I was lying across my bed writing my Bluff column and playing Omaha hi-lo on Full Tilt when my phone rang and the four words you never want to hear from someone you love escaped Pauly's lips.
"I'm in an accident."
Thank God or whatever power may be up there that the next three were "But I'm O.K."
Seriously, I don't know what I'd do. I can't even go there right now.
Pauly was driving from Scheckytown back to the Rio along Desert Inn Road. He'd left his power cord at home when he'd left to go in to work and needed to retrieve it, thus the mid-afternoon return trip to Summerlin. At the intersection of D.I. and Ranibow, a fire truck with its sirens on ran a red light. One car stopped short. A second car stopped short behind it, and Pauly slammed into the back of that car going what sounds to me like about 25 MPH. The airbag in his shitty rental car did not deploy.
He had to deal with the police and didn't want me to come to the scene right away. I spent the next 30 minutes biting my nails and pacing around the house just hoping to Christ he was truly all right and not just being Mr. Tough Guy. I dangled my feet in the pool as the 110 degree sun baked my skin and my heart pounded in my chest with worry. He finally called back and told me where to pick him up.
About half a block away from the intersection I noticed that his car was still in the left turn lane, flanked by two police motorcycles. And then I saw the front of it, crushed like a soda can, bits of plastic littering the road, wires hanging from the space that used to house a headlight. If the car didn't end up being totaled, it was damn close.
I pulled into the parking lot of an residential building on the southwest corner of the intersection. A girl with bleached-blonde hair wearing a hoodie with rainbow stripes on it pointed me in to a parking space. With her was a guy in his early twenties wearing a black T-shirt with red writing that said "I've been a bad boy, send me to your room." The third member of their party was a dude in baggy denim shorts with a goatee and facial piercings. It was as if the green room of the Jerry Springer Show had been relocated to the parking lot of this anonymous desert condo development. Rainbow Brite totally looked like a tweaker.
Surrounded by these three, Pauly looked quite the upstanding young man. He was very professional with the cops and the tweaker kids didn't seem upset with him at all, even as I learned that a girl who was a passenger in their car had gone to the hospital for minor injuries. One turned out to be a Widespread Panic fan and they commiserated over not being able to attend Bonnaroo this weeked. Pauly had to work. Baggy shorts guy was in the middle of a "custody battle thing."
The rental car was towed away. I took Pauly back to Scheckytown where he started dealing with all the red tape that comes with an accident. After giving his statement to the insurance company and learning that pretty much everything is covered by our policy, I drove him to the Rio so he could get back to work.
I know, right? Less than four hours after totaling his car, Pauly was back in media row, feeding the hungry Tao fans WSOP updates. If that isn't a work ethic, I don't know what is. Though I warned him to call me immediately if he started feeling any pain-- the tough guy thing wasn't gonna fly and we were covered for a hospital trip if need be.
I took Desert Inn back to Scheckytown after dropping him off. While stopped at an intersection, I noticed that the police car situated directly to my left had its flashing lights on. No siren, but the lights were blazing. Had they just forgotten to turn them off or something?
The light turned green. We both went through the intersection and a few blocks later, I noticed the squad car was now behind me. The lights were still flashing. I wasn't speeding. I had zero items in the car that would get me arrested. I was sober as a nun in church. And then I remembered.
The fucking tags.
While hopping between Australia, Europe and Los Angeles this year, I hadn't noticed that my car registration had expired. One usually is reminded of such things when, I don't know, the California DMV sends you a renewal notice? That never happened. I noticed this shortly before we left for the WSOP and called them up, informing them that they (a) hadn't sent me a notice, (b) my tags were now expired and (c) was leaving the state on a long-term assignment. The minimum wage, English-as-a-second-language monkey on the phone told me essentially that it was impossible for an actual human being to send me one because it's all done by computer. Her idea of a solution was to send a check in with a copy of my old registration and somehow, magically, tags would arrive at my doorstep. I wasn't convinced.
"Oh, and by the way all your late fees have jacked up your registration renewal costs to $488.00. Thank you for calling the DMV, have a good day."
Now I was pulled over on the side of Desert Inn Road, not two blocks from where Pauly had been in his accident handing over my license, registration, and proof of insurance to some bald redneck-looking middle-aged cop. I sat there for almost half an hour while he ran everything, made a few phone calls, had three separate conversations with three separate squad cars that stopped by to say hi, oh yeah and wrote me my ticket that came with a September 19th Las Vegas court date, which just so happens to be Day 1 of the WSOP-Europe. I Googled "How much does expired tags citation ticket cost in Nevada" and the consensus seems to be around $400. Which now puts the amount of money the DMV's incompetence has fucked me up the ass for at approximately the $800 mark.
So now we both have court dates and both have a whole lot of bureaucratic red tape to untangle. I'm out a lot of money and he's out of a rental car and his good driver discount on our auto insurance policy.
But still, it's by far the luckiest day I've ever spent in Las Vegas.