Saturday, April 7
If getting there is half the fun and being there is the other half - what does that make the trip home?
Both of my parents and I left our packing until the last minute. One of the few times that I have done so, but it's a bad time to start when you're about to travel halfway around the planet. We were only somewhat organized, so when we got our cars in the bag (bags in the car?) we were driven to Nara. We had lunch and grabbed some donuts for the trip from a Mister Donut. (Thanks Seiko ,^_^)
We took a bus to the Osaka Airport and passed dozens of golf driving ranges along the way. They're easy to spot in Japan since you can go hours without ever seeing more than a couple of buildings taller than three stories. The golfing ranges are tremendous, 100-150 foot high nets on three sides, making them stick out of the landscape like a palace surrounded by a peasant village.
We made it to the airport with lots of time. Getting there during the day meant that we got to see the architecture a lot more clearly. Kansai airport is built on a man-made island. The foundation is computerized to compensate for the island sinking - as man-made islands are prone to do. The pillars will adjust appropriately when different parts of the building sink faster - keeping the building level.
There were a few token shops, and I finally saw a copy of the Pokemon Diamond Game-boy game - I was briefly tempted to buy it. Unfortunately, I can't read the in-game Japanese text.
After a token wait for the boarding call, we got on the plane for ten hours of 777 television entertainment. Working with the atmosphere instead of against it shaves four full hours off our flight home. The first movie I watched on that little TV in the seat in front of me was "The Legend of Bagger Vance". Great movie, until the video started to go fuzzy. Often, video problems were associated to one terminal but I could see the problem on a few other monitors - confirming that it was definitely a problem with the tape.
However, telling this to the stewardess only got me some patronizing remark about how it was probably just my terminal and that she would have it reset for me. I told her that everyone else within eyeshot was having the same problem. She nodded, spoke in very clear words like she was a hostess on Polka Dot Door, and told me she would have my terminal reset. The movie was unwatchable now and I just read the articles in my magazines that I haven't read yet. You know the ones that are left over after you've read all the ones you want to? That's about all I had left.
Tried to catch some more pokemon, but I'm just at a dead-end in the storyline. Can't figure out what to do next. Picked up my magazines and started to read the ads.
Finally, when all movies reset at once, I watched Space Cowboys and Men of Honor. That got us most of the way to Dallas when I could just bide my time until we landed.
Then things became insane. It was still Saturday. I think we had Sunday for about twenty minutes before crossing backwards over the time/date line into Saturday morning.
Our flight took off from Osaka at 5:30 PM, Saturday April 7 and our flight from Dallas to Toronto took off at 5:31 PM, Saturday April 7. No kidding. It's like a Twilight Zone episode - but not that one with William Shatner and the gremlin on the plane wing.
On the plane, we're told half a dozen times to "collect our baggage" before making our connecting flight. We knew that we didn't have to, but if they told us to collect our baggage two or three times, we would probably ignore them. When they told us six or seven times, we started to get worried. We didn't go through customs until we were sure that we would get our bags to Toronto with us.
Another problem was figuring out where to go. In Osaka, they take you where you're supposed to go by a gentle ride on a shuttle train. Toronto, you walk for seven miles in a zig-zag pattern but you know where to go. There is only one path for you to follow. Dallas is a hub for American Airlines, so we passed a half-dozen doorways we SHOULDN'T GO THROUGH before we finally found the one we were. Once we go there, WE CAN'T GO THROUGH because the customs office is full. Sending more people in there would cause some fire hazard or something.
As to be expected, there was an insane lineup, we were asked four or five times if we had been on a farm or out in the country (they're really paranoid about Foot and Mouth disease right now) and we kept saying "no". I figure that I didn't kiss any infected pigs or sheep while over there, so I'm safe.
We get to our gate one hour early and relax. Ten minutes later, they tell everyone that the flight to Toronto has been moved to another gate in another terminal. We line up to take the shuttle train to get to the other terminal. It arrives, the doors open, people start filing out and five seconds later (no exaggeration) there is a voice telling us that the doors are about to close.
The doors tried to close - no one let them. The train car was about six feet wide and packed with people and their bags. The ride was about as smooth as a TTC bus driving over cablecar tracks without shocks. This thing sat in a concrete moat and turned by hitting the wall and riding along it with skateboard wheels on the side of the cars. We got to the terminal and worked against the built in timer that figures how everyone can get in and out in under five seconds. We got to our plane and finally took off.
Finished my magazines and with no TV to watch, I simply watched the ground sail by for a few hours. It was getting dark, but I was past the point of tired. Even closing my eyes wouldn't grant me the warmth of sleep. My body's persistence in staying awake was rewarded by a violent lightning storm above Ontario. I love watching a good lightning storm and feel happier and more optimistic on days when it is pouring rain. I had no idea how much I would enjoy watching a thunderstorm from above. All of those hundreds of bolts you never see because of the clouds were suddenly the focus of the show. It was just like living in a Star Trek episode when they fly into an unstable Nebula.
The show almost made up for the Hell of flying home. Almost. It did until they had to call off the landing attempt because of poor visibility. The storm was supposed to clear up in about half an hour so we had to circle. The light-show suddenly became less impressive.
We landed, walked right up to the customs desk since we were one of the first planes to come down after the rainstorm lifted and went through without incident. I'm confident that my rejected Visa application last Summer would have gotten in the way at some point. Luckily, they either missed it completely or the accurately assessed that someone who tried to get a tech job in California isn't somehow connected to a drug-smuggling ring.
Got the bags, found out that it costs $31 to take a cab from the airport to my place, crawled into bed, slept for twelve hours.