Monday, July 05, 2010

26 hours

of travel.

This time, coming home, 26 hours is what it took.

Instead of my usual two flights, I was routed on four, which made for a long and somewhat over-stimulating day. So, what does an overzealous girl like me do? Type it all out on my Iphone. Because hey, do you have a better idea of how I can occupy my time? As you know, I could (and sometimes do) write novels about all the things I do, or the random bits from inside my head, and so became the case for this trip, as had plenty of hours to pen (or thumb-type, in my case) the highlights of each bit of my long and weary travel day.

Now, I'm not gonna lie, but when I typed it all out (flight by flight and layover by layover), I did have a particular audience in mind. But after spending so much time getting it all out and edited, I decided to reedit and redistribute to a second audience - all of you. Because that's what this blog is all about - the random and irrelevant ways in which my life is sometimes funny and always interesting. Even if by 'interesting' I mean within the realms of qualifying Julia Roberts as a competent spokesperson for Lancome makeup (see 'Layover 1' below).

So, please, if you will, sit and enjoy Wendy's random (and sometimes funny?) take on the plight of the twice (thrice?) yearly trans-Pacific traveler.


For starters, it's worth noting the things I never travel without (alongside the myriad of regular things in my handbag): Dramamine, ear plugs, a buckwheat pillow, two books, a hooded sweatshirt, extra hand sanitizer and Tide sticks, multiple cell phones (consequently, multiple wall chargers too), and multiple sets of keys to multiple international houses (the latter two on the list contribute to the Bond-girl in me!). Also along with me on this past travel day were a few sentimental items, including some recent snapshots, a personally-planned schedule of events for the prior week's holiday, and an expired USMC golden base pass.

Flight 1 (Nagoya to Tokyo):
Hella short (45 minutes) and fast. It was empty-as, so much so that, immediately upon take-off, I upped the armrests, tucked the seatbelts in, opened all three blankets, and went horizontal in my empty row. I was enjoying a half-nap when the plane hit the fan, and we did two barrel rolls through turbulence. The small child three seats behind me went into hysterics, and not to be outdone, the smaller child two rows ahead joined. Naptime: over. Then, because the turbulence evidently wasn't enough for all of us to think the wings were gonna break off, the plane took a sudden and sharp, funny-feeling shot upwards a few minutes later. Startled, I opened my shade, wondering, 'Are we landing already??' to instead see a JAL plane shoot out just below us. I'm going to go ahead and call its range: a) within 500 meters of us, and b) judging by the sharp upward swing, was as unexpected by the pilots avoiding it as it was to me seeing it. I have never, ever, ever seen two airborne planes so close, and I'm pretty confident that they're not supposed to be. Not gonna lie, though, that since I didn't die, I thought it was pretty bad-ass. To top it all off, the pilots were American, crazy-as, and I swear to God, as we descended into Tokyo, were flying twice as fast as the legal limit (obviously making them my kind of pilots).
Bonus: finding half a bag of cocoa dusted almonds at the bottom of my purse, much to my relief, as I was starving.

Layover 1 (Tokyo's Narita Airport):
It only took 10 minutes from disembarkation before a business-class gaijin (foreigner) asserted his American-entitlement and (much to my horror) tried to whine/complain/argue his way through security without a ticket. I made a heightened effort of passing through veeeery quietly, and smiled extra politely, in hopes of placating the universe and making it up on his behalf.
The Tokyo airport is pretty fab. I did a little window shopping at Hermes (yummy!) and Bvlgari (yummy!) before stepping into a duty-free shop to spritz myself with a light mist of my favorite Chanel (yummy!). I also checked out some new makeup at the Lancome counter, and quietly reckoned that those Lancome guys should have picked me as their next spokesmodel instead of Julia Roberts, because although her beauty is beyond compare, she's a bit of a, well, obvious choice. Then I had a spot of lunch, though I won't say where, and gleefully (luckily) spotted and snatched up a box of adzuki caramels for dessert.

(Pre-) Flight 2:
Getting on was a mission - per it being the July 4th weekend, every passenger (on this double-decker, Pacific-crossing, air-Titanic (which means a lot of people)) was strip-searched on the way in. They patted me down (not unpleasant, really) and scoured my handbag, finding nothing of consequence in either place. As a result of the search, the flight took off a good hour after its scheduled departure time, but since I wasn't in a hurry to be anywhere fast (and because I was getting ready to travel through time anyway), I wasn't fussed. Plus, it gave me more time to randomly type it all out. Now comes my secret admission - I love plane food. The saltier and more artificial, the better. Flying makes me slightly queasy, very tired, and ravenously hungry. The menu was satisfactory (Sliced beef with oyster sauce? Danish pastries* for brekky? Don't mind if I do!), so I was quite happy about that. My immediate neighbor was an older Asian lady whose bag I helped put up in the bin, and whom I spoke to in Japanese. I only wondered at her lack of response for a moment, for when she sat down, she pulled out a copy of the Bible, in Korean, and vigorously signed the cross, up-down-left-right, over and over again. During the meal service, I gave her an accidental, but sharp elbow blow to the shoulder. I apologized profusely in as many languages as I know how (none of them being Korean), to which she put her hand on my shoulder and slowly said, 'No English, but, very beautiful.' then she pointed at me and gave me a thumbs up (which is a universal language for good things!). Luckily, I know how to say 'thank you' in Korean, and after I blushed 4 shades of pink, I smiled and did just that. In the end, I slept the entire way, which is something I don't think I've ever done on a trans-Pacific flight. I woke up an hour before landing at around 8am LA time, and was pleasantly satisfied with my body's sleep cycle. Gave myself a little shout out even - for starting this holiday off on the right sleep pattern**.
*Actually, I drew the line at the Danish Pastry. I may be on holiday, but I still have standards...

