IMR: 1998: October: 11 -- Wednesday, 8:51 p.m. (HST)
Approx. 200 mi. west of Los Angeles, California

Damn Northwest Airlines customer service lied!

Jen called 'em up this morning to ask if there were power outlets in the seats for portable computers. They said "yes." I was so impressed, I asked her to call them again to make sure they weren't for special devices or just cigarette-lighter plugs. "Regular plug plugs," they said.

So I clamber on board, forsaking the purchase of any reading material, confident I'll be able to keep myself busy on my PowerBook for the duration of this five-hour flight to Los Angeles. But after getting settled (with only 90 people total on the plane, I got a whole center row to myself), my heart began to sink as I poked and prodded at every plastic panel and velcro flap.

Finally, after the plane had taken off and leveled some 40,000 feet above the ocean, I catch a flight attendant and ask, "Are there plugs in these seats for people to use with computers?"

"No, but they should come up with that," she said in a chirping, sing-song voice. "That'd be a great idea!"

"Er, thanks," I said.

So, according to the battery meter on this power-hungry Mac, I've got twenty minutes tops before nappy time.

Fortunately, I found a few things to occupy myself for the majority of the trip.

First I went through "World Traveler" — the NWA in-flight magazine — and filled out any "free product information" reader service cards I could find. I'm a sucker for junk mail, particularly if it involves catalogs or free CD-ROMs and videos. Free souvenirs of my trip, I figure, delivered to my doorstep in four to six weeks.

Then there was dinner. Teriyaki chicken on a bed of rice, a roll, and a cookie. I took my time eating, managing to squeeze three complimentary soft drinks out of the flight crew before they came by to collect the trash.

Of course, with all the free drinks, and with the bottled water mom picked up for me, I got lots of exercise trotting to and from the lavatory. I think there's only two toilets I haven't used on this plane, and they're both in first class.

Finally, there was the in-flight movie, "Six Days, Seven Nights."

I didn't expect I'd be able to watch, actually, as I wasn't about to shell out $4 for a headset. But I discovered that these seats used regular, one-eighth inch audio jacks instead of the rubber-hose contraptions of yesteryear. I just plugged in my Walkman headphones, covered myself with a big blanket, and enjoyed the show.

I'd seen "Six Days" before, but it's such a light and cute film it didn't hurt to see it again. In fact, catching all the little things the airline edited out was a lot of the appeal.

"There's nothing wrong with my chest," Anne Heche blurted at one point, though her lips were clearly spelling out an entirely different one-syllable word. And when Harrison Ford disappears into a bush to vent his frustration, the colorful string of expletives was replaced by an incoherent, Yosemite Sam-esque gurgle.

More conspicuous, though, was the omission of the film's two plane crash scenes. Understandable, sure. But considering that they're major climactic elements in the story, it was more than a little awkward. One second, Heche is gripping the controls saying, "oh boy," and the next moment David Schwimmer is stumbling out to the half-submerged plane.

Hmm. It's midnight in L.A. We'll be landing a little after 1 a.m. I definitely don't plan on wandering off in the airport.

I'm traveling with three other coworkers. Steve, one of the managers, and Abigail and Lovisa, two of the interns. They're all poring over notes and sorting through papers, trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of the relatively short flight.

Seeing how much they have to do really eases my stress over my Saturday morning presentation (turns out I'm only doing one after all). I'm going to L.A. specifically for a twenty-minute stint, for which I'll have two days to prepare, and I'll be headed home immediately afterward. I'll still have Sunday to recuperate and catch up on missed coursework. Everyone else will be run ragged nonstop through the entire meeting, from tomorrow morning to Monday evening... and even after arriving in Honolulu at around midnight, they'll be expected in the office seven hours later.

Jen was really upset when I left. I'd skipped class this morning just to spend a little extra time with her, but when mom came by to pick me up she still wasn't ready to see me go.

I'm sure she'll be okay, and I certainly understand her anxiety. This will be our first time apart since Katie was born, and save for some long-overdue time spent with friends, she'll be alone with Katie for four days.

Fortunately, we went through the same thing when I first returned to classes in February, and the first thing she said when I returned home was, "Boy, that was easy!"

Beep. Hell, five minutes left. Macs rock in so many ways, but PowerBook battery life is scandalously sucky. (Steve's laptop has been running most of the flight, and will probably still have enough juice to play solitaire while we're waiting for our baggage.)

What else, what else.

Oh, how could I forget. I thoroughly screwed up this afternoon.

It was absolute mayhem in the office. Everyone was packing up — equipment, office supplies, signs, banners, easels and the kitchen sink – and I was making last minute updates to the website. (This afternoon alone, four high-level speakers confirmed for the special Monday conference, each requiring a program change and a new biographical "media advisory.") I also had to scramble around on the network collecting everyone's files on Zip disks for use in L.A.

Before we knew it, we were late, the taxi driver reluctantly waiting downstairs despite another scheduled fare.

We raced back and forth with boxes and bags, struggling with handtrucks and bizarrely-shaped packages, and jumped into the van. We barelled down Nimitz, the tires screeching at every turn. Steve, the insuppresible diplomat, was very apologetic to the driver for being late.

That's when I realized I'd forgotten my own suitcase back at the office.

"You're kidding," Steve said as the driver shook his head. Abbie and Lovisa giggled nervously. We had to turn back at Sand Island Access Road. By the time we were airport-bound again, there was only 40 minutes until our flight and 50 minutes before our driver had to be in Waikiki. If he was a little reckless before, he was downright suicidal then.

"Boy, you're off to an auspicious start," Steve said, laughing. I thought I was going to be sick.

I already feel a bit like the black sheep of this delegation, and I was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. My little snafu guaranteed I wouldn't easily be forgotten when this whole meeting is forgotten.

"Every trip needs a good anecdote," I said at one point, mortified. "I guess I'm it."

On the bright side, as everyone pointed out later (if even just to make me feel better), my delay set us back just long enough to avoid lines at check in, and when we reached the gate we just walked straight onto the plane.

Talk about minimizing time spent dragging around airports... I think we barely stopped for five minutes between the curb and our plane seats.

And that's all he wrote.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 11 October 1998 · Last Modified: 18 October 1998