Archive for the ‘In transit’ Category

After a two week trip to the US for Christmas, I’m currently on my way back to Hanoi.  If things had gone to plan, I’d be there already, probably sleeping next to Mitchell in our bed.  What a cruel thing to write because nothing, fucking nothing, sounds better than that scenario right now. The reality is that I’m stuck in the Hong Kong airport where I’m battling time, fatigue and the bottomless depths of self-pity, and I’m basically losing on all counts.

I had three flights to catch: Kansas City –> Chicago –> Tokyo –> Hanoi. The first one was late causing me to miss the next two.  These things happen, but I still hate American Airlines. Allow me to painstakingly detail why.  There were 17 people on my flight who needed to catch the Chicago to Tokyo flight.  When we noticed the flight delay, they assured us that they’d hold the plane for us in Chicago, and I thought they actually would because…well, why the fuck else would they say that?  Because if we were guaranteed to miss our flight, then wouldn’t it be better to stay at our original location where we may have family or friends?  No Sarah, that’s not how it works!

When we arrived in Chicago, we frantically scurried over to an American Airlines employee who could help us find the location of our patiently-waiting airplane.  Looking annoyed and overwhelmed by our mob, he shouted “K12!” in response to our gibbering about Tokyo. Collectively, the crowd shouted “K12!” and started running to the gate on the other side of the airport. We arrived only to find it empty.  Rather than a tumbleweed, there was a lone crumpled itinerary slowly being blown across the gate ramp. Which wasn’t even in the international terminal I happened to notice.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that he just gave us a random gate number to get rid of us.  Rather than being helpful or at least empathetic, the American Airlines agents that I dealt with after those initial betrayals (2 lies! Lies, I say!) were supremely annoyed at my presence and seemed to imply that the flight delay was probably my fault. No, they didn’t say this outright, but I can read eyes!  And tones! Anyway, I’ll admit that at least the lady who booked me on new flights over the phone was nice. In sum:  Dear American Airlines, I understand why you are bankrupt and I look forward to the completion of your financial collapse.

The airport wants you to recycle. It feels bad about its carbon footprint.

In all, my travel time has increased from 24 to 45 hours long.  I’m now at the 36th hour and feeling rather delirious and zombie-like. I look the part and probably smell the part too. My deodorant stopped working about 5 hours ago and I had not the foresight to pack a toothbrush and FSA-approved mini toothpaste. My eyes and gait are those of a severely stoned person.  I’m in need of glasses anyway, but my eyesight gets worse with fatigue, so I’m squinting at boards I can’t read and wandering/sulking around in circles, bumping into people and desperately asking them if they’ve seen my plane.  My bag is heavy, so I’m dragging it about and digging in it desperately in search of iPods, magazines or anything to entertain my sleep-deprived brain.  I’ve probably been talking to myself and not noticing. I’m the crazy, homeless airport lady. Luckily, no one seems to notice or care. Or I’m at least at the point where I don’t care if they care.  A nice place to be.

My interpretation of my own pouting

Every time I make these lengthy trips, it feels like time travel. And it kind of is.  I don’t know where the hell January 3rd went.  Something about the journey shuffles my brain so that I begin to lose my sense of time and self.  Where am I? Who am I? What day is it? Who are all these people and why do they occasionally ask to see my visa and passport?  I know logically that I only left Hanoi 14 days ago, but when I think about our taxi ride to the Hanoi airport – one of the nicer taxi rides as our friend Jim brought along some wine – that feels like 5 months ago.  Like I was a completely different person back then.  A less confused and smelly person.  After a couple of days at the destination, everything shifts back to normal real time.

Anyway, I’m clearly bored, so I’ll detail some random highlights of the past 36 hours.  Unless you’re bored too, now’d be the time to find another blog to read. The other 16 passengers who missed the Tokyo flight were from Taipei.  When she discovered I was in the same predicament as they, a sweet middle-aged woman in the group latched onto me as we ran through the Chicago terminals.  She was saying things to me like, “Can you help us?  You’re so nice, you’re our friend!”  I did what I could to help, but there was little I could do. They spoke English and very well at that. Although helpful in some situations, my whitey, English-speaking superpowers are useless against the American Airlines bureaucracy. I was just another angry peon. But I tried anyway because she was sweet, and I at least accomplished getting us free lunch vouchers.  In the middle of the confusion, she told me that they were Christians and that her husband is a pastor. I can’t say for sure, but I think she was telling me this because she thought it’d be a point of camaraderie, rationalizing that as an American, I’m most likely Christian.  She then asked me with wide, expectant eyes, “Do you love Jesus?”  For a moment, I considered lying to her and just saying yes.  But that didn’t seem right, so I mumbled, “Um…sorry, I don’t,” although sorry for what I didn’t know.  I mean, I haven’t even met the guy, so “love” is a little strong of a word. But I don’t like disappointing people I guess.  Her grin didn’t fade at all, though, and she continued to be my airport friend confirming her commitment to following those Christian values we’re always hearing so much about.

