Mornings come early in Omaha. I set off in my rental Nissan Sentra in the darkness pre-dawn. Hills rolled in the distance and the roadsides outside the city were full of billboards and the orange lights of enormous factories, puffing plumes of smoke into a glowing Harkonnen landscape.
Soon, though, the blue light of morning was upon me. The stark landscape was bleak and brown still, but oddly beautiful. Neatly fitted fields swirled in curving rows and red-winged blackbirds perched on fenceposts. I stopped for coffee in a town with no stoplights, but which proudly offered their very own McDonald’s in the shade of a looming agricultural silo.
I had two two-hour presentations scheduled at two neighboring facilities and lunch with a colleague at the coffee shop on the town square. Despite how often I’ve had to travel and give these sorts of presentations, there is always a moment when I’m walking in, bag banging my hip, imagining the churlish faces that will regard me blankly from my audience, in which I think, “I really wish I didn’t have to do this.”
But I always do.
The day was long and exhausting and the long drive back to my hotel that evening was less lovely than it had been that morning. I called my parents and listened to NPR for the early Super Tuesday returns. Finally back at my hotel, I debated with myself about whether I was too tired to care about dinner. I knew that I had no energy left to chat with an Uber driver, no matter how nice they were. I changed into jeans and walked a block to another Omaha restaurant for dinner.
When I posted my whereabouts on the ubiquitous social media, a couple people thought that the Old Mattress Factory was a funny name for a restaurant. It seemed obvious to me, but maybe only if you are in Omaha and see how much history many of the buildings have, particularly in and around Old Market. Uh….it’s called that because it actually WAS a mattress factory. Ahem. And that was a later incarnation (1940’s). The building itself actually dates from the late-1800’s.
The service was friendly but lackluster, which was okay because it gave me time to slowly absorb a much-needed Nebraska Brewing Co. Ale Storm American Blonde into my parched and overexposed system. The salmon, when it came, was among the best I’ve ever had.
As usual, after presentations, I dream about being in social situations and realizing I am only half-dressed – usually pantsless.
It was another early morning the next day, but I was heading home, and so that was okay.