February gets a little complicated for us the sports department. It's an important ratings month for the station. There are no days off for anyone and each day is significant because the nightly ratings numbers are used for sales for the rest of the year. It's heavy basketball season and I have a couple of extra play-by-play jobs that the station is kind enough to allow me to work into the schedule. Reds spring training opens and we traditionally head to Goodyear in the first few days. That allows us maximum access to players for interviews that will last into opening day and inevitably provide material for a half-hour/hour special, depending on programming needs.
Zach Wells left for Goodyear, AZ last Friday and was returning late Tuesday night (Monday and Tuesday are his regular days off). I was working my regular late shift Tuesday night, which normally gets me home around 12:30 in the morning. Wednesday, Xavier was playing in Rhode Island and the team was leaving Tuesday afternoon. I obviously couldn't leave with the team, so I had to get to Providence in the morning and then catch a cab to the Ryan Center in Kingston for a 5pm production call before the 7 pm game on FSO.
While doing late game prep on Tuesday morning (in between playing Wii with my 5 year old son Braden), I forgot to pack for my 6:35am flight from CVG. So after doing the 6pm show at the station, I drove back home to Mason (22 miles) to pack for the morning and see my family quickly before heading back to the Mt. Auburn station to do the 10 and 11 pm news. Everything was now set for me to get my quick 3 hours sleep, grab my stuff and head to the airport un-showered for the flights to Providence by way of Detroit. I could clean up once I arrived around 1pm, lie down for a minute, and leave for the game around 4:30.
I climbed into bed around 12:45 but I can never fall asleep very quickly. It's like asking you 9-5er's to come home and jump right into bed and fall asleep. Not gonna happen. I don't trust my alarm clock at home, so I use the alarm on my phone, which has been great. I set it for 4:20am, which I figured would be plenty of time to get to CVG for the flight boarding at 6:05. In my brilliance, I turned my phone off to save the battery for morning, then realized my stupidity and turned it back on so my alarm would ring. My extra big brain failed to realize that turning the phone off turned the alarm off. I fell asleep without any worry that my alarm would wake me at 4:20.
I woke up having to pay a visit to the potty but really wanted to sleep thru it. I hate looking at the clock when I get up because it makes me think about how little sleep I have left, and then struggle to get back to sleep. I thought I should probably look just in case. 5:27am. WHAT!!!!!! FIVE-TWENTY-SEVEN!!!
I ran to the bathroom (I really did have to go), threw my suit into a duffle with my pre-packed stuff… clothes on, hat on (serious bed-head). I grabbed my phone (I yelled a few choice words at my phone) and ran. It was 5:34 when I pulled out of the driveway. There was no way I was going to make a 6:35 flight from CVG that boarded at 6:05. NO FREAKING WAY! The trip is 38 miles that by travel calculator’s estimate should take 46 minutes. That's just to get to the airport... 6:20 just to get to the airport.
I called Delta as I was driving. I was already checked in and the representative told me as long as I made it by the scheduled door close at 6:30 I would be fine. I told her that was not likely to happen. "What's the next flight?" She told me 9:30 with a long layover in Detroit, which would get me into Providence at 4pm… if it was on time. Providence is about a 45-minute cab ride to Kingston. That would put me at Ryan Center sometime after my production call at 5 (remember I haven't showered). I HAVE TO MAKE THIS FLIGHT! I asked for the gate. "B-19," she said. I told her to pray for me. "Ok. Is there anything else I can help you with Mr. Johansen?" she asked. "Just the prayer, please." I responded.
My wife called. I told her the situation and told her I was in trouble. I remember saying a few more things about my phone, but I'll let you use your imagination for that. After hanging up, she texted me. "Praying for you...let me know if I can help at all..."
I drove rather fast. Traffic was clear on I-71 S and free from police. I had plenty of cars right by my side in just as much of a hurry as I was. I know that I never reached 90 mph. I'm pretty sure. Remember, 38 miles, 46 minutes. I pulled into airport parking (should have used valet) and drove to my normal spot in A-30... full! I drove around and found a spot outside in A-31… furthest spot away from the terminal, but I didn't have time to keep looking. I parked the car at 6:13. I ran. Duffle in one hand, briefcase in the other. Full sprint.
I'm in decent shape, but this sprint from a dead sleep, car ride and heart pumping panic was tougher than most with a bag in each hand. I'm a frequent flyer at a gold medallion level, which provides some extra benefits that make travel easier. The best is that I'm approved for Pre-TSA check that allows you to bypass the normal security lines, keep your shoes and belt on, leave your laptop and toiletries in your bags and go. It's the best airport perk since 9/11.
The problem is sometimes the scanner doesn't recognize you as pre-approved. Such was the case this morning. Nothing they could do. No supervisor could bypass the scanner. CVG, which is normally rather empty, was packed. I looked at the 50 or so people in front of me, gasping to find my breath. I had no choice. I had to cut. I ran in front and, as politely as I could, asked and was granted permission to go to the head of the line. It's 6:24.
I hadn't put on a belt, so off came the shoes, and I just prayed that my sprays, and gels and toothpaste wouldn't get flagged for personal inspection. They didn't. Shoes on. I didn’t tie them. Bag in each hand, I ran. Full sprint. Down the pair of escalators. Past the moving train. Past the moving walkways that were packed with travelers in no particular hurry. I ran. I sprinted. My lungs were burning. My mind told me I didn't have anything left. My desire to keep my job told me I did. As I passed the A gates, I heard the loud speaker. "Delta flight 4004 to Detroit, Paging passenger Brad Jo-Hahn-son... last call, your plane is on final boarding." Helpless. That's the only way I can describe the feeling beyond the pain I felt in might overly tight hamstrings, and the desperate need for air in my lungs. With sweat pouring down my face, I continued to run. Sprinted. More slowly now as I climbed the final escalator to the B gates. "Final call for flight 4004 to Detroit. You must be in the boarding area now." “I'm here" I said under my breath. "Please let B-19 be close." I turned left... three gates down... no one in front of me... there it was.. B-17/19. I ran. Sprinted. She smiled.
"You made it," she exhorted. I slowed as I got to the gate scanner as if crossing the finish line to a marathon. I leaned over and grabbed on to my knees as a weary basketball player grabs for his shorts in the 44th minute of overtime. I looked at my watch. It's was 6:28. NO FREAKING WAY!
I got on the plane. I sat down in seat 2D of the small regional jet, next to a man that wasn't thrilled to see me. I was sweating profusely. I then began to cough. My lungs were angry. Painful. I couldn't stop coughing. Water? Not on this flight. Just 40 minutes from takeoff to touchdown. My seat mate is probably wondering what disease I was carrying and when he's going to contract it.
"Made it as they closed the door." I texted my wife. "Miracle. Thx." "Praise God!" she responded. "Have a safe trip. Love u."
In Detroit, I ran into Xavier Assistant Coach Travis Steele, who had been recruiting in Chicago and was on his way to Providence as well. We shared a cab to the team hotel. When we arrived, my producer Brian Hunterman was getting into a cab to head to the arena. " Brad Johansen?!! Hey, you made it! How was the trip?"
"All good." I said. "I'll tell you the story when I get to the gym."
Xavier won. I had the call. That’s my job. All good.