In this town, fortunes change in an instant. One minute you're broke and out of work; the next, you're parking cars at the Bellagio, pulling down $1,500 a week. A chip and a chair, as they say in the poker world, are all you need to score the big win that turns everything around. This week, I got a small but satisfying taste of only-in-Vegas serendipity, renewing my faith that here you can be down, but you're never really out.
It all started when the homeowner's association that manages my girlfriend's Henderson condominium had my car towed away. After a round of calls to the police and various towing companies, I located my maroon 2001 Chevy Impala at an impound lot 15 miles away, on the Valley's southwestern edge. The reason for its removal: A tow-truck operator had noticed that the registration sticker on the license plate was out of date—license to cart it away according to the HOA's bylaws. Never mind that the car's registration is actually good through July and that the new sticker was simply missing. No amount of pleading or proof-showing in front of the lot's steel bars would persuade the operator to waive the tow ransom. And sorry, tough luck, a manager for the HOA said. In the end, I coughed up $259 to get my legally parked and fully registered car back. It was enough to ruin my week.
Then, on the way home, the Vegas gods apparently intervened to set things right. Feeling frayed and frustrated, my girlfriend and I decided to commiserate over a beer in the nearest watering hole, which turned out to be the Silverton Lodge Casino on Blue Diamond Road. Bellying up to a bar on the casino floor, we each slipped a $20 bill into a table-top video poker machine. It was a trick we'd learned long ago from Vegas old-timers—play a few hands, get a free beverage. Worst case, you lose what you might have paid for the drinks anyway. But this time, it turned out much, much better. Within minutes, we were each dealt monster hands—my girlfriend four deuces; I a straight flush. The total take: $280—enough to cover the impound fee and buy an inexpensive dinner. You couldn't craft a more perfect ending to such a sucky day.