Saturday, August 19, 2006

That's about enough, terrorists.

I have nightmares about packing. My plane is taking off in an hour, or the bus is about to leave, or a tornado is about to demolish my house, or something similar, and my necessities are strewn about everywhere, and every time I locate something and put it in my suitcase, something else disappears. When I finally get everything packed, the nightmare starts over again.

I’ve ridden on planes since before I can remember, and still every time I’m on one my stomach is tight as I suppress thoughts about a fiery death. I’m not terrified of planes or anything, but it always crosses my mind. I’m anxious. One thing that doesn’t help my anxiousness is the airport PA system screaming every five minutes about an orange terror alert for air travel. It reminded me what I already knew—no liquids on board, even when purchased in the safe area, no liquids or gels of any kind allowed through security, everybody must take off their shoes and submit to additional screening at the gate. Man, I am so sick of terrorists.

Unlike what the PA system promised, only people holding non-U.S. or Canadian passports were submitted to additional screening. But just so no one would think I was a terrorist, I emptied my water bottle before boarding each plane. Not being able to have water was a big deal for me. I need it to live, which is why I kept my bottle so I could ask the flight attendant to fill it on the international flight. The flight attendant, a tall, thick, Minnesotan-looking blonde cheerily took my bottle, but when she returned to hand it back to me, she said with a tone so serious it sounded like a joke, “Everyone’s wondering how you got this on board. You know that, right?” It wasn’t a joke, because you never make a joke about airport security on an airplane. “It was empty?” I replied, a little stunned because 1) she was being pretty stern about an empty water bottle, which I was certain was not airplane contraband, and 2) how would I know that everyone was freaking out about my water bottle? Oh, and I actually could have just walked onto the plane with it since no one checked my bag. She quickly returned to her jovial self, explaining that everyone was just asking about it. By the way, this flight attendant, who looked significantly more gaijin than me, spoke flawless Japanese. I found this both encouraging and intimidating. Encouraging because someone just as tall as me, thicker, and blonder was able to successfully spend enough time in Japan and interact with enough people to become fluent, and intimidating because it made me realize that my god, my Japanese is terrible. Also terrible was the water she gave me. I’ll drink almost any tap water, but this was not potable, and left an awful aftertaste that would stay with me for the rest of the flight. Which was only supposed to be twelve hours.

But it was more like fifteen, because half an hour before we were supposed to land in Tokyo, after they’d announced their final descent and shown us a little “Welcome to Narita” video, they announced that the runway was too wet to land on due to rain, and we’d have to circle for a while. You’re such a cocktease, American Airlines. We circled over the ocean for almost an hour before the captain announced that we needed to refuel in Sapporo, which was an hour away. We landed, it took another hour to refuel, then another hour to get back to Tokyo. In the customs line, I saw an official lead away a group of confused-looking brown people into a room of fogged glass with automatic sliding doors that looked like a futuristic torture chamber. The hour ride on the subway to Ueno was scary, as I wasn’t sure I was on the right train for the first half hour. My getting on the train at all depended on an American woman who offered to help me with one of my two fifty pound bags, and my getting off depended on a Japanese guy who goes to Michigan State helping me with my bags for far longer than was necessary. Everyone stared at me on the train, and I couldn’t tell if it was because I was the only white person or because I had two enormous bags I was trying to hold onto. Maybe both.

When I arrived at the hotel, I spoke in broken Japanese. The clerk said to me, “[You speak Japanese, yes?]”
“[Only a little.]”
“[Well, your Japanese is fantastic.]”
I did the sociolinguistically appropriate thing, which was to laugh and avert my glance, looking a little embarrassed, which I guess I was since my Japanese was crap. When I got to my room and looked through my bags, I realized that the liquid/gel ban apparently didn’t apply to the nail polish and the suspiciously explosive-looking gel lip gloss in my carry-on that I didn’t even know were there. Once Al Qaeda starts recruiting awkward white girls, we’re really in trouble.


Blogger Rebecca said...

Oh good and better. Will be checking in. Over and out.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

Hi Honey!
Thank you Thank you Thank you for your arriving in Japan story. I really liked it. I'm so glad that you are doing a blog!!!

Maybe I will start another one myself, since I'm a bit tired of my Adventurata name. Or maybe I'll just write some different things in that blog, or maybe I'll get a blogger account. Is this the same one as Grace's. It's late. Love ya, Mom

1:08 PM  

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