You ever have the feeling that something bad is about to happen, but you can’t necessarily prove it so you decide to walk down the wayward path anyway?
That was my gut feeling when checking the weather forecast before heading down to North Carolina on Friday in preparation for the Syracuse vs. Duke game. It was supposed to snow which meant my two-flight trip from Syracuse, with a stop in Atlanta, was in jeopardy. And if you’re asking why fly far south only to head back north, yeah, you’re right. It was the best option.
Now, it’s well known that the south handles snow about as well as Syracuse fans handle losing, so I had a feeling it wasn’t going to go over so well. The ten hour overnight drive from Syracuse to Durham was taken into consideration, but without total conviction, I went to Hancock and stuck with the original plan anyway.
So the first flight goes off without a hitch. We board the second in Atlanta, sit on the tarmac for a while and the pilot lets us know they’re down to the “short runway” at Raleigh-Durham and waiting for the “long runway” to be cleared.
Oh. You already know where this is heading.
*Pulls up Google maps*
“Okay, a six hour drive from Atlanta to Durham just in case, but let’s sit tight.”
Sure enough, minutes later the pilot follows up by saying another plane had skidded off the runway at RDU, thus canceling the flight until the next morning.
Now, waiting around until morning is obviously not an option given the noon tip-off and we’ve already come too far to fly back to Syracuse. So, we deplane and I began my travel
over the river and through the woods to the car rental station through the Atlanta airport, which feels the longest airport ever invented since Dulles International.
All I can do is mutter unpleasantries under my breath, shake my head and make this face for the next 20 minutes.
It’s one thing to make these efforts and stay up all night in your 20s, but at age 30 (that really feels like 50) you just know this is going to set off a domino effect of bad events for the next week. It catches up with you. Those events start with bad sleep, fatigue, higher stress levels, headaches, joint pain (this God-forsaken, two-time meniscus torn knee), back pain and overall irritability. Actually, that last one might be an evergreen trait but stay with me.
Now, nobody is claiming to be a wounded warrior here and if those are the worst things you have to deal with in life, you’re in pretty good shape. Who really gives a damn? Usually you just push through it. But as a soft millennial that lacks resilience, all that unnecessary stuff just becomes an extra burden to bear. What’s the quote? It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out, it’s the rock in your shoe. Something like that.
So, after hissing through the airport for 20 minutes I get to the car rental destination and of the three rental companies, only one has a vehicle that can go to Durham. There’s only one ticket out of this town and it’s gonna cost.
The kind lady says it’s $500 and after using my good looks and charm I was able to get her to come down to $400. By that I mean I begged and pleaded for any discounts or promotions because they stopped accepting NunesBucks as a form of payment back in 2016. Dumb.
Pretty sure she charged $500 anyway, but whatever. What choice was there?
Oh well. I’m sure Delta Airlines or Vox or the Raleigh-Durham airport or mother nature will all do their best to reimburse the cost so a lowly blogboi won’t be stuck footing the bill.
Anyway, I go to the lot where I’m supposed to be looking for the vehicle in parking spot D8. The car is just not in D8. There is no car in D8. The D8 parking spot is as vacant as an old country motel. Pretty sure a tumbleweed rolled on by.
I go back to the kind folks, they give me a different car in C8. Okay, C8. There it is.
I hop in that red Kia Sportage like any soccer mom would and bump the Gunna playlist — in favor of T.I. for some reason — on the way out of the A-T-L. The Gen Z Atlanta rapper of choice in favor of the millennial influence. That’s P.
Then, a mad scramble to find the lights as I begin driving toward the highway with apparently no regard for safety and no tolerance for further hold ups.
The lights. Where are the lights? No, those are the wipers. The fu— aha! The lights! We’re in business.
Okay, on the way to Durham but first a stop at a gas station. Normally the energy drinks are faded but this is a special occasion. Not one, but two Monsters and four waters for this six hour trek. On the way to check out the cashier looks my way with a warm southern greeting.
Brooding with Northeast attitude, I reply in monotone, “Hey man, how you doing?”
Sensing my mood, he smiles and remarks, “If you’re on the bottom ain’t nowhere to go but up!”
Love the optimism but have we considered that if you’re on the bottom sometimes all you do is stay on the bottom? Agh, whatever.
“That’s the truth!” I say, unable to believe whatever words came out of my mouth.
Back to vehicle. The rest of the ride up I-85 was uneventful save for another gas station stop and one point where I almost fell asleep around 3 a.m. and began chugging coffee like it was water after a marathon.
