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Front-seat view: A Friday night ride-along with a Vegas cab driver

Desert Cab driver Michael Sandifar in Las Vegas on Friday, October 4, 2013.
Photo: Leila Navidi

His windshield is a window onto Las Vegas.

Michael Sandifar has been driving a cab in the Valley since 2008. After the economy went south, and his car touch-up business went with it, Sandifar noticed an ad in the newspaper that read, “Cash Paid Daily.”

Five years later, he’s a supervisor at Desert Cab, where he enjoys the freedom that the driving life provides.

“Once I leave that yard, I’m kind of my own boss,” he says.

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Sandifar, 47, an Indiana native who’s been a lifelong Vegas fan, says his enthusiasm for Sin City hasn’t waned. “I still love this town. I get excited when I pick up somebody and this is their first time to Vegas, and I get to tell them what to do and go see.”

His favorite restaurants to recommend are Top of the World, Battista’s Hole in the Wall, Hash House A Go Go and Lotus of Siam.

And Sandifar has stories, too. He’s been lucky to have only a handful of vomiters ride in his car. Usually, he says, he can spot them in a crowd and won’t pick them up. But one night, a clearly inebriated man being supported by his date climbed into the cab at the Plaza. Sandifar made them promise he wasn’t going to throw up, but halfway into the ride, the man was clearly about to lose his dinner. Sandifar made him stick his head out the window, but the passenger forgot to turn his head to the side and puked all over his own face.

During the World Series of Poker, a player once left his $10,000 buy-in money in an envelope on the floor of Sandifar’s cab. The driver was quick to call it in, and was rewarded with a $400 tip from the grateful Eastern European.

Another time, two sisters asked if they could smoke in his cab. Only after he agreed and they lit up did he realize they meant marijuana.

Sandifar thinks cab drivers in Las Vegas get a bad reputation. “Cab drivers have families. They take it seriously. It’s their profession,” he says.

Without the Valley’s fleet where would we be? “Cab drivers are out there moving this town and keeping the tourists happy.”

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