I’ll skip over all the chicken-with-my-head-cut-offness of my preparation, as it’s completely uninteresting to anyone but myself… actually, it’s not even interesting to me.
I planned to leave myself plenty of time to get to the airport, check in, and clear security. I arrived at the airport at about 11:45 am for a 2:25 pm flight. Since I’d left myself so much extra time, of course, I flew through security in record time. As much as I usually bag on our local institutions, Detroit Metro Airport’s McNamara terminal really is a well-oiled machine. I checked in at the Northwest counter, checked my baggage, and cleared security by 12 noon, for an international flight. That gave me plenty of time to kill before my flight boarded, so I took out my laptop, but I got the old “sign up for Boingo” cockblock instead of the free WiFi that is the inherent right of wired travelers everywhere. Bah. I reholstered the laptop and opened my official airport book, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I’ve been reading it forever, because, though I’m enjoying it immensely, I seem to only read it when I’m flying and it’s about the size of a telephone book. I grabbed a torpedo at National Coney Island, and they announced boarding for NWA flight 25 to Tokyo Narita airport right as I returned to the gate.
A Boeing 747-400 is a truly enormous airplane. This was my first time aboard one, and it really is striking how very much plane there is there. That said, when you pack over 400 people onto one (it was a completely full flight), coach class becomes the same miserable crampfest that it is on every other airplane. I so dearly wish I’d had enough miles to go for the business class upgrade. They basically get sofas up there. And personal video monitors. And pie. There’s always pie…
So I got a cramped seat over the wing (so much for seeing landmarks as we flew over), where I proceeded to sit. For the next 14 hours. They fed the plane’s GPS and weather data into a cool display, that constantly updated our position, heading, and the outside temperature, at least when the screen wasn’t showing the in-flight movies or the NWA ads. That was really cool, though unfortunately we had a very non-chatty pilot. I always enjoy it when the captain takes time to point out landmarks as you fly over them, but after giving us a status update on our departure delay (we had to hit a certain window for when out path would be clear through Russian airspace) he pretty much stayed quiet for the whole trip.
As I mentioned, there were in-flight movies, which I had a limited view of because the woman in front of me had the world’s largest head. I mean, seriously, this woman had a freaking pumpkin sitting on top of her neck, and a semi-bouffant besides. To make it worse, she and her husband weren’t even watching the in-flight movie, they had their own DVD player and phones, but I still had her colossal head directly in my line of sight. The films were RV, which I watched without the headphones by halfheartedly reading lips, and I think I got the gist of it well enough (i.e. a less-funny National Lampoon’s Vacation with Robin Williams in the Chevy Chase role and Jeff Daniels in the Randy Quaid role), Inside Man, which, at least the parts I got to see around Madame Bighead, seemed like a pretty damned good “Topkapi”-type caper film, and some horrible Lindsay Lohan thing, which for some odd reason didn’t feature her snorting barrels of blow and passing out in a club bathroom.
I really didn’t manage a lot of sleep on the flight. I was just too darned uncomfortable, for the most part. I had a scare about 3/4 of the way through. I got a stomach ache, which I eventually decided was just a touch of indigestion, but the last thing you want 3 weeks after abdominal surgery when you’re on an airplane over the Pacific Ocean is stomach pain. Nightmare scenarios started playing themselves in my head. Thankfully, the pains retreated on their own.
The eye is a menace to clear sight, the ear is a menace to subtle hearing,
the mind is a menace to wisdom, every organ of the senses is a menace to its
own capacity. … Fuss, the god of the Southern Ocean, and Fret, the god
of the Northern Ocean, happened once to meet in the realm of Chaos, the god
of the center. Chaos treated them very handsomely and they discussed together
what they could do to repay his kindness. They had noticed that, whereas
everyone else had seven apertures, for sight, hearing, eating, breathing and
so on, Chaos had none. So they decided to make the experiment of boring holes
in him. Every day they bored a hole, and on the seventh day, Chaos died.
— Chuang Tzu