Two out of the last three weeks have found me in different parts of the country: Las Vegas and DC. I attended meetings there related to my business affiliations of 38 years. Below are my observations on these popular destinations in the worst economy since the Depression.
To most visitors, taxi drivers are a city's first measure. Growing up in Chicago, I was reminded how inept and rude the cabbies were in the 70's and early 80's. Then out of the south came a miracle in the form of 6'6" of coiled dynamite. Everyone wanted to be just like Mike as he led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships.
Taxi drivers were converted from curmudgeons to PR mavens. They were happy to see you and thrilled you visited THEIR town.
The river Jordan keeps on giving well after his retirement.
Hear about the casino for retirees? It's called Seizure's Palace
Since President Obama put the kibosh on Vegas, there have been lots of cancellations there. I suspected trouble in the town Bugsy Siegel visualized and the Mafia built to the brilliant visions of Steve Wynn and the various moguls who wanted their legacy carved into the Strip.
The twenty minute ride from the McCarran Airport was revealing.
Our cabbie knew what Kerkorian, Wynn, Trump and Adelson were up to. It was as if he was in their meetings. He knew which casinos were hurting, what condos weren't selling and where the bargains were.
A spectator of mogul horse racing, he knew which billionaire had stamina and which may have to be put down into bankruptcy protection.
All the cabbies were like him, the waiters, bell staff and dealers too.
These service people had skin in the game and were positive they would come back. They knew that the way to return to fruitfulness was to make sure customers were impressed. The cabbies even took short cuts to save us time and cash.
There was a refreshing rebellious spirit amongst the Vegas brethren despite its mistreatment by the president.
I ran ten miles yesterday…my coat got caught in a taxi door
Forget the fact that most DC sports venues suck, with the exception of the Caps, the toughest contact sport in Washington has always been politics. DC's economy has been in boom mode since the New Deal.
Obama's victory is delivering another growth spurt in an already over-burgeoning industry, the federal government.
Maybe someone ought to communicate this to the smug cabbies, dispatchers, and wait staffs. The 'tude seems not to exude pride as much as a sense of entitlement. Whether you enjoy your stay or not is irrelevant to them.
Let's start with the hotel. The personnel was friendly enough, but when they got our coffee room service wrong for the third straight day, gave me bad advice on cab instructions and reneged on their promise to provide free bottled water, I began to look askance.
My first DC cabbie was in heated discussion on his cell phone when I entered the cab. About a block away from the hotel he put the phone aside and demanded to know where I was going. I said, "Fox News International, not local. Do you know where that is?" "Of course!" Then he went back to his cell.
After passing by foreign flags on embassy row, I asked if he knew where he was going. He said, "Of course!" very agitated that I would interrupt his conversation with my meddling question.
As the meter passed the $20 threshold, my driver pulled up to a strange looking building on Wisconsin Ave. with the sign "Fox News 5" I said "You took me to the wrong place. This is the local affiliate, not international Fox News."
He dropped his phone call and smugly called his dispatcher. She backed HIM up!
I called my bro-in law, Dave Renken, who was working at Fox News. I demanded the Cabbie take me to the address Dave gave me.
As he pulled in and saw the Fox News sign on the building his jaw dropped to his chest. He said, "I'm a poor Christian from a very small village in Ethiopia." Cheesh! I gave him the $7 it should have cost me. We parted on good terms, after he apologized.
At least the gal that took us on the shuttle from the BWI (Baltimore Airport) to our DC hotel was the epitome of what a service person should be.
Also the guy that took us back to BWI was terrific.
I guess if you're coming or going, Washington is the place to visit.
For my money, my bet is on Vegas…probably just like Mike.