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Mike McIntyre | On Sports
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Well, 2022 has already been quite the trip
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Well, 2022 has already been quite the trip

Happy New Year, folks. And greetings from Denver, where I’m on the final stop of a week-long Winnipeg Jets road trip.

If the first few days of 2022 are any indication, this is going to be one for the ages. I’m not even sure where to begin.

First up was last Saturday in Las Vegas, where I’d flown in ahead of Sunday’s matinee against the Golden Knights. Not wanting to be around large crowds owing to the ongoing pandemic, I opted to order a meal to my room at the Renaissance.

Turkey sandwich (hold the mayo, extra mustard). A side salad. And a Diet Pepsi.

After about 25 minutes, the phone in my room rings. And a voice recording tells me my meal has arrived at my door.

That’s odd, I thought. Why wouldn’t they just knock? Perhaps it’s a safety thing, where they also want to avoid face-to-face contact. Fair enough.

I walk to the door and open it, expecting to see my food at my feet. Instead, I’m greeted by a robot.

I’m talking straight out of The Jetsons, minus the flying part.

Priscilla the Robot at your service in Las Vegas (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

“Hello, please remove your items,” the display on Priscilla’s trash-can-looking body said to me. You read that right. This freaky, futuristic contraption had a name.

She even started to “Beep” and “Boop” after I removed my order, pushed “No” when asked if there was anything else I needed, and she wished me a good day and began to retreat.

Straight down the hallway, even recognizing a laundry pile on the floor ahead and dodging it on her way to the elevator.

So. Many. Questions.

Should I have left a tip? Is she going to be mad at me for cheaping out? Are robots unionized? And what would have happened had I told her that, yes, in fact, there were other things I needed.

Anyways, I ran into Priscilla a few more times over the weekend. No question, she was one busy worker.

I even jumped a teeny tiny bit when I came out of the elevator Sunday morning to enter the lobby, and she was standing there waiting her turn. Her display said she was headed to the fourth floor. I was staying on the 20th. Phew.

I’ve seen the future. And it is… strange.

 


 

Oh, but that’s only the beginning. Let me share a few other tales with you.

How about my Uber driver in Vegas on Sunday, taking me from the hotel to T-Mobile Arena for the hockey game. The guy wouldn’t stop talking, launching into a wild yarn of crime and debauchery once he heard I was from Canada.

Long story short: his former best friend got him involved in some scandalous, cross-border tax evasion scheme involving the Ontario horse-racing industry a couple decades ago. They remained friends, at least until his buddy developed a sex addiction and began fooling around with my driver’s wife.

He went on and on and on. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say he’s never heard the term "TMI."

A few months ago, the guy died. “I’m glad he’s gone,” my driver told me. “He was my friend, but he crossed a line. He was a sick S.O.B.”

All-righty then.

Never a dull moment in Sin City, as Mike was reminded of by his Uber driver the other day. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

 


The following morning, I’m on a 6 a.m flight to Phoenix, which includes a brief layover in Los Angeles. Yes, my travel agent is a fool. And, yes, I am my own travel agent. Seriously, what a dumb bit of booking. I forgot it was a Sunday afternoon game when I’d purchased my flights a couple of months ago, which would have allowed me plenty of time to rent a vehicle and make the four-hour drive to Arizona.

Instead, I was up at the crack of stupid for not one, but two flights that ended up taking me longer than it would have to go on four wheels.

Anyways, the experience had a bit of levity when I boarded the plane and was greeted by a large bulldog sitting in first class, on the lap of his owner. He appeared to have his own seat.

I have no idea what that cost, but you're darn right I was jealous of the fact the pooch was going to have a much better flight than I would.

I’m seeing more and more pets travelling with their owners these days, and it’s not just dogs. As I was waiting for my flight from Calgary to Vegas last Saturday, a woman was sitting at another gate with a black cat on her lap.

C’mon, now.


Back to Uber drivers for a minute.

Monday afternoon, after landing in Phoenix, I’m in a vehicle en route to the Jets practice at Gila River Arena in Glendale.

And the chatty fellow behind the wheel, upon learning what I do for a living, tells me how his best friend was the world-famous Uber driver to secretly recorded seven members of the Ottawa Senators trash-talking one of their coaches a few seasons ago.

You may recall that becoming an international incident. The driver was fired for making the tawdry tape public. The players, led by Matt Duchene, were forced to apologize. And an Ottawa franchise that had no shortage of self-inflicted black eyes was dealt another one.

I seem to attract the lively ones, to the point I could probably write an interesting book one day on the subject.

The guy I had in Vegas the other day wasn’t even the most interesting one I’ve had in that city.

That would be a woman a few years ago, who felt compelled to tell me how she and her now ex-boyfriend had committed a robbery while on vacation on some Caribbean island — he was at fault, she was just tagging along, or so she said — and the end result was that they got expelled from ever coming back.

Too bad, she said. They really liked it there. But they can never show their faces again.

There was also the driver in Chicago a few years ago who picked me up for my early morning ride to the airport and admitted he’d been at a strip bar all night for “two-dollar Tuesday… but don’t worry, I was only drinking Coke,” he said.

Oh, I was worried. This chap, who was in his 60s and on disability as a result of being shot in the hip, explained how he was a regular at the bar. And that he regularly invited some of the young dancers back to party with him.

And his elderly mother, who was in her 80s!

At their ranch. In Indiana. No, I’m not making this up.

There was also the guy in Columbus who had his Google Map voice programmed to speak like the Cookie Monster.

Or the guy in St. Louis who turned his car into a nightclub on wheels, with multiple screens set up playing music videos when I got in after a Jets-Blues games. Nickelback’s How You Remind Me was already playing. I think of that driver every time I hear that song.

Those are just a few that stand out from recent memory.

What. A. World.


Speaking of which, as I made my way around the concourse at the home of the Coyotes on Tuesday, a fascinating new concession caught my eye.

You like popcorn? You like Cheetos? How about Cheetos popcorn?!

Sounds like a salty match made in heaven, doesn’t it? (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

Sadly, I didn’t try a sample (I spotted it during the morning skate, when it was closed, and then there was a line when I returned at night for the game).

But I can’t imagine it would be anything but delicious, right?

Anyways, those are just a few highlights of a pretty memorable start to the new year. Thanks, as always, for coming along for the ride.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre, Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre

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