Friday, February 23, 2007

$200 taxi ride?

Last month I was in Las Vegas for the 2007 International CES. A friend of mine invited me to a Canon party at the Bellagio to benefit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. It included a large silent auction with goods donated by various consumer electronics companies, a raffle and a live performance from Glenn Frey (formerly of The Eagles). I didn't win anything in the auction, but I did end up buying a losing number in the raffle.

While at the party, I met the CEO of a company that a friend of mine works for. She was a smart, young, intense entrepreneur who clearly has a single-minded passion for her company to succeed. Maybe it's because she's an engineer, but she also seemed a bit absent minded. Around 11-o'clock, she looked at her watch and commented that maybe she should be leaving. It turned out that she had a midnight flight back to the bay area. We all agreed that she should get moving, and she said goodbye.

It was four days into the trade show, and I was kind of tired of the late-night dinners, etc. I decided to head back to my hotel for the night. I said goodbye to the other people I had met and headed out to the taxi line at the front of the Bellagio. There were at least 250 people in the taxi line. As I walked down the line, I was scanning the faces hoping to see someone I knew. I wasn't relishing the thought of a 30-minute wait in the taxi line. About a third of the way down the line, guess who I saw? Yup, the very same CEO I had been chatting with earlier. It was about 11:30 by now, and making it to her flight seemed about as likely as a dollar yo at this point. She was playing with her cell phone and looked up when I asked her what was she still doing in line? "Do you think I'll make my flight?" she said. Hardly.

Since the midnight flight back to the bay area was certainly the last flight of the day, I decided to lend a hand. I hurried to the front of the line and slipped $20 to a very busy valet. He swung into action and pushed us to the front of the limo line. It wasn't a short line either. The valet then turned to me and asked if would I like the stretch limo or the Maybach? Duh.

I've never had a chance to ride in a Maybach, and this was a long wheelbase 62 model - $350,000 of pure, chauffeur driven luxury. We settled into the back, surrounded by technology. The car had premium audio, video screens, a panoramic moonroof and seats that resemble first class airplane seats from a G-V. I relayed her situation to the driver, and he had us to the airport in 6 minutes (no joke). I later learned that she just made her flight home.

After she bailed out at the airport, the driver continued on to The Hotel to drop me off. I then learned that the Maybach usually goes for $300/hour with a 3-hour minimum. Oops. Rather than throwing myself from the vehicle on the freeway, we negotiated a more reasonable rate and I enjoyed the sound system for the rest of the ride. If you find yourself in Vegas and want the taxi ride of your life, give Abraham a call at 702.334.8186. It wasn't cheap, but it sure was memorable.

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