3 Hours In
Somewhere over Saskatchewan I realize that Canada has two provinces north of the ones I knew about. As an educated member of society, I apologize to The Northwest Territories (not actually a “Province”) and Yukon.
Three hours into a 14-hour flight and already going to the bathroom is an event. Boredom-consciousness and dream-consciousness conspire to drive you crazy: An hour-long snooze takes 5 minutes; you dream there are centipedes on your legs; the sun never moves from its place in the sky.
I’m flying in a Continental Airlines 777, (“Nananananana,” as my Japanese flight attendant calls it). It’s 3 rows of 3 seats flying at 512 mph through Canada into Alaska and Russia.
6 Hours In
The in-flight entertainment is an incredibly in-depth pay-per-view system, with movies including a Hebrew translation of three Harry Potter films, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Bollywood films and Japanese TV shows.
I chose a game show where Japanese TV personalities compete to place X’s or O’s on a checkerboard. It’s hosted by 2 comedians in military uniforms who enter the stage from chairs placed on cranes – you can see the human crane operators – and a woman who looks a bit like Michael Jackson. It’s fun, but it’s a Sunday-afternoon kind of fun, the kind of excitement you get watching drunk people play Twister when you’re sober with a broken leg.
I suspect that is common to television across the planet.
9 Hours In
Somewhere over the Russian sea of Okhotsk, my sun-crazed self is watching “TV Champion: Naughty Puppy Trainers” while listening to The Stone Roses singing “I Wanna Be Adored.”
The in-flight navigation system tells me that the sun has set on my point of origin. It’s nighttime in New England, it’s 10 A.M. in Tokyo. It’s also tomorrow. My body is in all places at once: A secret exhaustion hidden by a sun-powered euphoria, like I’ve been awake all night, sleeping.
10 Hours In
I hallucinate the birds outside my old apartment in Maine, the ones that always woke me up. They wake me up again, not from outside my window but from inside my head.
11 Hours In
We have an hour to go and a disgraceful female American tourist is talking. Every sentence is a correction: “No, no, it’s _______.” Today she’s providing tips to teenagers about how to sleep with Japanese women (The polite version is that she thinks it’s quite easy) and then proceeds to speak Japanese with a terrible Connecticut accent and tell everyone how boring the Tokyo Tower is.
This is a common syndrome of the “Been-to-Japan” people: They all, apparently, are very bored of Japan, and can’t even enjoy “Lost In Translation” because they speak Japanese too well to ever “relate to the characters”, and can’t stand how Japan is all just so damned Japanese. I would recommend these experts either refrain from returning by their own volition, to a small island nation 16 hours away from where they live, or to shut up on airplanes full of Japanese natives making judgments about Americans.
Landing at Narita Airport
The immigration line in Japan is the quietest place I’ve been in years. The entire airport is. I expected the gateway to Asia to present constant strange beeps and bursts of incomprehensible announcements. There are none. The loudspeakers, if they exist, are silent. Instead, Japanese officials wave you through checkpoints and tell you where to get your luggage. Everything’s hushed until a girl from Connecticut gets in line telling everyone around her the wrong way to say “Shinjuku.”
Anyway, I’m in Japan.