Monday, April 03, 2006

Thoughts about Omaha

I just got back from a conference in Omaha. It was a fun conference in a GREAT city. Here is a selection of observations, stories, and occurrences:

1) After getting off the bus in Omaha, I went outside to wait (for 30 minutes) for the hotel shuttle. While waiting, I noticed that men in Omaha, or at least men at Omaha bus stations, spit an incredible amount. I had to walk a ways away from the building to get away from the spit blotches on the sidewalk (and out of range).

2) At the same bus station, one of the gentleman waiting outside - there was a group of them hanging out and talking rather candidly about women - fired up a joint. In public. In full view of anyone who might happen by. I was impressed - I haven't seen such public pot-smokage since college.

3) The Hilton is really not all it's cracked up to be. They nickeled and dimed us to death, from the $10/day fee to use the "health club" (hell, no, I didn't do it!) to the $2.00 pop in the vending machines. And I couldn't get a really hot shower to save my life. I could make the obvious joke about Paris needing new clothes - which several people did make - or I could note that, just as the average person on the street has more class than young Hilton, so too does the average Comfort Inn have more class than a Hilton Hotel. (Though I will say that my bed was astoundingly comfortable. I don't know why I ever left it.)

4) Omaha is a wonderful city. I'd forgotten what real city life was like. People, if you go out to eat in Omaha, the busy times are between 7 and 10. (In Sioux Falls, if you try to eat dinner out before 7, you'll be waiting for a table for a long time.) And the shops were open until at least 10, as well. That says something right there. So what if the bars close at 1? So you get home early. Where's the harm in that?

5) First Amendment rights are awesome. We saw a family of evangelists standing on a street corner being pestered by the police. The father (? I think?) shouted out to the crowd, "Ladies and gentlemen, the First Amendment guarantees us the right to stand out here and preach the gospel to you as long as we are not obstructing traffic or creating a disturbance." Now, I hate sidewalk preachers as much as the next person, but I was with him on this (although I think he forgot about needing a permit - that's not actually in the First Amendment, but it's still a requirement). So when the cops pulled away, it was sweet victory, and I had to refrain from shouting, "pigs!" (Just kidding. It was cool, though.) And the evangelists, for their part, stopped preaching and singing and switched to quietly handing out tracts about hell.

6) If you need to take shelter from a tornado, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo may not be your best bet. Patrons were ushered to the indoor swamp, featuring 24 alligators and "30 swamp animal species in barrier-free habitats" (emphasis mine), to wait on a boardwalk for the tornado warning to expire. (I don't know for sure if the alligators were one of the 30 species with the barrier-free habitats, but I believe they were. Personally, I'd rather take my chances with the tornado. Especially after the lights went out.)

7) I have more stories, but some of my conference friends read this blog, so I can't share them. Sorry!

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