Friday, June 23, 2006

Okinawa Sunrise

Here's a pretty poor picture of the view of the first sunrise I saw on Okinawa today (errr... I guess technically it's now yesterday for me, but if you are reading this in the western hemisphere it could still be today, or it could be last week or much later depending on when you actually read this, but I suppose that's not really relevant).

After travelling for more than 24 hours straight (and losing almost 2 days in the process due to the international date line crossing), two friends and I arrived in Okinawa. We arrived at our final destination exactly on time, but we never would have epxected it based on how it began. I started out at about 4:15 am with my sister and nephew making the hour long drive up to Boston so a car wouldn't have to be left at the airport for three weeks. (Yup, I'll be away for three weeks, so now would be a good time to break into my condo if you feel so inclined. Unfortunatetly, if you choose to, don't expect to find any good loot - all the stuff I own that has any theft value (laptop, camera, ipod, video camera, bazooka, etc.) was taken with me on my trip.)

After picking up my two travel companions, we got to the airport at about 6 am. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00, so we figured we had plenty of time. When we checked in (after about a 30 minute wait in line), the woman at the ticket counter said she had to put us on a different flight due to bad weather in Chicago that was expected to shut down that airport. So, we checked our bags, got our boarding passes and casually wandered towards the security gate check-in area. (Speaking of wandering, I sense this story is probably going to ramble on for a long time, so you might want to stop reading now before you get sucked into this gripping saga of airline intrigue and high-speed chases and lose track of all time on the computer and don't do what you actually planned for the day. Yes - no, actually, I mean no, that story isn't going to be that gripping, but it will be long, so you've been warned...)

Anyhow, as I mentioned, we casually wandered away from the ticket counter and headed towards the security line. Along the way, we decided since we were three hours early for our flight, we had time to stop at the restrooms befor the security gate. Since I didn't have to use the restroom (yes, all these details are indeed necessary for the proper telling of this story), I had a few minutes to myself while waiting for my friends to return from the restrooms. Being the somewhat obsessive person I am, I tend to check, double-check, triple-check things when I travel. "Do I have my boarding passes - yes, the kind woman at the ticket counter just gave them to me 60 seconds ago - but maybe I lost them on the way to the restrooms. Lemme check - yup - I have them. And are we heading for the right gate - yes, the kind woman also just told me gate 25 (no, I don't reallt remember now (2 days later) if it really was gate 25, but that detail isn't important to this story. But, the fact that I just looked at the boarding pass is and important detail, as you will soon see.) Ok, so I have th right gate, there's the security line for that gate just over there. Good. Things are going well. Let me double-check the time. Maybe the flight doesn't really leave at 9:00 like I remembered. Hmmm... nope, it appears the flight leaves at 6:55am. WHAT?!?! 6:55??? But it's already past 6:30 and my friends are taking their sweet time in the restrooms thinking we have another 3 hours! Holy smokes! How did this happen??"

Then it dawned on me - the sinister woman behind the ticket counter had mentioned in passing that she was putting us on a different flight. What she neglected to mention was that it was already boarding and would be leaving in less than half an hour from now! And we haven't even gone through security yet! I can only assume this was all part of some evil scheme of hers. Fortunately, due to my over-sized bladder and lack of a need to use the restroom, I thwarted her evil plan (or scheme, as I called it in the previous sentence) and we quickly ran through security. Actually, we attempted to quickly run through security, but the evil she-devil ticket lady must have also bewitched me as I twice failed the "walk through the metal detector" test as I forgot to remove all metal objects from my person. (I always thought it was three strikes and you are out, but the security person firmly assured me in the case of airport safety, it's two strikes and you're out. I find that odd with Boston being the hometown to the Boston Redsox and lots of baseball fans. You'd think they'd at least show some support for the team. Or, even if they are Yankees fans, they'd at least show some support for the sport of baseball in general and stick to a reasonable common phrase. Think of all the children who are going to grow up confused in little league, standing at the plate waiting for the next pitch, wondering to themselves, "I have one strike. Can I safely let this next pitch pass? Was it two strikes and you are out, or was that only applicable to airport security?" Yes, it could happen. It's how society gradually disintegrates. You let one little thing slip and the next thing you know, little Johny doesn't wait for the better pitch and instead swings too soon, pops up to center field and loses the game for the team. From then on, it's all down hill. He turns to drugs in his teenage year looking for escape from his failure in baseball, and who knows where it leads? Instead of going on to be successful doctor and finding a cure for cancer, he becomes a burden on society.)

Anyhow, as I started to say, once my second attempt to pass the metal detector test failed, I assume the voodoo practicing, fire breathing ticket lady's befuddling spell must have started to wear off as it suddenly dawned on me after repeatedly searching my empty pants pockets that I had slipped an ipod into my shirt pocket. I tried to expain this to the kind security guard, but it was at this time that it was explained to me that it's two strikes and I'm out. So, I was politely, but firmly, escorted to the special screening area where I got to get an extra thorough search for more metal objects on my person. All the while my two friends found great amusement in the fact that I was the cause of a problem at security. And meanwhile, the clock was ticking on towards 6:55 when the flight departs. So after it was confirmed that I pose no threat to airline safety and I got my complementary "pat down" to confirm the very high-tech metal detector wand was actually working properly, we were again on our way, running through the terminal to catch our flight. As it turned out, we got there just in time - there was still a line of people waiting to get on the plane.

So, we boarded the plane and waited for take off. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. And at this point I could go on and on about how long we waited and how it was an emotional roller-coaster as the pilot announce we were taking off, only to announce a few minutes later that he was after all mistaken and we weren't rally taking off because the airport in Chicago was completely shutdow, and how we got off the plane, then back on, and waited some more, etc. etc. And, I suppose I did pretty much just describe that in a nut shell, so I'll leave it at that. In he end we waited about 2 hours before we finally did take-off. Which meant we ended up leaving at almost the exact time our original flight was supposed to leave. So we arrived in Chicago just in time to catch our connecting flight. And wonders of wonders, our connecting flight was just two or three gates away, so we didn't even have to run around.

Looking back on the situation, it was definitely a good thing that we got to the airport early for our initial flight. Otherwise we would never had been able to get on an earlier flight, and we would have missed our connection in Chicago and probably would have had to wait a day later to catch our flight from Chicago to Osaka. And in the grand-scheme of things, I suppose it wouldn't have really made a huge difference, other than the fact that I never would have been able to take this photo (you do remember the photo I was originally talking about at the beginning of this writing, right?). It would have been a different photo of a different sunrise, and with one one less day of travel, I wouldn't have had a chance to write this long rambling description of my day of air travel.

I supposed there is a lesson to be learned from all this - maybe "The early bird gets the worm", or "Two strikes and you are out." I dunno. On a more serious note, I guess the one thing I did realize from this experience is how a Zen approach to life is really quite helpful at maintaining a peaceful disposition. Even though there were a few unexpected delays and problems, I didn't find myself worrying too much about it and I think I remained upbeat through the whole thing. A few years ago in the same situation I would have been a nervous wreck. Now I tried to just remember there's no sense worrying about things you can't change.