Marines.Together We Served

Monday, January 29, 2007

Travel Travails

What a week! It all started wrong. There I stood in the pulpit last Sunday, January 21st, about to say something I knew was a mistake. This was not some theological conundrum or biblical turn of a word. Nothing so esoteric as all that. This proclamation that I was about to make, however, does rank up there with other “third rail” faux-pas such as attempting to explain the Trinity.

What was my egregious error? I predicted which two teams would move on to meet in the Super Bowl! What was I thinking?

Only moments before I spoke my prediction, I heard this little voice offer a word of caution: “Don’t do this!” Feeling supremely confident in my prognosticatory abilities, I plowed right ahead. “The two teams heading for the Super Bowl in Miami in two weeks are both New: the NEW England Patriots and the NEW Orleans Saints.” The Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colt fans in the congregation simply rolled their eyes, muttering something akin to, “There he goes again.” You see, I’ve done this before.

Truth be told, neither of the teams I picked survived the day. Were I a prophet of the Old Testament, I’d be taken out and stoned.

Oh, the ignominy of it all! Someone should have stopped me! I’ve read in the book of Daniel where God closed the mouths of the lions when Daniel was tossed in their den for lunch. Could He not have closed my mouth at that moment, simply striking me dumb?

Monday was my reprieve. I was leaving town for a church conference in Sacramento. It was a great conference, but as soon as it concluded on Thursday I drove to the Sacramento airport to catch a flight to Atlanta, Georgia. The main purpose of my trip was to conduct a wedding for the grandson of a couple in my church, Elwood and Patricia Cooper. Their grandson is currently in the Army. Both he and his now-wife are both on the Army’s rifle team. Ty shoots for the national team, while Nicole competes on the Army’s international shooting team. The wedding was held at Fort Benning, Georgia.

So, there I am walking into the airport in Sacramento to begin my trip. Being the seasoned traveler that I am, I confidently walk over to the computerized ticket check-in; slide my credit card into the slot; and await the printing of my boarding pass. The screen blinked something about not being able to process my request. This was ridiculous! I had personally made the reservations on line. I rechecked my itinerary to make sure I was at the correct airline. Everything checked out fine. Hmmmmm.

I approached the ticket agent only to be informed that the flight was delayed. No problem, I thought. I asked if I would still make my connection in Phoenix. The agent looked at her computer screen, shook her head “no” and rescheduled me for a later flight. So, instead of arriving in Atlanta at nine that evening, I would be arriving at one o’clock in the morning! I had intentionally planned to arrive early enough to get a good night’s sleep. Ah well.

By the time I arrived in Atlanta, successfully retrieved my suitcase from the carousel, picked up my rental car, and found the hotel, it was nearly three in the morning. I put in a wake-up call for seven. I was to meet one of my chaplains, CAPT Gerry Hutchison serving the Marines of MAG 42 at NAS Atlanta. We had a scheduled meeting at 1300 (1:00 pm for you non-military types) with the commanding officer and his staff. I needed to get to the base for a haircut in time to have lunch with Gerry at eleven. The hotel phone rang next to my bed for my wake-up. I fumbled for the receiver in time to hear the automated acknowledgement that it was time to get up. It seemed like I had only just closed my eyes. Just before sliding out from the sheets, I blearily glanced at the digital clock which read 4:45. Ugh! I realized that the person who had stayed in the room before me had had an even earlier wake-up than mine. I rolled back under the covers and went back to sleep. Ring! Time to get up. Thinking it was seven, I again prepared to get up. Not fully trusting the process at this point, I looked at the clock: 5:15. Egads! Back to sleep again. When the phone rang a third time it actually was seven o’clock. I laid there drifting in and out of sleep until about 8:30. After a shower and into uniform, and then a quick bowl of cereal at the hotel’s continental breakfast, I was out the door headed for the base.

After my meetings with chaplains and Marines, I began my drive south to Columbus, Georgia to have dinner with the bride and groom and their families. While driving down Interstate 185 I spotted one of the local signs that tells you you’re not in Kansas, Toto. It read, “Fresh Boiled Peanuts – Next Exit.” Never having tasted this particular dish, I asked several people what they thought of boiled peanuts. I was greeted with mirthful chuckles and a look that said, “You’ve got to be kidding!” Let’s just say that no one liked them that I spoke with.

The wedding was on Saturday at 1300 – if you were in Georgia, but 1200 if you were in Alabama. I make this distinction because the vast majority of Fort Benning is in Georgia. Uchee Creek Campground, however, is in Alabama just across the Chattahoochee River. (You’ve gotta love these names!)

I arrived back in Atlanta that evening. My flight wasn’t until 9:48, so I had planned to meet my boot camp buddy, Joe Harden and his wife, Susan, for dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse. Their son, Dan, joined us.

After a great dinner with these friends I’m back in the Atlanta airport. Sitting patiently at the gate, I hear the announcement that the plane has mechanical problems and will be delayed. Not again! By the time the computer problem was fixed, I knew I’d miss my connecting flight from Las Vegas to Sacramento. So, I spent a few hours in a Vegas hotel, and then back to the airport for a 9:30 am flight to Sacramento. This being Sunday, I missed church. That’s the bad news. The good news is I’d planned for months to have someone speak that morning. Phew!

Well, now it’s Monday and tomorrow morning I fly out of Sacramento for the 4th MAW Commander’s Conference in Key West, Florida. Whoa! Hold the phone. What am I doing? I can’t believe I’m off on another trip! Quick! Someone stop me!

And I pick the Bears by seven.

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