Back to reality, but I prefer the fantasy
Trip Start Oct 31, 2012
44Trip End Dec 12, 2012
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If only I could get up at 4 am today, as it is 3 am that I have to get up to make my 7 am flight. My flight will take me from Bangkok to Tokyo to Seattle to San Francisco. Unlike the tuk-tuk driver in Phnom Penh, who wanted to take me to the shooting range on the way to the airport, where I could shoot off old guns used during the war in Vietnam, this one gets me to the Bangkok airport in what seems like minutes. It's nice to get through the freeway with very little traffic.
Just before heading out to the airport, I log onto my computer to see if there are any flight changes, or any other last minute notices. Since I am an aisle-seat kind of guy, I see that my original assigned seats have been switched to center seats. For the last two legs of the flight, I am able to change them back to the aisle, but the first one is going to be difficult. When I check in at the airport, I tell the clerk that I had originally signed up for all aisle seats, but found myself with seats in the center. He lets me know that the planes originally to be used were either upgraded to larger ones, due to the traffic, or smaller ones, for flights not so full. I ask him if there is any way to get an aisle seat for the Bangkok to Tokyo leg of the journey. He tells me he'll put me on the waiting list, and will know for sure once the check-in windows have closed. Sure enough, just as we were getting ready to board, he comes to me with a new ticket and seat assignment, so I get the aisle.
Once I find my seat on the plane, I notice that not only is it an aisle seat, but it’s also one that gives you extra leg room, which the airlines make you pay extra for, though I am not charged anything. Across from me is an argument between two guys and a guy who is basically paralyzed. Apparently the paralyzed man and one of the other guys have been assigned the same seat. The two guys want him to move so that they can sit together. When the flight personnel are called in, they try to diffuse the situation, but to no avail. The two passengers give the ultimatum, either the guy moves, or they get moved somewhere else on the plane where they can be together.
The nice guy who got me this great seat makes an appearance. They start throwing their tantrums, to which the nice guy looks at one of the guys and says, matter-of-factly, "You are flying standby, so you’ll need to sit wherever we put you if you want to be on this plane." The two guys shut up immediately, with the one taking the other seat that was offered.
When our omelette breakfast is served, the woman seated two seats from me asks for a vodka instead of the usual juice, tea or coffee that others ask for. When told she’d have to pay, she settles on wine over beer instead, as both are complimentary. For the next few hours, she asks for more liquor, gets weird and a little unpredictable. When the flight is over, her companion, who is seated to my right, says that her behavior scared him. She acknowledges it probably did, and apologizes. I wonder if she was like this because of a fear of flying.
When we reach Tokyo, it frustrating to see the other United flights going directly to San Francisco. I don’t know why these flights weren’t offered to me when I bought my ticket, which is why I have to go to Seattle. If I had been on either of the two earlier direct flights, I would have been home up to six hours earlier than my currently scheduled arrival time.
The good thing about the flight to Seattle is that the plane isn't full, everyone has at least one empty seat between them and the next passenger. After we board the plane, those of us in the economy class are told that under no circumstances can we sit in the Economy Plus section, which offers the greater leg room for the budget traveler. We are told that only those who paid for this extra space in advance can sit there. I find this strange, as this is the section I was upgraded to in Bangkok, and I didn't have to pay for it.
Toward the end of the flight to Seattle, we are asked if any medical personnel are on board, as a passenger needed immediate medical attention. I don't know if there was anyone available, but am glad this medical emergency is not occuring in my section of the plane, and even more thankful that it isn't me in this situation. As the plane starts to descend, we are told that when we arrive, we are to remain in our seats while the medical personnel attend to the sick passenger. As the plane makes its way to the terminal, we are reminded that we are to stay in our seats so that the sick passenger can be attended to without any interference….and thank you for your cooperation. Well, when the plane makes a complete stop, people go rushing for the doors to exit. The loud speaker once again asks people to remain in their seats, though they don’t. But I blame the flight attendants for this, as they are seated in the various sections of the plane and say nothing when they see the passengers trying to head for the exit.
There were only two people working Immigration for those with US passports, and tons of people were in line. The little old lady who was monitoring the line told people not to worry, as the line moved fast…it didn’t. It was even slower than the traffic in Bangkok. I stood in line for over one hour to make my way only a few people closer to the Immigration officer. I'm very thankful for the three hour layover, as I didn't want to miss my connection, then try to fly home by standby. Finally, I get processed through, and make my way to the plane.
The flight to San Francisco is packed, the wait list is long, but everyone on the flight boards timely. The plane takes off, and in two hours, we arrive in San Francisco. Dealing with a bad cold that I caught on the plane, and too many pieces of heavy luggage, I have to make my way to the shuttle vans. All I want to do is get home, but the jerk overseeing the vans, tries to use what little power he has to make everyone's lives at the stand as miserable as his own, so we all wait for an eternity out in the cold weather. When I am finally assigned a van, all I can think of is being home, enjoying the nice warm comfort, and being able to spread out on my bed, where I can finally get the sleep in that I couldn't on my plane rides.
I arrive home. The trip is now officially over, and it has been a good, fulfilling one, but I know I’ll soon be asked where I am traveling to next November. I don’t know yet. For the moment, I just want to sit back and enjoy the memories of the places and people I encountered on this journey. Even with the few stumbling blocks I encountered, like breaking my telephoto lens at the start of the second week of my vacation, making it unusable, I really don’t have anything to complain about. Yes, there were the dishonest travel agents -- but they're getting called out on the traveler boards, so I hope they lose their share of the foreigners using their services; the dishonest taxi drivers, but you get them everywhere, and San Francisco is right up there with them; along with the selfish, pushy people, but I get that everyday when using public transporation, which is why I prefer riding my bike or walking. Most importantly, I was able to take my trip, remain healthy, see things I wanted to see, as well as some that were unexpected, experience new things, meet a lot of great people, found out my basic Spanish is still stored in my brain -- especially the imperative tense, and I was able to succeed at the physical challenges this part of the world threw at me almost very day, which wasn't always easy.
Until November 2013…and December 2012’s Visa statement!