Layover 2 (LAX):
After a long walk, the entire plane aggregates at Customs, and the complaints start. 'Never flying this airline again,' or, 'They call this customer service?' They say this as if they've forgotten in the last 6 minutes that they've just come off a huge machine that magically flew them halfway across the world to the great land that is America, are happily fed, coffeed, and entertained, and that Delta, bless them, has anything to do with delays at Customs. Me = smiling, hopefully appeasing the universe and appealing to the better nature of this room of unhappy people...
I stopped again for a spot of lunch, though I won't say where.

Flight 3 (Los Angeles to Memphis):
I board next to a nice young kid sitting alone. He's into a book, and, as a reading teacher, I find myself inclined to ask about it. He's not real talkative, though, not past the title at least. So, I continue my book as well. A few minutes later, the flight attendant comes over, looks at him, and says, 'You're one of my UMs, right?' The boy nods, and is promptly whisked away to first class. Having received proper acronym training just last week, I quickly worked out that UM means 'unaccompanied minor,' and that this kid, along with two other U13 UM (under-13 UM) girls have just unintentionally worked themselves into first class, and consequently, all the free beer they can drink (luckies!). This leaves an empty seat between me and my neighbor, who is the only guy on board wearing a turban. Of course, I'd like to make up a story in my head about this guy, but I don't have to try hard, because based on the way his unending hair is tied in his turban, as well as the silver bracelet on his wrist, I'm thinking that he's a Sikh, which means that he's also packing a knife somewhere on his person. Not gonna lie - that's kinda cool. I'm pretty sure he doesn't speak English, and wonder if he's a bit frightened (as being 'that guy' in a turban on U.S. flights probably doesn't come with its share of warm fuzzies). I smiled at him a couple of times and pretended that it helps. I considered asking to see his knife, or his comb, but instead decided otherwise.

Layover 3 (Memphis):
Memphis. Bless. As you know if you're a traveler, each new airport is like a box of chocolates, and you never know what you'll get. Will they have a Starbucks? A Cinnabon? Free wi-fi? Well, Memphis had all three, and although I enjoyed, plentifully, the former and the latter, I (sadly) skipped Cinnabon altogether, remembering it might not fare well in conjunction with my cholesterol test Monday morning. Bonus points: Starbucks sells hummus, and I can read all of the ingredients in it. Double bonus (in two words or less): low-fat frappucino (150 calories in a Grande? I'll even go one better and settle for a Tall!).

Flight 4 (Memphis to Des Moines):
Our flight attendant is bubbly-as, and hilarious to boot. She keeps (with an 's,' meaning multiple times) referring to our craft as 'The Little Plane With A Big Heart,' and has just introduced herself as both, 'Trudy, the bag in charge of the bags,' and 'Grambo.' We are all laughing out loud. The flight is short, easy, and my hummus-filled belly is happy. Plus, Grambo dancing the bev cart down the aisle while singing, 'Watch your fingers and your toes, here I come,' to the tune of, 'If you're happy and you know it,' is enough to make anyone smile. Lo and behold, an hour in, the earth, from 10,000 feet, began to flatten out, cul-de-sac suburbs popped up, and Des Moines' one, lone, tall building came into view. With the exception of Aukland, New Zealand, I have the uncanny affinity for living in the most boring cities on the planet.

And there it is. 26 hours, 7744 frequent flier miles, and a lot of typing later, I arrived safely. I immediately whisked myself off to a local brewery for some catch-up beers with a dear friend, and eventually made my way home to Nik's comfy spare room. It was a very long, but incredibly stress-free, non-problematic day.

Sigh. It's good to be home.


** Good sleep patterns my a**, as I type this to you at four a.m. Monday morning...


Jessica said...

Too funny Wendy! You have a gift in writing I think :). Glad you're home...even if it is a bit boring here!

Jim & Michelle said...

We flew with Trudy/Grambo this Christmas Eve and she was the most entertaining flight attendant ever! I was checking whether anyone else had mentioned her and was glad to find your story here! Jim & Michelle

Deb Porter said...

I just did a google search on Grambo and found your blog! We just flew with Trudy/Grambo also. She needs her own website. She is AWESOME!!! Hope they know she's a "keeper!" Thanks for sharing your story!