The Journey of the Sodden Traveler
911 meant the end of the casual visit to the quality airport bar. The bars now built into the safe section of the airport, outside the TSA checkpoints, have none of the joy felt in the terminal bars. Airport terminal bars are one of the few joys of travel in our 21st century. In the time of the New Puritanism in which we live, there is no other such place where such staggering deals on served alcohol are to be found. And at no other location are the proprietors so disinclined to worry about boozing up their clients, as they know that as soon as that person is truly lit, they will be gone, whisked away for someone else to deal with and clean up after. In the old world one could get a glimpse of these alcoholic nirvanas when waiting for someone who suckered you into picking them up. But now all that is history, and only the sodden traveler is left.
As I sit here waiting for a flight to Beijing via Tokyo, I feel the curtain of sobriety and decorum slowly being lifted from my head, which is the true calling of all world travelers.
Legroom, we don’t need no stinkin’ legroom
Now on the plane to Tokyo, I wait for my meal, having just cleaned my hands with some warm, sodden fabric, with the gentle smell of a KFC Handi-Wipe. In traditional airplane fashion, my assigned seat was a symphony of design horrors. This new Airbus designed jet has the marvelous feature of a TV screen for every seat, and to drive this little marvel of engineering, requires a video box under approximately 1/3rd of the seats in the plane, virtually eliminating any legroom that might have been available. Of course, my seat is one of those. After struggling for a bit, I am rescued by the man next to me who would like me to swap with his daughter. Sometimes karma rescues us, but always with a price.
Lost in Translation – Part I of a Series
I originally boarded the plane after a long conversation with a Cajun gentleman who had just returned from a business trip to Vietnam. Judging by the volume of his voice, and the wild amount of gesturing he made, I was led to believe that it was a good trip with spicy food, or some such nonsense, as I was only able to pick out 1 in 10 words or so, so I took most of this on faith. Having the common language of booze aided me, as always. This in turn led me to board the plane with a few extra drinks than originally planned. It appeared that I was the last person to board the plane, as they were making the final call, and I was walking up the ramp, I was greeted by an attendant who approached me” are you Mr. Hancheroff?” As I was pretty sure that this was still the case, I agreed and followed her up the ramp. My Business partner was getting worried for some reason, and was looking for me frantically, and seemed pleased that I choose to join him at last. He was asking me where I was, and with the veil of sobriety finally lifted, I was able to respond, “At the bar, of course”
Who is this White Guy anyway?
Halfway through my flight, I appear to have been adopted by the traveling Chinese family who gave me the aisle seat. The youngest is kicking my chair repeatedly from behind, and the boy in the window seat next to me is looking to me for assistance getting food and drink. They have all been kind to me, and I am welcome in my adopted home, Row 38.
Soon my young ward falls asleep on my shoulder, and in his dreams he kicks his tray table, nearly dousing me in orange juice. A quick catch and disposal of the juice with the air waitress, and the excitement ends.
Again the hot towels come out, signaling that this leg of my trip is nearly at an end. It has been over 10 hours on this plane, and I am sorely in need of a drink. As I watch my fellow travelers use their chemical-soaked rags for cleaning their face and hair, I try to get ready for my next step. A transfer in Tokyo. Before that, however, I am treated to quite possibly the worst landing I have ever been on. Our pilot, who must have been trained at the Air Force, was swooping the wings so badly that the entire plane was making scared whooping noises on each swing. I was fairly certain that we were going to scrape a wingtip before we hit. Instead we simply bounced four times.