A long day

My car has been idling strangely — I think it just needs a tuneup, which it hasn’t had in too long, but at my car’s age I tend to get nervous over anything.

My drive in to Nashville this morning for the Online News Association conference was right at rush hour, so the stop-and-start driving made me nervous.

Little did I know that it was nothing compared to the drive home.

The conference itself was great — I got a lot of good information — but I’m frustrated with my own performance on a panel this afternoon. I suspect the last thing that will stick in people’s minds is that I couldn’t really come up with a good answer to the last question — partly because I didn’t completely understand what the moderator was asking for, and partly because at that point we had already run past our allotted time and I was afraid of rambling too much on my way to an answer. So I ended the session looking like an idiot.

I enjoyed seeing and speaking with a wide variety of people — some of whom I knew, some of whom I didn’t. I even got to speak to the legendary journalist John Seigenthaler (for you out-of-towners, I am not speaking about the former NBC / MSNBC anchor, but his father), and tell him how much I treasure a printout of an e-mail he sent me in the early 1990s.

Anyway, by the time the conference let out, it was 5 p.m. — rush hour again — and so I nervously made my way through traffic from Vanderbilt to East Nashville. I’ve wanted to try Pied Piper Eatery ever since Andy Piper and his sister Becky opened it. Andy once paid one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received, telling me years later how much he appreciated a morning devotion I gave at Mountain T.O.P. My trip to Nashville for the conference seemed like the perfect time to check out the diner.

I was not disappointed. I had the Monte Cristo — a deep-fried ham and turkey sandwich. Heart attack on a plate, but what a way to go! Luckily, I arrived just as Andy was about to leave and turn things over to the late shift, so I got to say hello and tell him how pleased I was to finally be there. Ten or 15 minutes later, I’d have missed him.

By the time I left the restaurant, it was almost 7 p.m. and I thought traffic would have thinned out a bit. But there was a wreck on I-24 which had traffic oozing along at 10 miles per hour for an unbearably-long stretch, and I spent the entire time imagining that my car was going to overheat or explode or befall some other horrible fate.

I got home at 8:30, frazzled and exhausted.

My “thank you” gift for speaking on a panel was a Starbucks gift card. It’s a good thing I don’t drink coffee — if I’d have used that card in Nashville or Murfreesboro, while I was near a Starbucks, there’s no telling what kind of wreck I would be by now. :)