.
Most people wouldn't mind being stranded in Vegas as opposed to say Primm Nevada, but remember, a glass of ice water in Vegas is six bucks. An omelet with cheese can be nineteen dollars. A five minute cab ride to the airport ate up most of a twenty dollar bill.
When Super storm Sandy walloped the East Coast I knew I wasn't getting out as scheduled. I went to the front desk at Mandalay Bay and asked registration if they could extend my stay since I wouldn't be leaving as scheduled. They gave me a price on two extra nights. Of course that price didn't include resort fees, taxes, or the bottle of water I drank in my room.
I was on the phone with Southwest airlines for about a half an hour. I wanted to book a flight out as soon as the Weather Channel hinted the airports where open. I was scheduled to fly out on the day the storm came ashore and flooded New York and New Jersey. High winds in the Mid Atlantic states were tearing apart Tuesday departures as well. The only guarantee I had for getting out without being homeless in Chicago or Denver was Wednesday so I grabbed it. There was no extra charge. Meanwhile, room charges at the hotel were spirally higher the longer I stayed there but at least I wasn't schlepping my roll aboard and back pack around on the strip. I had a roof over my head and a plane ride home.
I ate like a pauper. I had an omelet for breakfast and didn't eat anything else for the rest of the day except for a three dollar protein bar I bought in the gift shop. I don't drink so seventeen dollar cocktails weren't going on my tab. I don't gamble either. At night I bought some nachos and wolfed them down. I think they were twelve dollars plus the tip. I might have had four slices of a thirty dollar pizza too on Monday night.
I went to the beach at Mandalay Bay and lounged in the sun. I could feel the dry desert air and the 82 degree temperature wringing me out like a washcloth. I splurged on more ice water.
On the weekends, Californians pour into Vegas to gamble and party. They clear out on Sunday to let the corporate conventioneers into town. These people are some of the strangest humans I've ever seen. Of all the people soaking up the sun in their swimsuits there might have been four or five whose stomachs didn't flop over the tops of their trunks. They wore lanyards with their names on them. Some sat in the sun in their shirts and ties on, forgoing the embarrassment of showing off the fifty extra pounds enveloping their waistlines.
The airport was jammed. People who were supposed to fly back on Monday crowded into food shops while holding cell phones to their ears. I heard one guy talking about a tree that fell on his garage. Someone else was worried about power outages. Most of the people on my flight back home were orphans of the storm.
If you have to spend time at an airport waiting for a flight out, Las Vegas is one of the best. They offer fresh fruit markets where an apple or a banana can be had for just a dollar. There are also slot machines where gamblers who can afford to shove dollar bills into machines touting nine thousand dollar jackpots. If you're a slot slut, passing the time waiting for your flight could be very profitable.
I commend Southwest airlines for their great customer service and the efforts they made to get stranded East Coast refugees home. There was massive re-routing and scheduling changes. The people I dealt with on the phone were gracious and patient. They made it easy to change departure dates and times with no hassle whatsoever.
As it turned out, I was lucky enough to get a front row seat back home, even after thirty people boarded ahead of me. For some reason, many of them passed up the legroom available at the bulkhead. As I flew across country into the night I could see cities lit up like tiny villages even as millions still remained without power. I thought about the two feet of snow that fell on West Virginia and in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I was glad to be thirty thousand feet above it all.
The flight was smooth and effortless. There was no turbulence or delay and the jet stream got me home in under five hours. I was glad to be back. I had food to eat in my refrigerator and the lights were on. I couldn't have asked for more.