After getting into snowy North Carolina, it was also absolutely adorable watching people drive 30 mph in the middle highway lane with flashers on. You guys are so cute and yes, it can be a little intimidating driving in the snow for the first time.
Getting further away from Charlotte and closer to Durham, it was just getting to 6 a.m. when I finally decided to pull over and try to catch a few Zs. I parked at a truck stop, reclined the seat and pulled my coat over as a blanket, only to wake up 40 minutes later to a cold chill usually reserved for places like Central New York in January. Brr-utal.
Whatever at this point. Time for breakfast. And this is where it gets a little disorderly.
Hunger was setting in so I did what anyone else who has ever been in North Carolina at 7 a.m. with an appetite does: locate the nearest Waffle House. Given the circumstances, I was never able to check into the hotel in Durham so I may or may not have brought my overnight belongings into a random Waffle House and got ready in the bathroom.
As one does.
Okay, fine. After eating, I went into the men’s room with its wet bathroom floor, brushed my teeth, got changed, did my hair and as I did the self-talk had reached its nadir.
“Agh dude, what the hell are you doing? This is a new low.”
“This is bad, dude. Even for you. Hurry up and get out of here.”
Whatever. Gotta make due. On the way out the waitress looked at me as if I had two heads. She was as confused as anyone you’ve ever seen. It kind of felt like Clark Kent going into the phone booth and coming out as Superman. Except it it didn’t because it was a Waffle House and I’m not Clark Kent.
Shame was at an all-time high so I called a friend back home to laugh off the ridiculousness of the trip. At least this cockamamie calamity could be used to entertain.
Onward and not upward to Cameron Indoor.
Now you have to consider the fragility of the emotional circumstances here. You work so hard to develop your emotional fortitude, but sometimes you’re caught at a weak moment. So here I am, a total scrunge without having had a shower walking through the Duke campus after changing in a Waffle House bathroom feeling like the lowest of low, laughing at the ridiculousness of this whole thing.
But the feeling is a bit like being born into the working class and going to work in law or high finance, like you just don’t belong. Not that I know anything about that but that’s what you can imagine it’s like, you know? Of course, it’s all just a facade but sometimes the feeling is the same.
Anyway, after walking through the snow covered campus and making way through security, it’s finally time to walk into Cameron and man, even as jaded as you can become in this thing there’s still a part of you that thinks it’s pretty cool.
Syracuse at Duke. Boeheim vs. Krzyzewski one last time at Cameron. Let’s rock! pic.twitter.com/orkdGWVEKQ— James Szuba (@JamesSzuba) January 22, 2022
Before tip, Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski met at half-court for their pregame handshake and only 87 photographers swarmed to capture the moment.
The Duke students had their dirt sheet on Syracuse:
Duke students have a little scouting report on Syracuse… pic.twitter.com/RDwEsyKHvN— James Szuba (@JamesSzuba) January 22, 2022
And of course, the Cameron Crazies gave the Syracuse inbounder the hex. In this instance, it was Cole Swider.
Cole Swider gets the Cameron Crazy treatment. pic.twitter.com/WrDelVN4Oy— James Szuba (@JamesSzuba) January 22, 2022
For the uninitiated, the Cameron Crazies stand directly behind you from the media section. Before the opening tip, students dance to Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch” and the lights flicker as part of the whole dog and pony show.
When Duke players come by they frequently reach out to the players for high-fives. During those sequences, I got hit in the head with a razor-blade elbows four times by the students and I’ll have you know...
Everyone reading this is most likely already aware of how the game went, so no need to rehash that 79-59 beatdown here. As if you were interested in remembering a 20 point blowout anyway.
After the game, a press conference was held in-person rather than Zoom. Boeheim spoke matter-of-fact, stating that Duke was just better. Few questions were asked. As Boeheim walked off the podium, he quipped to the sea of reporters: “That’s a long walk for four questions.”
Krzyzewski spoke in nothing but pleasantries and complemented Syracuse and his long-time friend, calling the Boeheim family “beautiful people” and, in a reference to his players playing video games, he dubbed Fortnite as “Forthnight.”
God bless you, Coach K.
As the game cleared it was finally time to head home and off to RDU where hopefully flights could operate without delay. Eventually as I boarded the flight and began to doze off, I woke in an instant panic thinking the rental car was about to veer off I-85.
Man, here we go. Let the fortnight of consequences begin.
It wasn’t exactly a trip to remember, but given the events it won’t be one I forget anytime soon. See you all next time. Maybe.