Limos, fancy dinners, and suites. Chock it up to the ultimate example of first world problems as we Vegas diehards routinely do the same things chasing the memory of how pleasurable these luxuries were the first time we experienced them. I’ll gladly continue this routine but I’m fully committed to the belief that the memories made from all the limos, fancy dinners, and suites the town has to offer pales in comparison to the shenanigans that seemingly develop organically with strangers.
This is the story of those shenanigans and finding trouble one Christmas Day morning with people I hardly knew.
Having arrived into town at an unusually late 7pm, I had a day’s worth of drinking to catch up on and a night’s worth of drinking to look forward to. As always, The Mirage did not disappoint. During my nightcap at Center Bar, I was “that guy”—the guy that seemed fine when he ordered his drink but took one sip that sent him over the edge, the guy with his eyes only half-open teetering on the bar stool, the guy we’ve all sympathized with but also had a good laugh at.
Now about 3am, I mustered up the energy to sign my tab and was ready to turn in but with a serious hangover looming, the grilled cheese and tomato bisque at Pantry intercepted my path.
I bellied up to the counter and ordered. Emily sat a few seats down from me. She was at Pantry alone but visiting with her fiancé and family from Toronto. She was kind, impossibly sweet, and extraordinarily outgoing. I chatted with her about once being a sheltered 19-year-old visiting family in Ontario and getting drunk off Molson at Wasaga Beach. I think she was impressed by how much Canadian I could namedrop in one sentence.
I wished her goodnight and hoped we’d cross paths again knowing all too well that it’d likely be another fleeting friendship made and lost over a few minutes on a granite bar top.
I would be very, very wrong.
I awoke to an eventful day—one last hurrah at the Caesars Diamond Lounge before losing my status, a solid gambling run, Heritage Steak, drinks with friends at Mandarin, Aria, and Bellagio too. I get back to Mirage—it’s now about 2am—and I’m looking for a nightcap but it’s officially Christmas and the scene is dead throughout the casino. Just as I’m about to give up, I spot Emily sitting with three other gentlemen at the Sports Bar. She sees me and gives me a hug. It’s my invitation to join them.
“Mike, I want you to meet my fiancé Adam.”
Like Emily, Adam is exceedingly kind, gregarious, and welcoming. This couple was meant for each other.
“Oh, you’re the guy that’s been to Wasaga! Emily was telling me about you!” Adam says as I sit down, “It’s crazy to meet someone that’s been to our parts.”
“I’m just going to apologize for anything I said last night. I kinda’ don’t remember most of it,” I joke.
Emily and Adam explain how much they love Vegas and are getting married in the city some time next year. I continue to make wisecracks: “Oh, you’re getting married here?! I’ll be there!”
Next to Adam is a gentleman named Rio who they’d just met that evening. Rio is in his mid-to-late 20s, tall, wearing a black True Religion shirt with tattoos stretching down to his wrists framing his giant gold watch that complemented the gold-colored MCM belt buckle displayed prominently between his shirt and sagging jeans. He’s suave and charming and an instant friend. The same could not be said for his buddy who’s comatose with a full Heineken and glass of Courvoisier in front of him and a little bit of drool running down the side of his lips. Vegas got the best of him.
Security comes by and says that the passed out patron has got to go. Rio takes responsibility: “I’m so sorry. He’s had it pretty rough the last few months. Marriage difficulties, four kids. This is his first vacation in a while. We’re just up the street at TI. Tell you what, you make one loop around the casino and we’ll be out of here before you’re back.”
He actually gets security to distance themselves! How good is this guy?! He then manages to get his friend out of his seat and walks with him back to TI. Meanwhile, Emily, Adam, and I chuckle at the whole scenario. Just another night in Vegas.
Emily starts feeling tired and excuses herself to bed while Adam and I shoot the shit for a while. Several minutes later, Rio comes back! The dedication! He had actually dropped his friend off at TI and drunkenly wobbled back to the Sports Bar at Mirage. He orders another drink and asks Adam where Emily went.
“She was pretty exhausted and went to bed.”
Adam and I get yet another drink while Rio was just nursing his fresh pour. I ask if his friend is going to be okay.
“Him? Yeah, he’ll be fine.”
“You’re a good man for taking him all the way back to TI. You guys known each other a while?” I ask.
“Nah man, we just met earlier today. We just hit it off.”
Holy shit! Know a guy for a few hours and then make sure he makes it to bed safely? Especially when you have to walk him to a whole different hotel?! I was inspired to know that there are still good people left in this world and pleased to be drinking with such good company.
Adam rummages through his pockets looking for his room key and finds it. You can tell he’s almost ready to call it a night. We ask for our checks and sign off. Meanwhile, Rio gets up about half way leaning with his hands pressed against the edge of the bar top. He’s sighing deeply and it seems like the alcohol is catching up to him. The man willing to help out newfound friends looked like he needed a little assistance himself.
