“It’s too late to use the toilet. They’ve been announcing that for the last 40 minutes and now you’ve missed your chance!”
Like many afflictions befalling other people, this lecture should have been life-choice-confirming entertainment. Unfortunately, both myself and the berated child were in exactly the same boat. Or —to be more exact— aeroplane.
Leaving Sapporo in a snow storm, our flight had swept down into Tokyo more than half and hour late. This left precious little time for those of us with tight connections, leading to the family two rows in front of me forming plans for an army-like march across the airport. No toilets, no snacks, no passing go and collecting £200.
While unsure how they ultimately fared, any hope I had of making my flight to Washington DC vanished upon mention of a shuttle bus to the terminal building. With 20 minutes left and about 12 elderly obaasans[*] tottering in front of me, I didn’t have time for no shuttle buses.
As I stood in the plane aisle, enduring an elbow in the stomach from one such obaa-terian obaasan, I had to admit this was my fault. Japan had made me blasé. I would never have attempted an hour connection time while living in Europe or the USA, but the clockwork punctuality of my adopted country had never failed me. Right until it did.
Astute readers might note that this seemed to be the second long-distance flight I was attempting within the week. Such a packed travel schedule had me feeling like a high profile diplomat.
I’m sorry, Professor Tasker’s presence is required in the United States capital this week. No, no other person will do.
Unfortunately, it was an illusion that did not stretch to anyone actually holding the flight for me.
It was, however, still Japan. Waiting at the foot of the aircraft staircase was an attendant with a sign baring my name. I would not make my connection —she regretfully informed me— but I had already been booked on a later flight and here was my new schedule.
The new route was not fantastic. Rather than flying direct to the east coast, I was changing again in Seattle. I would finally arrive six hours later than planned and miss my evenings activities.
Not fantastic, no. But damn, it was efficient. Plus, I got to use the bathroom. Sucks to be you, kid!
By luck, my new late arrival time aligned with that of my colleagues travelling to the same conference in DC. It was fortune with a whiff of irony. While I had booked my flights myself, my companions had used the university travel office which had given them the most stupid tickets known to man. For twice what I was paying, they had to change in LA on the way out and Boston on the way back.
Boston. How does flying to Boston from Washington DC help anyone who doesn’t live in Boston?
They had been due to leave an hour earlier than me and arrive six hours later. I had gloatingly congratulated myself on my savvy flight finding skillz. Unfortunately now, I would be arriving a skimpy ten minutes earlier. It didn’t have quite the same punch.
The terminal at Tokyo Narita airport was packed with designer handbag shops but devoid of anything truly useful. Like, snacks. I finally tracked down a bag of crisps and sent messages to my DC-based friends, least they think USA border control had finally gotten tired of my sarcastic blog posts and thrown me into gaol.
As I finally boarded the plane to Seattle, I consoled myself that if I did get deported, it would be a shorter journey home. Plus, I didn't have a kid who needed the toilet.
[*] Obaasan: Japanese for ‘Grandmother’ or elderly lady.