Oma gosh, Omaha!

>> Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Last week marked my first school event of the season--and it was my farthest afield to date: Omaha, Nebraska! It was also my first ever trip to the Cornhusker State. I amused one of the faculty there when I was able to count on one hand the number of times I've even been across the Mississippi River. (For the record, it is now five times.)

My trip began on Wednesday, with one of the longest days I've ever spent "flying." And by flying, of course, I mean missing flights and sitting in airports all day long. Really, I can't remember the last time I had a completely smooth airline trip. I would quit flying all together if I could, but really, what option is there? It's not like I was going to drive to Omaha, and trains are actually more expensive. (And take longer.) We're a jet-set nation, and we're at the mercy of the airlines. And the inane TSA regulations. But I won't get into that here.

My first flight, from Asheville, North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia, was supposed to leave at 11 a.m. But when the plane landed, they found a "white liquid" on the propellers, and had to call in a mechanic to take a look. The problem: there is no mechanic on duty at the Asheville airport. You read that right--an airport without a single certified airplane mechanic. A local mechanic had to be called--but he couldn't be reached. So the airline flew a mechanic in from Atlanta. (Yes, again, you read that right.)

I sat and waited to fly to Atlanta while the airline flew in a mechanic from Atlanta to check out our mysterious white substance which, upon review, turned out to be the cleaning liquid squirted into the engine at the last point of departure. How do I know this? Because I sat next to the mechanic on the airplane when we finally took off for Atlanta. That's what this guy does--flies out to regional airports to fix planes.

And the airlines can't figure out why they are burning money like jet fuel.

So of course, I missed my original connecting flight from Atlanta to Omaha. My new connecting flight, one of only two flights left that went to Omaha that day, took off half an hour after my scheduled arrival in Atlanta, and the Asheville gate agent assured me I'd make it. This was important, because I was told the later flight to Omaha that evening was all booked up. My other option was to wait in Asheville for an eight o'clock flight to Cincinnati, connecting to Omaha, but that was risky--if I waited that late and something went wrong (perish the thought!) I'd be totally screwed for making Omaha that day. I haven't missed a school event yet, and I didn't want to start. So I took the flight to Atlanta.

We landed right on time, but because Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta is located on the Seventh Circle of Hell, it took us a full fifteen minutes to taxi to our gate. That left me with ten minutes to sprint from my gate in Concourse D to the Omaha flight's gate in Concourse A, and though I am woefully out of shape and constitutionally opposed to any kind of running, I gave it the old college try. It was all for naught, of course, because the doors had already closed. The plane was still on the ground beyond the gate, but that didn't matter. Rules are rules.

It is moments like this when I wish I could shoot laser beams from my eyes.

As I contemplated how long a drive it would be from Atlanta to Omaha (15.5 hours, for the record) the gate agent told me there were still plenty of seats on the later flight, and she could put me on it. Why then, I pondered through gasping breaths, had I made like Pheidippides? I might as well have asked a rabbit why it zig zags in front of a car rather than just running off the road. Assured that I had a flight to Omaha at eight o'clock (assuming, of course, the plane actually left the ground) I went to forage for over-priced, under-cooked fast food.

I arrived in Omaha, Nebraska at 10:30 p.m. eastern time (9:30 local time), making it fourteen hours since I had left home that morning for the Asheville airport, and just beating the sixteen and a half hours it would have taken me to drive to Omaha from my home. Skipping out on the oma-izzle of Omaha's nightlife, I opted instead for the second-showing of this week's new Project Runway on Bravo, then passed out in bed.

The event, at all-boy private Jesuit school Creighton Prep, was a blast, and went off without a hitch. Samurai Shortstop was the high school's all-grades summer reading book, and from everything I heard it was a hit with the boys at Prep. The guys had great questions throughout the day, and I signed a lot of books. The students and faculty at Prep were terrific hosts, and it was an honor to be the author of the book they all read together this year.

After the school day was finished, Matthew, one of the Creighton Prep English faculty, gave me a brief driving tour of Omaha, which was most welcome, as all I had really seen of it had been a quick night drive to the hotel and a sleepy, gray five-minute drive to the school in the morning. Omaha is a great city, with a lot going on. I saw a vibrant downtown, Rosenblatt Stadium (annual home of the NCAA College World Series), a totally Silent Running domed biosphere at the Henry Doorly Zoo, a neat riverfront area on the Missouri with a groovy-looking (and controversial) pedestrian bridge, and a tree-lined neighborhood where Warren Buffett lives. I even visited Iowa on this trip, briefly, as the drive to the airport cut through Council Bluffs.

All in all, a great trip--airport troubles be damned. And now I'll have something else to remember Nebraska for besides Peyton Manning and the Tennessee Vols losing to Nebraska in the 1998 Orange Bowl. Not that I'm still bitter.

*The pics were scanned from the Omaha visitors guide I found in my hotel room. I couldn't resist.


Kitt August 26, 2008 at 11:42 AM  

Ugh. Airport delays are maddening. Love the Oma-promos. But "Oma-izzle"??

Anne,  August 26, 2008 at 11:31 PM  

It's a white thing.

Anonymous,  February 20, 2009 at 1:22 AM  
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