The Carmichael relationship with Las Vegas goes way back and hasn’t always been planned as meticulously as this, our 25th wedding anniversary and latest three days in nutty Nevada.
A good many years ago, when I was still lucky enough to have a mum to spend Christmas with in the old homeland and no Mr Carmichael or Carmichael daughters to keep me in Blighty, I would fly straight through (two hour touchdown and refuel in Los Angeles) and hit summer for bbq’s, salads, beaches, Tip Top ice-cream and reunions with friends and fam.
Except one time. That time the first leg didn’t go quite to plan.
I have learnt through numerous flights and many mistakes that it’s most important to maintain a polite distance, communication-wise, from one’s inflight neighbour. Obviously it is utterly impossible to remain physically distant through the twenty eight or so hours.
At your peril should you get into immediate conversation and share travel itineraries or worse. By necessity your neck will go into rictus, turned one way only and your row companion may be deaf, boring or indeed mad. I have encountered all three and on one flight all three in the one woman.
But this Christmas and this trip to New Zealand it was difficult to avoid conversational interaction.
“My wife had a heart attack this morning,” the overweight and a tiny bit smelly gentleman sat on my right informed me before the engines were turned on.
His wife lent round the corpulent belly and nodded.
I think I laughed. Obviously it couldn’t be true. I do remember hoping that they were only going to LA or that he had thought to pack a change of shirt for the onward if they were indeed flying with me all the way to the Antipodes.
“No, really?” I shook my head.
“She did. On the way to Manchester Airport.”
God forbid. They had already done a connecting flight.
“The doctor understood how important it is for us to see our son so he said it was ok for her to fly.”
His wife nodded and told me about their son.
“Do you feel alright?” I asked and, making my excuses, rushed to find an air steward.
The flight crew was not happy. Apparently it is not uncommon for elderly people to lose their minds and even die on these extended flights. They came and had a long chat with the couple but there was little they could do. The bags were loaded, the doors shut and her determination to see her son powerful in the extreme.
We were off.
Things went smoothly for approximately nine of the eleven hour flight.
“Los Angeles,” el capitan announced, “is fogbound. The airport is closed.”
Mass exclamations of horror, worry and annoyance.
“We are diverting to Las Vegas and the good news is that we will be one of the first 747s into there which means you will have a bed for the night. Flights behind us may not be so lucky.”
I was unencumbered, youngish and a Kiwi with a Kiwi crew who were already planning their night out. I had a pair of clean knickers in my carry on. I decided this was a half full moment.
Poor Mrs Manchester didn’t see it in the same light and began to have heart palpitations. We landed in Vegas surrounded by oxygen masks, crew and medics summoned over the tannoy.
An ambulance was on standby and Mr, Mrs and I (toting their hand luggage) were rushed through a side gate thus avoiding the diaspora that snaked out of the terminal (more a tin shack in them tha’ days) and across the tarmac.
I have never before or since got through American immigration in such a speedy style. And did have a goodly wait on the other side for my plane load to emerge battered, bruised and ready to board the buses to the Strip.
Freshly knickered if nothing else (suitcases in the bowels of Air New Zealand’s finest) I joined the crew for an extraordinary night of merriment among slot machines, dancing fountains and scantily clad females.
I even bought a pair of earrings off a woman in the hotel bar. They lit up and flashed in time to their own kinda’ music and I just had to have them. She told me she had another pair in her room. What a gal!
As we returned to the hotel there were, as the pilot had predicted, passengers sprawled across the marble steps of the hotel. No rooms in town.
But we were all good and I anticipated two spare seats for the remainder of my journey home.
Mrs Heart Attack Smart Attack was in her seat with hubby.
He had not packed a spare shirt.
She’d spent the night in hospital but explained to the doctors how important it was for her to see her son for Christmas and they let her back on. This would not happen today and I do have a grudging respect for her resolve.
I hope her son appreciated her warrior spirit.
They were moved up to business class. I got my extra leg room. And memories aplenty.
I have always wondered which hotel I spent that night in mumble years ago.
Now I know.
Last Tuesday I thought I recognised the marble steps and then had no doubt that this was the first aspect of strip living I’d been introduced to. The carpet only a reinforcement of the fact.
We’d come to see Elton at the Coliseum. He put on a most Vegalicious show for the Carmichael’s anniversary delectation.
and by seeing him at Caesar’s Palace I’ve managed to close another small but personally pleasing vortex in my life’s knowledge.
Not to be left out, Mr C on the way to the airport, quizzed the taxi driver mercilessly about which hotel he may have stayed in on a Xerox debauch in 1979.
And guess what?
It was the Desert Inn which Steve bought, demolished and built the Wynn in 2005 and that is where we laid our heads this time.
How spooky is that?