Friday, January 19, 2007
planes, trains, and automobiles: the journey home
We've been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star."
-Neil Diamond (don't laugh...i grew up on that tape)
the first glimpse of my expansive country was as i descended into the san francisco morning after an oddly anxious flight across the pacific. the japanese united agent was kind enough to get me window seats on all four flights home, so i watched the blue night sky unravelling from above for endless hours. i knew i'd be arriving at sunrise, and since i was coming from the east, i couldn't understand why we weren't flying with the sun. it was dark ocean the whole way...
another remarkable kindness from the united agent: (though i had checked the website to see what things weren't allowed in luggage, i missed where it said no lighters of any kind) when they asked me if i had a lighter, i stupidly said yes, but only in my checked bag. she inhaled apologetically; they're not allowed at all!
but it's a gift! it doesn't have any fuel!
she called over her supervisor. i pulled out offending lighter. could i prove it had no fuel? sure...i demonstrated trying to light it with no success. he was satisfied. and....in a move very uncharacteristic of the japanese "we follow the rule book at all costs" attitude i've experienced until now, he actually leaned over the counter and said, "i don't think security will recognize this as a lighter [because of its unique shape]. if they do call your name because there's a problem with your luggage, i'll meet you at the security gate and walk the item through with you." wow. thank you mr. united man.
during the flight, i kept wondering if the guy next to me was going to stab me or something because he seemed very agitated, and everyone knows how dangerous rage can be at 30,000 feet. perhaps it was my own feelings of awkwardness at seeing so many other english-speakers that was really the problem (and a little travel-day paranoia). i had actually been hoping to sit next to some japanese businessman. after seven hours or so (well, i had plenty of time to let him chill out), i got him chatting about his home and job, so i felt more comfortable. through my sleepy haze, i witnessed a brilliant view of the golden gate bridge at sunrise and (even more exciting) a plane landing parallel and at the same moment as ours. the pilot actually said, "this is about as close as we're going to get to that other plane." you mean we're not going to try and touch wingtips!? aww, man! why didn't we get Iceman or Maverick as our pilot? finally we landed, but i was already lost in my exhaustion. after stumbling through customs where the agent only briefly double-checked my pink-coiffed passport ("oh is that your hair? i thought it was a reflection)," i wandered into a food court. what meal should i try on my empty stomach? or more specifically, what time of day did my stomach think it was? i went straight for the miso soup and burned my tongue. welcome home. i don't think they keep miso soup boiling in japan. i would have tried some eggs and hashed browns, but i couldn't really believe i wasn't still in japan, and i didn't want to chance having an allergic reaction to the eggs.
i kept seeing people i thought i recognized, but get a grip lauren, you don't know everyone in america, and you don't know more than three people in san francisco.
after twenty-four brutal hours of travel (a beast of four legs), i finally got close to home. as i anticipated, i ran into several people i knew in the denver airport who were going to durango, so i started catching up right away (one was a girl i babysat for several years starting when she was about four--who is now studying fashion in san francisco!--where does the time go?).
we touched down in durango in darkness. i buttoned my coat up tighly while waiting to deplane and walked through the wild, cold wind to the airport door. i was feeling a touch poetic...the colorado night was affecting me...until i realized i had buttoned my coat askew and probably looked like a crazy person...or one of those "artist types." wink