IMR: 2000: November: 07 — Tuesday, 5:12 p.m. Tokyo Time
Gate 42, Narita New Tokyo International Airport, Japan

The not-too-thrilling Narita New Tokyo International Airport.
That was probably the shortest birthday on record.

About four hours into the flight, November 6 mysteriously vanished at around noon, and now I'm sitting here in the late in the afternoon of Tuesday, November 7.

My body (and my watch), however, are sticking to the delusion that it's still 9:45 p.m. Monday... which of course it is back home.

Ah, back home. I'm missing it already. Or, more specifically, the people there. Fortunately, thanks to a strangely talkative but phone-card friendly phone, I was able to call Jen and Katie a little while ago. Jen was exhausted after day one of actual work (in the women's swimwear department no less), Katie was successfully picked up at school by Todd and safely delivered to her mother, and the two of them were just winding up for bed.

What I wouldn't do for a hug and kiss from them right now.

Of course, my mild sense of loneliness and desolation probably has a lot to do with the uniformly dark gray sky outside and the uniformly gray everything here in this "state-of-the-art" transportation facility. Narita airport is, I think, an incredible distillation of the basic requirements of an international airport — that is to say, nothing but the ugliest, drabbest elements of a transportation hub. Sharon and I have probably walked the length of the "interline" connecting terminal building six times, just trying to keep from going mad during this six hour layover.

Yep, that's right. It was an eight hour flight to get here, we're nearing the end of a six hour wait for our connecting flight to Singapore, and that will be an additional six hours. Almost a full day of being, essentially, nowhere.

We get into Singapore near midnight, and will try to get some sleep before hooking up for an early morning meeting with the hotel staff and other vendors. Not quite as bad as the 'hit the ground running' madness of our Hong Kong meeting, but I don't think it'll be any less challenging to remain conscious and productive.

Fortunately tomorrow is mostly catching up on whatever adventures we missed out on while en route, and getting things set up so that everything will be ready and waiting for the rest of our team.

The flight here was long but happily uneventful.

It was packed solid with Japanese tourists returning home, each with six carry-on bags of Duty Free merchandise, but of course they were wonderfully polite. I'll take 150 Japanese visitors over a dozen American tourists any day.

We were on one of Northwest's newer planes (I never thought to check the safety card for the official specification). I don't even know what it was, with thin wings and weird upturned ends. I was especially surprised at the amount of leg room, even back in steerage where we were seated. Enough so that the skinny Japanese girl who got the window was able to slip in and out without either of us having to get up.

I was tired and achy after lugging the four chests of supplies Sharon and I were tasked with bringing, and I think I actually slept a little. And just when I began to wonder how I'd pass the rest of the time — I'd already read the "Brad Pitt: Sexiest Man Alive" issue of People magazine (I bought it for Jen, really!) — the in-flight movie came on: Ridley Scott's bloody epic "Gladiator."

Ah, three hours of Hollywood excess. I wouldn't say it was a great movie, but I liked it. Then again, I am beginning to think that any film viewed on an airplane gets an artificial entertainment-quotient boost. Must be the thin air and bad food.

I don't even know what we were served for lunch, because I ate everything except whatever was in the hot, foil-covered container. And after looking forward to the cold soba noodles promised at the end of the flight, it turned out to be completely frozen.

I was so hungry I couldn't wait for it to melt. But sadly, soba-cicles aren't all that tasty.

Oop, gotta run.

Tuesday, 5:45 p.m. Singapore Time
Seat 53B, Northwest Airlines Flight 19, 120 miles southeast of Osaka

I just got my hot lemon-scented towel. I'm a happy traveler.

Once again I've reset my watch and I'm beginning to lose track of when I am. But I do know that it'll be midnight exactly when we reach the gate at Singapore International Airport.

No problem knowing where I am, though. They've got the computer-generated GIS-esque map on the video screens. Traveling at a ground speed of 490 m.p.h., we're at 33.55 degrees north latitude and 136.12 degrees east longitude, with a heading of 225 degrees. Not that I know what that means.

It's a fairly empty flight. Almost, but not quite, empty enough for Sharon and I to adopt an entire row and stretch out. We're exhausted and hoping to sleep, but right now we're more starved than anything.

You know you've reached a higher level of hunger when the sounds and smells of airline food being prepared a few feet away makes you salivate.

Why is "Northwest's Spotlight on Country" the only working channel on the in-flight audio system?

Hmm. I think the turbulence on this leg will be a little rougher than on the last one.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 7 November 2000 · Last Modified: 9 November 2000