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?”


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

End the Supremacy: Occupy the SEC!

Two days ago, I took to this blog and lamented Nebraska’s fall to a superior SEC team. It’s not just the Big Red-it’s the Big 10, and it was on display last year and this year. Other than Michigan State’s overtime win over Georgia (a game that a senior-laden team had to scratch tooth and nail to win), the Big 10 got rolled by southern teams. An off-year Ohio State team lost to an off-year team Florida. Iowa got rolled by a disappointing Oklahoma team. Michigan needs overtime to beat a Virginia Tech team who shouldn’t have gotten into the BCS. Wisconsin at least lost to a big-boy program in the Rose Bowl this year. Northwestern still can’t win a bowl game, and Nebraska’s home lay-down against the Wildcats was for naught. And of course, my Cornhuskers. It’s not even fair to pick on Penn State because their interim coach, and all the turmoil surrounding their program.

Today, I am coming with a plan: no longer am in morning, but I am proposing action. On the eve of the BCS Title game matching two SEC team, and the conference’s supremacy is at an all time high, I propose that Big 10 fans Occupy the South Eastern Conference.

Yes, I know this sounds ridiculous. That would because it is ridiculous. But the fact of the matter is, the SEC has gotten too good and powerful. Before we realize what has happened, the SEC will win eighteen out of twenty national titles (the other two likely going to USC or Texas), and many of our great northern programs will give up hope. Think about it: even with its own TV network and three stadiums that have 100,000, Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State have only two national title game appearances since the Buckeyes’ title win.

Don’t mistake this for complaining about two SEC teams playing for the national title this year: LSU and Alabama should play for the national title, that’s the point. The SEC has gotten the best players year after, and no, it’s not their fault that Michigan couldn’t hire a great coach for ten years, or that Penn State allowed Joe Paterno to coach into his eighties, or that Nebraska has to import California’s leftover football stars. Our society is built on multiple entities sharing power, and when that balance is upset, it’s not good.

What is the downside to the SEC having all this power and prestige? Granted, I can’t think of one off the top of my head, and I can’t see one coming around the corner. But as I said, it is not good when a single entity has all the power.

What I propose is, fans of the Big 10 teams go the campuses of Auburn, Alabama, Florida, and the other SEC schools. Walk around with sign that say, “Stop hoarding all the good football players”, “Snow makes tough football players tougher”, and “Limit SEC schools to 65 scholarships”. Tell recruit their not obligated to play for the traditional southern powers, and that they can often get on the field immediately in the Big 10.

Is this nothing but the hopeless griping of an inferior conference? Yes, in all likelihood, but we in the Big 10 cannot give up. We have to do everything we can to shift the balance of power back to our schools and programs, even if it means setting up tents inside the Swamp, Between the Hedges, and in Death Valley. Colin Cowherd will mock us, and we will deserve some, but we must stay the course. It’s our only choice.


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