Monday, October 15, 2012

Flying Back

So a number of you have been clamoring for me to provide updates to this tired old blog.  Just this once, I will humour you all with the tale of my transit to Japan for what will be my last three months here.

I woke up at 5:45 on Sunday, Oct. 14th in Montréal and went to the airport with family in order to catch my 8:47 flight to Chicago.  I was only scheduled for a 50 minute layover, which made me worry about making my connection to Tokyo.  There were so many Japanese tourists going through security and such with me, though, that I thought I would be safe.  There was no way they would let the plane in Chicago leave with if we arrived late.

At US Customs (which I cleared in Montréal), I had a pleasant little chat with the border guard that went something like this:

"Where are you going?"
"Tokyo, Japan."
"Why are you going to Japan?"
"I'm a student at a language school - I'm studying Japanese."
"Well, because..."

I always feel like I'm asked pertinent questions by border guards...

The flight to Chicago was fairly painless, until we got to Chicago.  After landing, I looked at my watch: about 45 minutes "I should be able to do this," I thought.  However, all the Japanese tourists had left Montréal by different means - no safety net.

Unfortunately, we spent about 20 minutes driving around before we even got close to the airport.  "They decided to make us land at the furthest runway from our gate, for some reason," said the pilot.  Then came the bad news.  "There seems to be some congestion on our way to the gate, we'll just sit tight here, I don't expect this will take more than five or 10 minutes," he reassured us.  Looking out the window, I could see a collection of fire trucks, police cars and ambulances surrounding another plane on the tarmac - it looked like pretty serious business.

My 10:50 connection came and left and we were still not off the plane.  I actually watched as we drove away from the ANA flight I was supposed to take to Japan, on a roundabout route to our gate.  We deplaned on some rather rickety steps and I rushed inside, only to have my fears confirmed - my connection was long gone.

I walked my way over to the nearest "Customer Service Center", only to find a few touchscreen computers and telephones.  The wonders of modern technology, I guess.

A little ways further into the airport I met Mike, who rebooked me on a later flight departing at 12:36.  I lost my aisle seat, but he moved me into "Economy Plus" for free - which was nice for the legroom.

I grabbed a Philly steak panini at one of the restaurants and inhaled it as I walked to my gate.  Boarding went fine, but then the messages started.

"Uh, ladies and gentlemen, we're all cleared to leave up here, but I've just been informed that the ground crew's had some trouble with the front cargo door, seems one of the electric motors has malfunctioned.  We've got a maintenance crew down there looking at it, I'm told it shouldn't take more than 20 minutes."

"Seems they're still working on this motor, shouldn't be too long now..."

"So the maintenance crew have decided to simply bolt the door shut because they're having trouble fixing this motor.  Shouldn't be too long now..."

"So it seems that it didn't occur to the ground crew to load the luggage onto the plane while they were working on the electric motor problem.  We're just waiting on them to finish loading us up and we can leave right after that."

"Uh, ladies and gentlemen, we've finished loading the luggage but one of the passengers has decided to leave the plane, and as a security precaution we're going to have to find his luggage and remove it.  As I'm sure you understand, this will take a little bit of time, so please just sit tight and we'll have this all cleared out soon enough."

"There's a bit of a thunderstorm developing over Chicago now and we've been instructed to stay put until the storm clears.  There are a number of planes that have been grounded until the visibility improves, so I don't know who will get to leave first once everything clears up, but I'll keep you posted."

"Somehow it seems we were put at the bottom of the list for departures.  There are another... five or six planes in front of us on the list, and then we'll be on our way to Tokyo.  Thank you again for your patience..."

All told, we sat in the plane for close to four hours before we finally took off.

Naturally, once I arrived in Tokyo I learned that my luggage was still in Chicago - at least I get free delivery service from the airport. 

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