I asked my friend Bryan Norcross, world-renowned weather man, what site he would suggest I use to check the weather before my flight to Omaha, and he came back with wunderground.com.
Did you know that there are five Omahas in this country? Omaha, Arkansas; Omaha, Texas; Omaha, Georgia; Omaha, Illinois; and the real one? And that at 10am this past Tuesday the temperatures in all five were within 8 degrees of each other? The coldest was the real Omaha, at 64° and the warmest was Omaha, George, at 72°. Ah, frigid March.
(Yesterday, in Washington it was 79°. Very nice, unless it’s the end of the world.)
If you think I’m exaggerating by calling Bryan “renowned,” it is by only a little. Bryan is one of those meteorologists who actually know their hygrometers. He is widely credited with saving Miami from Hurricane Andrew, alerting folks far earlier than his colleagues, and then staying up 600 hours straight, talking everyone through just what they needed to do to minimize property damage and maximize their safety.
Such was his celebrity that NBC actually made a two-hour movie out of all this. (Someone else played him, though he got a walk-on.) How many weather persons can say they have been the subjects of a full-length film? Move over Al Roker!
Anyway, I was going to Omaha for lunch and I was a little afraid from the “Today Show” weather map that I might not get there. Or, worse, that I might get stuck there. (Nothing against Omaha, but I had to get back.) Wunderground.com calmed me down. The “Today Show’s” 70-mile-an-hour winds and blinding snow seemed more likely to be 20-mile-an-hour winds and light showers.
So I left the house at 6am (you know I must believe in the cause to do anything at 6am), flew to Omaha for lunch, and was home (because of mechanical problems delaying the connection in Atlanta) at 2am.
Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, It would be so much faster with a private plane. Even a time-share jet, you are thinking, would have made this far more convenient.
But that is not what I was thinking. I was thinking, I flew to Omaha for lunch! This planet has been around for 5 billion years and creatures who look more or less like us have been around for millions of years, and yet as recently as 150 years ago — the flash of an eye — it would have been incomprehensible.
Imagine the expression on the face of someone in Abe Lincoln’s day to whom you described your plan. “Well,” you would say, “I am going to fly like a bird, only much higher and faster, and with a couple of hundred other people, inside a giant metal boat with wings, from Miami to Omaha. Except that I’ll stop in Atlanta on the way to change from one air boat to another — yes, I’m not kidding, they are made of metal and they fly — and while I am up several miles in the sky, waiters and waitresses will be bringing me a sticky bun and coffee while I listen to an entire symphony orchestra — no, they are not on the plane, too, but it almost sounds as if they are. I’ll read some magazines, speak with a friend in Paris, possibly use the outhouse, and before you know it, I’ll be in Omaha.”
“You’ll speak with a friend in Paris?”
“Yes. It’s easy to do from up in the air — you could almost shout real loud out the window — but actually, I will use my cell phone while I am waiting on the ground. It’s cheaper. My cell phone is a little thing about the size of a dinner roll. You press some buttons — it’s important to press the right ones in the right order — and then you put it to your ear. His dinner roll makes a funny noise in Paris, which tells him to put his dinner roll to his ear. And then we just talk, as if we were right next to each other.”
“How is that possible?!”
“No one knows.”
Along the way, you’d have to explain automobiles (airport cabs), electric lights (to read the magazines after dark on the flights home, candles being impractical) and all manner of other things (Starbucks, Diet Coke).
Part of me was annoyed to have taken 20 hours to do something that, with nonstops and no flight delays could have taken 14 hours door-to-door (allowing plenty of time for the lunch itself, which was a couple of turkey sandwiches and $100,000 for the Democratic National Committee). But most of me was dazzled, as I always am, no matter how many times I fly.
And this was in coach.
What a time to be alive.