10-7 SCN

One of the benefits of getting to the airport super-early is that — at least on airlines that for inexplicable reasons don’t do pre-assigned seat selection — you get your pick of seats. In my case, following my horrible experience on the way to Japan, I asked for, and got, a seat in an exit row. Unlimited leg room. Ahhh.

What I didn’t know is that sitting in an exit row dooms you to losing about two or three inches of lateral space for your ass, apparently because the armrests now have to contain both the IFE system and your table tray, so there’s a big lump that pokes you in the thigh. I would have been okay with that, really, but I still traded my 51H away for something much, much better. It was further in the back of the plane.

Owing to a quirk of scheduling JL18 was not full. It wasn’t even close to full. In the waiting room at Narita I saw what looked like an inordinately large number of small, screaming-age children. This seemed odd; what seemed odder was the number of these children who — how do I put this delicately — were not of the same, er, genetic heritage as their theoretical parents. Some discreet inquiries revealed that this was a group coming back from China with their new Chinese orphanschildren. I’m deeply torn about this. On the one hand it’s touching and heartwarming to know that these kids will have homes with loving parents; on the other, it’s.. kinda creepy. “I went to China and all I got was..”

Yeah, I’m not going to finish that joke. I still have one flight left; I’d like to not go to hell before I get home.

Anyway. Flight not full. Whole rows of seats unoccupied. As soon as the seatbelt sign was off I bolted for the back of the aircraft. Scoped out the center section of row 61, stole six pillows, five blankets, and made myself a little fort. I spent the entire flight more or less horizontal, which is to say that while I didn’t get a whole heap of sleep I did manage to have a much more comfortable flight than I did last time. (Also, I learned that four seats in a 747 are just enough for me to stretch out completely. Walking around during the flight, I noticed that several Japanese people were able to do it in three.) It was great, me and my little blanket fort. It felt like I was about six. Highly recommended way of flying, even if the flight attendants do look at you kind of strangely. But, what relaxation! Blankets over my head, earphones in, eyes closed.. I didn’t hear the Chinese kids screaming the whole way to Vancouver.

Nor did I hear the fire alarm go off. I’ve always wondered what kind of jackass is so stupid — or so desperate — to try smoking in an airplane bathroom. Well, now I know: It was the kind of jackass that was flying from Tokyo to Vancouver last night. I’d like to think this is born out of drug dependency rather than outright stupidity, but the flight attendants were p-i-s-s-e-d o-f-f. A very stern annoucement was made — sterner, by the way, in Japanese than in English. “Evidence of smoking has been found in a lavatory! We wish to remind you that we will open the door and throw you out over the Pacific if we catch you doing it again!” Personally, given the fact that there are signs in the lavs warning of potential precautionary landings in the event of smoke detector activation, I would have enjoyed a trip to Elmendorf or Anchorage or Fairbanks. That would have been fun.

So happy to be back in Canada. So happy to be able to read signs again. So happy to be able to read menus again. So happy to be able to say, “Venti Passion tea lemonade, please,” instead of pointing, miming the drink, and mumbling, “Sore wa onegaishimasu.” Woohoo.

There’s a down side to this, of course: 22 voice mails were waiting for me when I turned my phone on. And a dozen text messages. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Of course, having written that, I just sat through an Air Canada announcement entirely in Japanese, and it was like, “Hey, where am I?” Cut me a little slack; my body thinks its 04:27 tomorrow, and I don’t think I can see straight enough to keep typing.