“Hey Rio, you ok?” Adam asks.
Rio chugs down his near full drink in three swift gulps and slams it down. He responds, “Adam, what’s your room number?”
In that moment, in that exceedingly heightened state of inebriation and camaraderie amongst new friends, it seemed so natural that Adam blurted out his room number oblivious to the fact that a) he had just met us and b) his room key was simply dangling between his fingertips.
Rio swipes the key right out of his hands and runs.
Neither of us could believe what just happened. It seemed surreal. Adam turns to me, his face already ashen and I could hear the tremor in his voice: “I’m freaking out man. What do I do?!!”
I turn away from Adam and watch Rio head the wrong way towards Rhumbar.
If you’re going to con Vegas visitors, make sure they don’t go six times per year. In that moment, I was Clark Fucking Kent except that instead of turning into Superman, I sobered up and put all my trivial, once useless Vegas knowledge to good use.
“Adam, stay calm. He went the wrong way. We’re going to find security, hopefully the same officer that was trying to remove the drunk guy from earlier. That way he can ID Rio quickly. We’re going to tell him to page the officers at the elevator to not let anyone that looks like him up. Then he’s going to contact front desk and make sure all keys to your room get deactivated. Our first line of defense though is to call Emily and tell her to deadbolt the door NOW.”
“I don’t have my fucking phone on me!!”
“Then we better fucking RUN!!”
At 4am on Christmas morning, most of the casino is asleep and no less than six security officers are huddled around the atrium. Among them is the officer who had been at the Sports Bar earlier.
“Sir, we have an emergency,” Adam sputters, “The guy, not the passed out one, but his friend you were talking to earlier. He stole my room key and knows my room number and I don’t know, but my fiancée is up there and I can’t reach her, and please help.”
They confirm Adam’s room and instantly call the front desk to cancel all keys. Meanwhile, I’m describing Rio’s features to another officer while he’s got the elevator security on radio relaying the information in real-time: “Tall, mid-to-late 20s, about six foot three inches, black shirt that says True Religion, tattoo sleeves on both arms, large gold watch, belt buckle reads M-C-M.”
We make our way to the elevator followed by an entourage of security. It’s quite the scene. I use my room key to pass, Adam gets escorted in by officers and we head up to his floor. No sign of anyone. We head over to the room and security calls. We can hear the phone ringing from behind the door. No answer. Security knocks violently. Still, no answer. Before forcing the door open, security asks to see Adam’s ID once more and continues to inquire, “Sir, so you didn’t know the individual who stole your keys?”
“No, I just met him at the bar a few hours ago.”
“And what about this gentleman with you?” the officer asks as he gestures to me.
“Uh, I mean, I just met him at the bar a few hours ago too. But he’s cool.”
In this time of despair and worry, we, but most especially the security team, all kind of looked at each other and laughed at the absurdity of the situation.
The officer pages down, “I’m opening the door, repeat, opening the door” and barges into the room. Adam runs in. Emily is nowhere to be found.
At that very moment just before debilitating panic set in, the officer’s radio goes off: “We have ID’d the individual and are removing him from property.”
I was overcome with relief; I couldn’t imagine how Adam must have felt. Regardless, he was still understandably worried for Emily.
“Adam, this is Vegas. We’re surrounded by cameras,” I say trying to ease the situation, “If she’s not up here, I promise you she’s safe in the casino somewhere and I’ve got a suspicion where we’ll find her.”
“And you have to,” the officer added, “Neither one of you have working keys anymore.”
We thank the team profusely as we make our way down. Endless kudos to the security staff at Mirage.
Sure enough, sitting right where I met her last night, Emily in her exceeding kindness and infectious personality, had once again befriended a solo diner at Pantry, completely oblivious to the events that had just ensued. And to think, with the restaurant located next to the elevators, we rushed right passed her in our haste to make sure she was safe.
Adam insists on buying me a drink if we can, for just a moment, get the hell out of Mirage. So now, at about 5am, we square away new keys for the room and the three of us head across the street to The Venetian for a beer at Bellini Bar and toast to new friendships. Adam described me as a “Christmas miracle,” but I’m the one that walked away feeling blessed. I was just looking for shenanigans with people I’d never met. What I found was an adventure with true friends.
Earlier that evening, we were strangers and I was joking about going to their wedding. Two days later, I received a message from Emily: it was a photo of Adam eating a grilled cheese and tomato bisque at Pantry. Beneath it, a request for my attendance on their big day.
The story, the friendship, the invitation—it was the best Christmas gift I could ever ask for.
(I went home the next day and found a note in my coat pocket from Adam that he wrote on the back of his receipt at Bellini Bar. Classic.)