Speaking of Jesus, he has actually been a running theme in these travels. I noticed a shelf of inspirational books for sale in the Kansas City airport.  I wrote down some titles because this is what bored people do:

  • A Woman’s Guide to Fasting (read: temporarily turning anorexic so she can fit into smaller jeans)
  • Food, Fitness and Faith for Women
  • Heaven is for Real
  • Promises for Women from God’s Word
  • When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection

What could make me jump off a bridge faster than reading “Food, Fitness and Faith for Women?”  Nothing.  Wait, reading “A Woman’s Guide to Fasting” maybe. There’s a mean joke lurking in my brain along the lines of if God wanted you to be skinny, then… [he wouldn’t have made cinnamon rolls so delicious/he’d make marathons more fun/er…something funnier than that].

The other Jesus-related thing was just a fellow passenger who told me about her daughter’s recent conversion to Christianity and how it hasn’t yet resulted in her respecting her mother more. She’s 15 after all. Isn’t there like a commandment or something about respecting parents?

End bored airport ramble. On to podcasts and the like.  See you soon Hanoi.

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August 1, 2009

I’m about 5 hours into my 25 hour journey back home.  Is it too early to complain?  Hell no.  I’m sickly, purposefully sleep-deprived, and what else have I to do in a deserted airport in Tokyo?  It’s 7am, and I suppose it’s too early for anything to be happening yet.  Thank Jebus they confiscated my bottled water (as opposed to my lighter) before I hurt myself.

Flu alert is not quite in panic mode as only a small fraction of people are wearing their trusty, and probably completely useless, flu masks.  I don’t have to worry about it as I appear to already have swine flu (shhhh!).  I’ve got the sore throat, runny nose, coughing symptoms going for me, but I’m desperately trying to suppress these irritants so as not to be ostracized by my fellow global citizens and to avoid quarantine.  The public health professional in me feels guilty over this and my blatant lying about being symptom-free on the forms.  However, who wants to sit around in quarantine and what on earth is the point anyway?  How long are they going to keep me there and what kind of prodding will they do to me?  It might actually be worth it…as an uninsured gal, the ordeal could amount to a free doctor’s visit.  In super space age Japan, this could amount to an addition of 5 years to my life.

I mentioned that I was purposefully sleep-deprived.  It’s my attempt to get my schedule back to US time in order to avoid jet lag.  I’ll add to the suffering now rather than experience it later.  It’s reminiscent of when I was a wee teenager and would force myself to vomit after drinking too much so as to avoid vomiting in the morning.  I’m a genius.  I plan on taking a sedative and playing dead for the 11 hour flight over the ocean, though.  So, my efforts to stay awake were aided by Japan Airline’s movie selection. I saw the one where Tom Cruise and Eddie Izzard are Nazis – don’t worry, they were good Nazis.  For some reason it irritated me that they didn’t even fake a German accent.  If you’re not gonna speak German, at least do the accent.  Plus side to the movie – you get to see Tom Cruise get kicked around a lot.  That movie was followed up by the enlightening He’s Just not that into You, which I believe was made to make you hate yourself if you’re female or to fan the flames of your already existing misogyny.  Fuck that movie.  I have to reread The Feminine Mystique, write a feminist manifesto, and start another women’s movement in order to undo the damage. cute airlinesAside from its unfortunate taste in movies, Japan Airlines was pretty lovely.  My eyes were for once glued to the safety instructions on our little teevees.  In keeping with their reputation of cuteness, the airplane rules were demonstrated by cute and dramatic cartoon characters who were constantly injuring themselves and others and occasionally screaming at each other.  Then the terminal in Tokyo had this dreamy, ambient music.  Japan is starting to develop into some sort of magic wonderland of cute weirdness in my imagination.  Don’t let me move back home until I’ve gone there.

Oi zoi oi!  I’m already a mess and I’m only one-fifth done.  I can only imagine the wreck I’ll be when the family picks me up in Kansas City.  They’ll blame it on Vietnam surely, claiming it has turned me into a feeble, whiny savage.  Can’t wait!

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