After a sleepless night in the international terminal of LAX, security queues that literally stretched out the doors and down the airport sidewalk, and a delayed flight causing me to run aboard my departing flight in Hawaii, my only request from the universe was to take a nap.
I boarded my 8-hour flight from Hawaii to Tokyo with high hopes. Soon enough, it became obvious that Delta, fate, and Satan had conspired to dash those hopes. Inexplicably, and to my horror, I found myself aboard a giant, Delta 747 that had been filled to capacity with Japanese high school students.
Literally, an entire class – over 200 students – heading back to Japan. I was the only person on the plane not giggling, wearing a plaid skirt, or sporting Hello Kitty paraphernalia.
Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with Japanese travelers. Despite speaking no English, the Japanese backpackers are usually the most genuine and enjoyable company that you could ask for. With that thought in mind, I tried to stay positive.
For my 35th birthday (today) all that I ask for is to be deposited in Thailand with bags and sanity intact.
I also managed to choose a flight with no built-in screens for distraction in the backs of the seats. So much for getting my fix of Bookworm and In-Flight trivia. With this being only the second time that most of the students had flown, I enjoyed watching them explore the curiosities of an airplane.
I can handle this. Deep breath. Happy place.
No matter if the seatbelt sign was on, people literally spent the entire flight milling around, playing cards in the aisles, exchanging seats to talk with friends, and taking photos. There was literally even a professional photographer on board with an SLR walking up and down the aisles snapping photos of posing students.
The two boys sat beside of me were playing cards with a group sat across the aisle from me, literally handing the cards past me. The noise level was astounding, like a cacophony of horns in a city traffic jam – only in Japanese.
Deep breath. Must lower blood pressure.
The chaos reached a frenzy when the boy sitting behind me, having slouched in his seat, decided to rest his knees on my seat back. Every wiggle of his legs, every breath, every blink was transmitted up the seat to my brain. I endured it for a while, praying for turbulence, but after an hour finally snapped in a postal way.
Lucky there wasn’t a machine gun on board.
I turned around and with the best hand gestures that I could think of, explained to him that I could feel his movements. The boy’s eyes widened, aghast with the terror of whatever vulgarity I had just communicated across our cultural divide. Whatever interpretation he garnered, I never saw him again; problem solved anyway.
So much for Zen.
My redemption was flying into the enjoyable, highly-functional, Tokyo airport. This place is great. Relaxing, organized, it is everything that an airport should be, while Atlanta is everything that one should aspire not be.
I didn’t have enough time between flights to eat at my favorite sushi restaurant outside of Portland, but I did take advantage of the technological wonder that is a Japanese toilet. Total privacy, music, and yes, temperature control. With shelves for your luggage, the stalls are larger than some guest house rooms I have paid to stay in (cleaner too). Compared to the squat toilets ahead in my near-future, these Japanese really know how to handle their business.
On a positive note, I did get to watch Invictus on my flight – an incredible movie despite being being mostly about Rugby.
I arrived into Bangkok’s lavish new airport around midnight and just caught the last bus to Rambuttri. I found one of my old guest houses and paid $7 for a room with private shower; after 48 hours of nastiness accumulated in airports, I needed it.
No rain, no bullets flying, so far so good in Thailand. Despite learning way more than I wanted to know about Pokemon, I guess the trip wasn’t that bad.
More later once I hit the streets.