New York to Sydney via Tokyo 2-1-2006

Right now we’re on a path to intersect the International Date Line between Alaska and Russia in the Bearing Sea.  We’re flying parallel to it, and almost on top of it, so we’ve been near it for about an hour now.  The International Date Line sounds something you’d find at a swingers’ club. The flight map says we have five and a half hours left to Tokyo, about the time from New York to Los Angeles.

This fourteen-hour flight hasn’t been too bad so far.  I have a row of four seats to myself and even when I’m sprawled out, I barely touch that fourth seat.  The older lady flight attendant even gave me a First Class pillow, which made a good thing even better.  I slept from take off until we got near Alaska, about half the flight.  I didn’t want to sleep too long and not be able to sleep on my flight down to Sydney.  That one gets in at 7am so I really should be asleep during that entire flight if I want to avoid jet lag.  It sucks that I have to go through Tokyo in the first place.

Qantas has an employee embargo from North America, so if you’re an airline employee you have to get out of North America before you can get on one of their flights to Sydney.  It’s such a hassle and a waste of time going all the way to Japan just to go back down to Australia.  My Dallas friends are a day ahead of me so they should just be getting to Sydney now.

I have my sleeping pills handy, the crazy French ones.  That’s for the flight from Tokyo to Sydney. We’re exactly 39,000 feet in the air going 530 mph and the outside temperature is minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the trusty-rusty Flight Map.

Our flight path and the International Date Line are converging into one line, so I really have no idea what day it is.  One of the flight attendants makes a joke about still wearing the same clothes from yesterday.  Thousands and thousands of years ago creatures walked across the frozen water that’s now below me and came to North America.

I get up and make the rounds, visiting the flight attendants and seeing if there are any interesting passengers.  None of the crew members really knew an employee was on board until well into the flight and they all apologized for not noticing and upgrading me.  I was hoping someone would notice and I would have jumped at the upgrade, but not after I got settled and established in row 42 seats C thru G.  That’s good enough.

I stick my head into the First Class galley to say Hello to the ladies. The Pursor is up there and again apologizes for not giving me an upgrade.  She gives me a bottle of the less-popular French red wine and a flute of champagne instead.  She offers me everything else under the sun, but I politely decline.  She keeps pushing champagne bottles on me, but lugging around those things all over Australia is the last thing I want to do.  If I were thinking I would have taken a bagful of minis.   Time for landing.

Seeing the baggage handlers in Tokyo was such a trip.  I’m used to seeing Asians in uniforms, but usually nice ones like flight attendants and customer service type things.  They look really put together and well-groomed in those kinds of uniforms.  Seeing them don the blue collared garb just looked funny.  It didn’t fit the stereotypical Asian image to have dirty, torn uniforms covered in blood and oil.  It made the job seem a little classier though.  The guys doing their job in The States, Europe or Caribbean look like they went straight from a playground brawl to the tarmac.

I was the only white guy on the airline connections bus, but that isn’t anything new.  I’m always the token white guy on the train to the JFK airport, be it either the E through Queens or the A through Brooklyn.  Sometimes I get mad if I’m not the token white guy.  I want to scream at the other Caucasians, like that guy on the subway in Ghost, “Get off my train!”

Checking into my Qantas flight was pretty painless.  True, I went to the wrong place at first but was quickly and politely redirected, with an apologetic bow as if they had done something wrong. No, I’m just a dumbass, no need to apologize.

My flight was wide open so they gave me a boarding pass right there on the spot instead of telling me I had to wait until the last second to see if I’d get on.  I hate when they do that.  You sit around completely bored for a few hours and then having to rush rush rush to make departure at the very last second.

Now I’m sitting on the ground between the Men’s and Women’s bathrooms, charging my Ipod.  Most of the outlets are the American ones, though I have an adapter just in case.  It’s 5:45pm and my flight boards in 90 minutes.  I killed 22 minutes by watching a South Park episode here on the ground by the bathrooms.  I’m not sure if this is acceptable in Japanese culture, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll have a seat with a power outlet on the plane so it’s absolutely necessary.  If I’m offending the nation, they’re definitely not letting on.

I think about doing some shopping in the stores, but there’s nothing I really need or want.  It looks like Sanrio just exploded everywhere.  I’ve never seen so much Hello Kitty, except maybe in Ivy’s bedroom.  That’s the Narita airport for you, sushi, Hello Kitty, and a few airplanes.

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