Asky at last. Somewhere over the Pacific en-route to Tokyo. My eight-hour laptop battery is holding up well. If you haven’t guessed, this paragraph was written on Friday. And man, I’m lucky to be on this plane right now. Turns out, my flight into San Francisco was delayed by 2hrs. Luckily, the ticket agent put me on standby for an earlier flight – which Wayne and I had showed up early enough to make (being that it had also been delayed). Wayne (remember Wayne? I’ve been to Taiwan with him before) actually got ticketed on the earlier flight – but I only made the standby list. Turns out, there were thirty people on the list, and if I missed my flight into SF, there wasn’t another flight leaving for Taiwan until the next day.
The gate agent told me there was no way I’d make it to San Fran in time to make the flight to Taiwan. Brainstorming, Wayne suggested that I still had enough time (barely) to rent a car and drive to San Fran in time to make the flight. So, I started moving towards the Hertz center – calling and reserving a car on the cellphone at the same time. Just as the agent was reciting my rental car confirmation number, Wayne called after me from back near the gate – and motioned for me to run. I ran, still on the phone with Hertz. Turns out, I was second on the standby list – the first two names were 200k+ skymile holders, who’d not answered when called. Musta been my lucky day. I was the absolute last person on the plane – but managed to make the Tokyo connection in San Fran with time to spare. Someone must’ve wanted me here.
When I got on the plane, the flight attendants did their standard safety mime, going over where everything is and how to use it. They have those fake lifevests, which look real but are just yellow fabric with the little pull-inflators for demonstration purpose. I was thinking, how utterly crappy would it be to go down in an ocean plane crash, miraculously survive, go to pull the inflate-tabs on your lifevest – and look down in horror to see the words “demo only” printed on the thing. It could happen, they look just like the real thing, they just aren’t. Yeah, that would definitely suck.
At the San Francisco airport, Wayne and I sat down in the international terminal to make use of the too-expensive wireless internet and send some mail. Right next to use were two ATM-looking machines with big “Department of Homeland Security” seals on them. The screen was showing a video of someone inserting their passport into a reader-slot, and right next to the passport reader was a thumbprint scanner. A large sign next to the machine explained how to scan your passport, and put your thumb on the glass to digitize a fingerprint. The machines, called US-VISIT, were so intriguing to me that I snapped some pictures, and even tried to scan my own passport to see what happened. Check it:
Welcome to the United States, please submit three strands of hair and a urine sample.
Hard to read, but it shows how to give left and right fingerprints , and pose for the picture.
How to insert your passport.
Yay! I’m not on the watchlist!
Once I made the plane, the trip was relatively uneventful. I sat next to a young Marine who was returning from leave. He reminded me of my brother so much, and we immediately struck up a conversation – becoming drinking buddies for the remainder of the flight. About 8hrs in, I managed to spill a completely full bloody mary all over my laptop, chair, shoes, and pants. I turned the laptop upside-down and watched tomato juice and vodka pour out from between the keys, then retreated to the bathroom looking like I’d been shot in the groin. Luckily, I was able to wash off all the stains, and by the end of the flight the only clue that my khakis had been covered with tomato juice was the funny smell following me around. And, as you may have guessed – the laptop also survived it’s dousing. Wayne, my new jarhead friend, and myself spent the last few hours to Tokyo standing in the exit aisle drinking Kirins… kind of like some strange in-flight tailgate party, an airborne version of the King of the Hill alley-scene opener. We were “shushed” by the attendants no fewer than three times, but luckily they didn’t kick us off the plane into the sea.
Checked in at the hotel, washed my greasy face and hair and brushed my teeth, then headed for Henry’s Bar. Tracy wasn’t working – but the guy behind the bar remembered me, and immediately picked up the phone to call someone. My mandarin is pretty rusty, but I did hear my name, and Tracy’s nickname for me: Davey. After hanging up, he admitted he called her to tell her I’d arrived. The poor girl much get so much crap. Later, we walked to a foreigner’s-favorite watering hole around the corner and met up with some drunken Australians and sheltering-from-the-rain Swedes. In the spirit of international relations, as Wayne so eloquently put it, we stayed and had a round or two with the gentlemen. Eventually, I ended up chatting with a young guy from Taiwan, only to find out that we not only went to college together – we had the same Microprocessor Design class. What a trip… halfway around the world and chatting about a shared college professor and your alma-mater’s football record.
Now seems like as good a time as any to post a picture of Debbie Gibson taken off the TV while watching Taiwanese MTV (whose logo is apparently differentiated from that of American MTV by the addition of a chicken):
While on the subject of tunes, this Ratatat album is busy marking this trip for me. Its wordlessness makes for the perfect travel-soundtrack… allowing whatever’s in my head to be the narration. Listening to the breakdown in El Pico right now, bobbing my head while looking out over the dirty sprawl of Taipei. Man… changing subjects… WordPress is so awesome. Being able to log on to my site like this and type out an entry wherever in the world I may be. So neat.
Man this laptop reeks of spicy tomato. Ugh. Until tomorrow.