This is a clip from my diary when I went to Japan for 10 days. My flight was for 12:30am on a Thursday. I showed up at the airport at 10:30pm on Thursday, thinking my flight was going to be in two hours... Not twenty hours ago.
Notebook entry: "My worst nightmare just occured. My plane left without me 20 hours ago."
Day 10: Crisis
Shit shit shit... Oh, god. What do you do when you miss a flight? I've never missed a flight before, let alone is a place that is as far as humanly possible from your home. To know that your home, your bed, your shower, your LIFE is not available to you -- I was terrified!
Douglas Adams, in his "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" book, says that all creatures feel and radiate a stress level in direct relation to how far away from home they are. I was broadcasting stress.
I called my friend who was hosting me: "Katie? I missed my flight. I don't know what I'm going to do. The counter opens in two hours, and I'll see what happens then."
After a few hours, my watch, still set on Mountain Time, says that it is 6am. I call home. Here is the first hint that not everything is against me. As I finish entering my calling card number, the recorded voice comes on to tell me that I have free time on my calling card, and I won't be paying for my international call. Wow. I had no idea. Put AT&T on my list of good-guys. After a brief pause, my dad answers, sleep in his voice.
"Dad?" That phone call was easily the more horrible thing I have ever had to do... My poor mother. I'm trapped a world away, and there is nothing she can do for me...
After gathering my wits, I finally get to talk to the ticket agent. She takes my paperwork and steps back for a hushed conversation with another agent. When she returns, she is holding my booklet of tickets. I feel something akin to Mary Queen of Scots, who proudly strode to the executioners' block - before having her head cleaved open when the executioner missed...
But all my fear was for naught. She handed me a freshly minted ticket onto the next flight. The sister flight, as it were, to my own. It left at the exact same time, just one day later. Perfect!
"But this flight has been delayed until 2am. They are serving a box lunch at the gate."
I cared so little. It was all I could do not to hug the lady. She warned me that I may have trouble in Los Angeles, but she could at least assure me that I would get to America.
I should probably mention here that I did have a cohort of sorts. Jason and I started chatting before the counter opened. It was a good thing. I needed someone to speak english to. I think he did, too. He was there for a month!
Anyway, to get to the gates of Kansai International Airport, you must pay a $26 (Approx USD) usage fee. Its a magnificent airport, and they have novel ways of paying for it. I was forwarned, and so forarmed with enough leftover yen. Jason was not so lucky. So, he had to locate an ATM, and quickly. There were two machines there that were able to take American ATM cards. We each selected a machine. In case his didn't work, I got ready to use mine, and had it fed into the machine. After taking my card and pin, it locked up and said on the screen to call on the telephone beside the ATM.
Apparently, these machines close at 23:00. Exactly. No room for error, here. When closing time came up, the machine shut itself down. After a brief and almost heated exchange with the non-english speakers on the other end of the phone, they assured me "30 minutes!"
Ug. What else could go wrong?! Thirty minutes later, an ASS Chip Technician (No, really! See fine print below) came and rescued my card. I got a kick out of the patch on his arm. Ass. I wasn't about to make fun of him, though. I was just happy as hell to have my card back... Especially since it was the one with the free long distance on it.
Other than that, the flight was more or less uneventful. I sat next to a little young girl and her dad. We didn't strike up a conversation, though. It probably wouldn't have helped, anyway. He was stuffing "Beginning English" books back in his bag as we left the plane. I slept fitfully, and ate little, still too nervous about what would happen at LAX.
After landing, we were all herded passed a drug-sniffing dog, which found me mildly interesting, and into the customs line. Nothing in America could scare a foreigner more. First of all, you must find the correct line to get in. At Japanese Customs, this was simple - if you had black hair, you go in the "Reentry" line. If you don't, you go in the "Foreigner" line. In America, it isn't so simple. There is such a diverse mixture to the American population. I could truthfully not tell which line I was in and which I was supposed to be in. I found the right one, only through luck. Fortunate, too. The customs lady tore into a woman who was in the wrong line. I smiled weakly as she stamped my passport.
The next step was baggage claim. What a mess. Good God, people. PACK LIGHTER! Now, to be fair, many of the people on that flight had been overseas for much longer than I. But JEEZE! I was there for 1/2 hour easily, trying to find my bag. While I was searching, a customs agent questioned me. It wouldn't have been a bad thing, except that he asked hard questions. Questions like "How long were you in Japan?" Well, hell, I don't know. I was supposed to be there ten days, I thought. But I'm not really sure anymore. Hell, I don't know what DAY it is! He checked my declaration form, and pointed out that I had it filled in wrong. He straightened me out, and left me to continue searching for my bag. I found it, and passed through the doors into America. If it wasn't LA, I might have kissed the ground.
So now what? Well, might as well see what United would do for me. I walked the quarter mile to the United ticket counter. I handed my booklet to the woman behind the counter and said, "I'm in trouble." With little more of my explanation spoken to her, she said she could put me on a flight leaving in about 15 minutes. "Is that okay?"
Okay? Is that okay? That's excellent!!"
I soon had a ticket for flight 1713 leaving at 8pm. Ironically, the same flight number of the plane I was supposed to catch the previous night. As 8:00 came and went, I still wasn't on a plane. I called my parents, and quite lost it on the phone. We were talking about who would pick me up from the airport, and if I would mind spending the night in Denver with relatives. "I hope you understand," I sobbed, losing all the dignity I had worked so hard to maintain. "I just want to go home..."
Soon after I hung up, the PA came alive to announce that our plane was beyond repair, and we were changing flights. I nearly died laughing. It was too much.
Finally, we all filed on to a 757 for a quiet and uneventful flight terminated with a white-knuckle landing. We pulled up to the gate. Mentally and physically exhausted, I sat in my seat until the crowds thinned. When I finally rounded the last bend of the jetway, I could see my friends standing there waiting.
I made it.
The "ass chip technician" used to link to a writeup of mine explaining the technician who rescued my card from the ATM. He worked for "Associated Sercurity Services", and had a big patch on his arm that read "A.S.S.". At the time, Everything2 was embroiled in the whole ass chip embarassment. At the time, it seemed reasonable to put some actual relevant data into that node.
Unfortunatly, the editing process on Everything2 is not sensitive to hard-links -- or even karma. So, when all the Ass Chip Technician writeups were destroyed, so then was a somewhat significant piece of context.
Whoever killed this particular writeup noted that is was "Nonsense. Occasionally funny nonsense, but still silly." I bet they didn't even read it...