Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back Home in Omaha

Today was my first full day in Omaha for the College World Series.  The TV trucks were up and ready to go when I arrived at the stadium to prepare for the first of several double headers. Last night my trip to "the greatest show on dirt" had an inauspicious beginning.  I had read on yesterday morning that there would be heavy storms in the Omaha area in the evening, around the time my plane was scheduled to land.  So I was mildly surprised my connecting flight from Chicago took off and landed on time.  But after landing, the skies darkened, and I had a feeling that our plane was lucky to be there.  I ran into three of my co-workers in baggage claim, and they offered me a ride in their rental car.  As we made our across the street to the rental car garage, we heard a siren and noted the clouds were even darker.  I must admit that the siren unnerved me a little, and when a National employee breathlessly said that "something" was coming and the "clouds were dropping," I was unnerved a little more.  As we drove away in our rental SUV - while Meg, the driver, asked, "Should we be doing this; I mean, should we really be doing this?" -  I wondered if I would actually see my first tornado. Seth, who was seated in the back seat next to me, was so psyched about this prospect that he took pictures of the clouds, which by then had turned green, with his iPhone.  

Upon arrival at the hotel, which, luckily for us, is only a five-minute drive from the airport, instead of checking us in, the desk attendant whisked us away down a long corridor.  We were being escorted into the hotel's tornado shelter.  This seemed serious.  But I was hungry since I didn't have lunch, and the potato chips and water the hotel staff handed out to us didn't really cut it.  When are they going to had out some steaks, I wondered aloud.  After more than an hour of standing around the bowels of the hotel, mingling with other ESPN freelancers as well as people attending some kind of insurance convention, we were given the all-clear.  Emerging from the safe haven, I noticed my suitcase was serving as a doorstop at the entrance of the corridor.  Happy that no one decided to roll it away with my bag, I checked in, dropped my stuff off in my room, called my husband and a friend who were both worried about me after seeing the storm on the weather channel, and had dinner and drinks at the hotel bar where I saw many more of my co-workers.  Aside from the torrential downpour outside, which we could easily see through the hotel's walls of glass, it was almost as if nothing had happened.  I discovered that while a group of us were in the tornado shelter, a select few were in the parking deck, watching the storm approach. 

One would never have guessed that such a violent storm had taken place just a day earlier; Thursday was a glorious day in Omaha.  It was a 10-hour day of prepping the machines and typing graphics for our first game on Saturday (Stanford vs Florida State), lunch at Zesto's (my ONLY cheeseburger of this trip!), and catching up with friends I hadn't seen since college football season.  

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