Derek Johnson Muses

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Why I Never Want to Check Bags

I don’t fly that often, but when I do, I never want to check bags, except when it’s a longer trip. My belief with this was cemented on a trip I took to Florida two years ago this January, and if I ever do marry, this is the logic of why we never check bags, dear wife.

Any time you get a text before seven in the morning, your day probably is not going to go well. When it happens on the day when you’re flying, it’s probably going to go even worse. This text I received as I was leaving my barber shop in Lincoln, saying that the flight I was going to leave on had been canceled. The flight was supposed to take me to Memphis, where I would connect to Orlando to met my family. I stopped in the northeast Wal-Mart parking lot and called Delta, arranging to connect to Orlando through Atlanta. Thinking my problem solved, I got breakfast at the Engine House to kill some time I now had.

I arrived in Omaha on time for my flight, but then the flight was delayed due to “mechanical issues” until around four. Since everyone was connecting, they gave us a number to call to change our connecting flights out of Atlanta. I called and was given two options for changing my flight: one that would leave at 7:25, a little less than thirty minutes after I would arrived in Atlanta, and another that left around 10:30 eastern and would get to Orlando around midnight. Not wanting to press my luck, I took the later flight. After I rescheduled, I sat and watched a Delta flight to Minneapolis board two gates over and wondered if I should have asked if I could have rescheduled through Minneapolis.

We finally took off from Omaha a little before four, and initially, I thought okay, there’s still no guarantee that I would have make the earlier flight. But throughout the whole hour and forty-five minutes we were in the air, I kept kicking myself. I would have had a chance if I’d taken to make the connection if I’d taken the other flight, and now I’d have to stay up past midnight. At least the book I was now about 150 pages into (Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith) was starting to get to the good part.

But as we neared Atlanta and I began looking out the window down on the snow-covered streets, I thought, Why not just try to make the other flight? I fully expected to be rebuffed, but I decided to just go to the gate and see. I’d have to rush, but I could be out off the plane and into the terminal a little after seven, meaning I could make it before it took off. What else was I going to do, wait?

As we descended to the lane, touched down, and taxied to the runaway, I calculated and recalculated the seconds and minutes in my head, forever trying to capture the best estimate of when I would be through the gate. I was sitting in the front of the plane, which helped me enter the walkaway right before seven, but I had to wait nearly eight minutes for them to give me my carry-on back. (Only small planes fly to Omaha.) That time wasted, I was even less optimistic about my chances, but on reflex, I went to the board.

If they didn’t list flights by cities, I may have just said screw it. But I saw the flight and the gate. I had never been to Hatsfield-Jackson for a connection, but I followed the right signs out of instinct, weaving my way through the crowded airport. I’m not sure how long it took; it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, which feels odd given that I had to weave my way through four or five hallways. When I rushed up to the desk at the gate, there was no line. I was sure I was now officially screwed.

I went up the attendant and asked, “I’m scheduled to go on a later flight to Orlando, can I take this one instead?”

The woman looked completely neutral “Do you have any carry-on luggage?”

“No”

She took my ticket, tore it, and gave the stub back to me. She didn’t stick it in a machine, check the computer, or call anyone.  “Any open seat.”

I thought it was a dream, but my body was already walking down the walkway to the gate. “Thank you so much.” I yelled back, feeling as if I owed this stewardess a hug for throwing four hours of my waiting time in the garbage. I wouldn’t have been shocked if I’d gotten to the plane and they told me it was full, but that didn’t happen.

The flight for some reason was only two-thirds full, and I had a whole aisle to myself. The great part about rushing to make a flight in time is that, if you get there, you don’t have to wait much until take off. I just had enough time to call my sister and tell them I’d be coming in by nine after all. I enjoyed book in my empty aisle, feeling like I was the luckiest guy in the world.

That is why I will only check bags if I’m pressed to.

Rest Stop on the way to Eppley

Rest Stop on the way to Eppley

2009 Holiday Bowl: Out of the Snow & Into the Sunshine

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Sunset from the San Diego Maritime Museum

I didn’t really start to worry until afternoon on Christmas Day, but that’s just my nonchalant nature. The Christmas snow of 2009 had blanketed Nebraska the previous night, and now snow plows were not even running because the snow would just fall right back over and make the street look like it hadn’t been plowed at all. The reason I was concerned this Christmas afternoon was because my father and I had a flight booked to go from Kansas City to San Diego on December 27th to watch Nebraska play in the Holiday Bowl against Arizona.

But surprisingly, when we started down the interstate to Lincoln the next day, we had no problems whatsoever. The day was clear, and there was absolutely no one on the road. Some light flurries came down after we passed Lincoln, but we made it safely to St. Joseph to stay the night and then on to the airport in Kansas City the next day.

Those three days in California were like time spent on an island paradise. Time moved so much slower there. We went to the beach, hit museums in Balboa park, saw restored ships, and visited Cabrillo National Monument and saw its lighthouse. I’d go back to San Diego in a heartbeat because there’s more there I want to do. If I could have only picked one place to see, it would have been the Maritime Museum, with all of its restored ships from all kinds of eras. Submarines, cargo ships, freighters, the whole works. (P.s.-if you come to SD for a bowl game, wear your team colors. They will give you a discount.

But by far, the best part of the trip was simply sitting at a coffee shop on Coronado Island, having a light lunch and reading Prey by Michael Crichton. It was a white-washed, 1840’s style house where they gave you letter as marker for your order. Time passed slowly, the people were so relaxed, it made me want to think about moving. No wonder people get lost out here

The game itself was a spectacle. Having to get there early because of the limited parking, then napping in the car. (Californians always tell you to get to an event way before it happens.) Qualcomm itself is a decrepit pile of concrete, that, if it were in any other state other than California, would have been replaced by now. (Subsequent to this trip, I have had the opportunity to attend an A’s game at the Coliseum in Oakland. Virtually the same stadium.) From a Nebraska perspective, the game on the field was an extension of the fine vacation we were having.

I have to confess, as it began to rain at the game, I felt like complaining about it. Seriously, San Diego must get rain ten year, if that, and it has to rain while I’m visiting and outside watching my beloved Huskers? All the while, there is snow on the ground in Nebraska.

Pregame festivities

Pregame festivities

During that game, it felt as if nothing could go wrong, which, when you have the immovable Ndamukong Suh in the middle of your defense, is actually realistic. Bo Pelini’s post game proclamation (“Nebraska’s back and we’re here to stay!”) had months to brew with fans. But at the end of a season where you win six of your last seven, don’t you automatically expect to get better, with a coach only in his second year? But that’s what it’s like when you have a coach having early success, before you’ve seen the players he’s recruited. Oh well. We are winning, and who would have known after that the quarterback who’d be leading the team wasn’t even on the field yet?

Should Husker fans have learned anything from that game, from the stalled drives that were leading field goals? Maybe; back then, it was to early to say

I slept little at our hotel in Orange County that night, staying up late to read the news on the game and getting up early to catch our flight back. I didn’t get a view of the sea on our way up and down because we drove in the dark, but I couldn’t care less. As we boarded the plane to fly back to the world of snow, I pondered our mystic journey as some of the best days of my life.

Team

Huskers taking the field.

(More Husker Trips: Northwestern 2012, Minnesota 2011, Iowa State 2010)

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