Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Around the World

Please sit back and relax as you prepare yourself to go on a tiring and whirlwind adventure of an around-the-world traveler's journey through everything-that-can-go-wrong-will.

To start off, in answer to my earlier question (Read blog post Like Sands Through The Hourglass), I do believe that I am now one day older than I was when I left Japan. I have decided that, scientifically speaking, traveling west, continually, without backtracking east is a surefire way to thrust oneself into the future by a day, (that is, once you have landed where you started). I am officially claiming myself to have two birthdays next year - one on the 11th of May (my proper birthday), and one on the 12th (to celebrate my true age).

But aside from the physics of traveling through the space time continuum, and more importantly for this specific blog, I can also tell you that if you ever purchase an around the world ticket, that it is not advisable to take any chances, move any flights, or take part in any situations that would thereby alter the original ticket in any way. Rachel, Miche and I have learned the hard (and tiring, and tearful) way that much like the idea of traveling one direction entirely around the whole world, each flight on a ticket this kind of ticket is like a link in a perfectly circular chain necklace, where if one piece breaks, the whole thing can virtually be rendered useless.

This was the trouble I faced this morning - a worthless set of tickets. And let me tell you, it was a real mission to get home. I saw it coming - I really I did. I knew there would be trouble, and it started without fail in Indy where Dad and I spent 2 hours in line at the ticket counter as the nice airline lady frantically worked to get me on a flight.

(Quickly backtrack to 6 weeks ago, when while traveling from Barcelona to Nice, my fellow travelers and I, under no fault of our own, missed one flight and were redirected through Zurich instead. Happy to placate us for having missed a flight, the Swiss clerk put us up in a hotel for the night and quickly re-routed us the next morning, getting us to Nice fairly quickly and efficiently. What it seems she forgot to do, though, is keep the chain of flights in tact. By breaking it up and not carefully and correctly re-entering the order of flights, as they were, through the computer system, she effortlessly (albeit innocently) rendered our itineraries useless, and our ticket numbers simply vanished. As a result, ever since that flight, I have shown up to each airport with a paper itinerary that proves I have purchased a flight (16 flights, actually), with my name always in the computer, in the system as a scheduled traveler on each of the flights I have been assigned since the missed one. But, without that ever-so-important ticketing number, which was likely deleted during the re-direct, they cannot find my record in the system, thus making it impossible to get me on the plane).

Thus, the two hour wait at the counter in Indianapolis.

Now, although I missed my first flight out of Indy, I did catch the second flight this morning, with special exception to board the plane without a ticket, followed by explicit directions to, upon arrival in Chicago, leave the terminal (and out of security), to the ticketing counters to get paper tickets printed out. Of course though, as was my luck, my flight landed in Chicago behind expected time, leaving me less than an hour between arrival from Indy and departure to Tokyo. I was then faced with a split decision, a crap shoot: do I go all the way out of the Terminal and risk time and having to explain it all over again, or do I head to the gate and ask there, hoping for quicker and closer help? Well, with less than an hour to spare, I decided on the latter, against my good judgement, as it seemed easier and quicker and likely to be ok.

I was wrong.

(side note: missing my flight from Indy to Chicago was no big deal, as I was sure there would be 1-2 more flights going out that would get me there, which there was. In Indy, I was calm and collected. Missing a flight to Tokyo, though, is a different story, as one flight per day leaves for this destination. A missed flight is a bit more of a big deal when I have to wait 24 hours until the next one. I don't do calm and collected in that situation...)

The lady at the gate looked at me like I was the dumbest thing she had ever seen, and assured me that I would need much more than good credit to board the plane. It was at this moment when the situation, and my day, slowly began crumbling around me. In loud tears (I might even go so far as to call them sobs), I ran my bags backwards through the terminal to the ticketing area. Of course, each person who stopped me was sure she could help me, and, without time to explain the situation, I panicked even more, angering them and frustrating me. I then used my sobbing sorrow to cut in front of a ton of people to get immediate attention at the first counter where I could find a teller. Of course, as expected, I was unreachable in the system, a ghost, now outside of security, with no tickets, and 30 minutes until my flight left.

Now, I am not sure how often this happens to one person twice in a day, but the lady at the counter, after checking with a few other agents, says, "Ok, go ahead and take this boarding pass and get on this flight. We have no time to resolve this now, but we'll work on it while you're in the air." So, I sit on this flight right now, typing this out, as a non-existent traveler, hoping that the message gets through to Tokyo, where my boarding pass to Nagoya will be magically waiting for me. To ice the cake, my checked bags are full of kitchen knives, among other things, which leads me to believe that if I get stopped and searched, I just might end up in international prison. At least, that's how it seems to be going.

I have ended up in a middle seat between two nice men. Of course though, on the unfortunate side, I am surrounded in the front and from behind by the least-nice-to-sit-next-to-on-the-plane people. In front of me, a loud, screaming 5-year old whose parents have no tolerance level for the amount of sound that comes out of his mouth. Behind me are three 20 somethings who have just met, but are what I like to call 'one-uppers'. You know, we all have those friends, braggers who take turns telling stories to outdo each other. The married one on my behind right is obviously the popular one to the younger, more-impressionable college kid on my behind left, and they are enjoying each other's company a little more loudly than I would like. I feel like I know righty better than his wife, who he has mentioned at least 6 times, does.

On top of that, not only is this the FIRST international flight I have EVER taken that does not have private televisions in each seat (yes, I am watching the big screen in the front of the plane, just like it's 1998 or something) but my mid-flight meal snack was ramen. I mean, really. I am getting ready to go live in Japan for 10 months. Do you think what I want you to offer me on this flight is ramen? How about a bit of creativity here, folks? Who makes these decisions anyway!?

At hour 6, minute 14, as we begin our 'descent' from over Alaska towards Tokyo, I spilled bloody mary all over my white lace shirt. Luckily for me, I shop at Forever 21, which means that the cheap synthetic (and obviously plastic) fabric repelled the liquid magnificently. Whew. One less disaster averted. For now...

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