Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day one of trip to Tokyo

Aware of the forecasted snow and ice for this morning, I took a room at the Marriott near the airport last night. I slept as best as one can, when she is beside herself with anticipation and joy of the days ahead in Japan.
I awoke rested and on time to a beautiful morning. The whisper-light snow was easy to remove from the car and muffled the city sounds of the barely-any-of-it traffic on my short ride to the Park Ride Fly. I was greeted by two attendants who flagged me into my parking spot as though I was a 747 parking on a runway. They retrieved my luggage from the trunk, ushered me to the office to take care of business and then wisked me off to the airport like I was Miss Somebody. Very nice. And when I return, they will do all that in reverse AND my car will be brushed off, warm and running. Gotta love that.
At check-in I was told that, though MY flight to Newark was cancelled, I could board the 7 am flight (it pays to arrive at the airport early I've learned). Passing through security was a breeze. Usually the "toys" I travel with make them curious, but not this time.
At the gate I learned that we were delayed until 8:26...then 8:40... and then wait some more. Veeda, the Continental agent, assured me that, worse case scenario, if I wasn't going to get on my way to Tokyo, they would put me up in a hotel and take me tomorrow. This was something of a relief. I don't know what time we actually boarded but, I was happy to be on my way. We spent quite a bit of time on the tarmac for de-icing and runway preparation. The flight attendant said that Newark airport had been closed and this would give us an advantage for our connecting flights. Goody, I thought. It will all work out just fine.
As we approached the terminal, the flight attendant called ahead for a cart to wisk 3 of us to our gate. It was kind of exciting. When we arrived to the gate, we were told, "the doors are closed". BUT IT IS RIGHT THERE. Yes, "but the doors are closed!" That was it. They would'nt open them for us, they knew we were coming and alas...too bad. We (our 3 and another group of 5) were sent off to speak with a "service" (huh!) agent near gate 131. That crabby adversarial fellow gave me a ticket for the next flight...same time, same station, tomorrow and said "next". "Wait a minute, please, sir. The agent at my departing gate assured me that if I didnt arrive in time for my connecting flight, I would receive a voucher for a hotel." He told me she just said that to get rid of me, and I could camp out in the airport. When I inquired about hotels he begrudgingly provided me a list of phone numbers.
Desperate to email my hosts that I would not arrive until tomorrow, I went to Starbucks with my Starbucks card in hand. Fran had advised me to get one of these so I could use wifi in any Starbucks. Any "except the airport Starbucks", the snippy barista told me.
Wondering what to do, what to do... I ran into Briana and Matt from my earlier flight. They were given meal vouchers and sent on their way to their connecting flight. Hmm. I decided to seek out another "service" agent. There were several savvy travelers in this long line. They were all getting vouchers for hotels and meals and I was bolstered. I left there with a voucher for the hotel and instructions to find the shuttle bus.
On the way Cheryl and I joined up. She is going to same hotel and had been hoping to go to Bejing. On the shuttle we were joined by a man wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat and his party all bound for Shanghai. I'd have said one couple with him are Vietnamese, but, what do I know. There was an exotic young woman whose nationality evades me, hoping to go to Bejing, and when Cheryl asked her if she spoke Chinese, she replied, in Chinese, and was able to chat with the other travelers. A beautiful couple sat down next to me. And another couple, tall, blonde, nordic looking with ginormous ski bags, were happy to stand. We were a good-natured, amicable, international and motley crew crowded into our bus.
By the time we finished checking in to our hotel, we were all buddies. The two foreign women traveling alone agreed to go together tomorrow to their gate. The vet, returning to this hotel for a second time, also a snow-related delay, behaved like it was old home week, schmoozing up the clerk. It was cute, really. Though, I'd have guessed that like his companions, he was from somewhere in Asia, he said he'd come from Houston, where he is not used to snow. I pointed out that the woman in the beautiful couple was also from Houston, up for a visit with her sweetheart who works for the airlines. The vet explained that when politics necessitated his leaving his home country, he was advised that Houston would feel most familiar, climatewise. This was 45 years and military service ago.
And in all this warm fuzziness, here is one benefit of aging. In the elevator, I was able to turn to the "sweetheart" and say, "Being an old bird, I can say simply, without motives, that you are gorgeous." Well, you'd think he gets that alot but, he smiled brightly, appeared charmed and even chuckled delightedly. And sweetheart's sweetheart seemed to like it too. I love when our planet feels small, cozy, loving and familar. Spread the love. Spread the joy.
So...perhaps tomorrow I will have genuine tales of Tokyo. Until then...
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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