May 05 2008
Wow! We’ve been back home for four days now, and although we didn’t mean to go that long without posting an update, my defense is that we’ve spent fewer than 24 hours awake. Because as fun as flying from Bangkok to Tokyo to San Francisco to New York to Virginia sounds… it’s less fun. More exhausting. More likely to make you question the warped outlook on life that led you to believe that yes, taking FOUR flights to get home rather than two IS worth saving $100 or less. But first of all…
Jeers to United Airlines for expelling me from the window seat I helped myself to on a half-full ten-hour flight over the Pacific. I had just gotten myself situated with blanket and pillow when a flight attendant popped up and asked me to go back where I’d come from. I tried to explain that I was only looking for a spot where I could lean my head against the wall in hopes of falling asleep, and seriously guy, how big a deal can it be when the plane is only half full? It might be a different story if we were still parked at the gate, but I think it’s safe to assume that take-off was just about the last opportunity for anyone to suddenly show up with a ticket for this seat.
My pleas for any semblance of sanity fell on deaf ears because it turns out that I’d unknowingly wandered into the ultra-elite United Economy PLUS section of the aircraft. Seeing as this not-ready-for-business-class player has the same exact absence of legroom, same exact television screens, and same exact smell on the seats as the undignified United Economy Minus section, I can only assume that the distinguishing characteristic of United Economy PLUS is an enhanced snack box. PLUS the comforting reassurance from United Airlines that no matter how much you may hate your life, you ARE still better than somebody.
I dragged my blanket and pillow back to United Economy Minus with the rest of the riff-raff, where I was happy to stumble upon an empty string of five seats. I stretched out there between a couple of of my flea-ridden proletariat brothers, and managed to sneak in a few hours of sleep.
Cheers to Jetblue for making our trip home 12 hours shorter than expected. We landed in San Francisco around 11:15am PST on Tuesday, with a ticket to New York on the 11:30pm flight that night. We knew there was a 12:50pm flight to New York, but we didn’t book it because it would have been more expensive to fly in the middle of the day. Upon landing in San Francisco, we decided to visit the Jetblue counter on the off chance that we could talk them into letting us fly stand-by on that 12:50pm flight.
We were expecting a drawn-out begging session as we approached the counter. But when I explained our situation to the attending employee, his response was simply: “Sure. No problem.”
Brittany and I looked at each other. Really? Just like that? I mean, we both knew in our hearts that there was just no way things could be that simple. And yet, not only did he print us off boarding passes for the 12:50 flight to NYC without hesitation, he also immediately checked our luggage straight through to Virginia AND printed us off boarding passes for the first connecting flight from New York to Richmond. Maybe Vietnam lowered the bar, but I think we’re both still in disbelief over the level of customer service we received that morning. Either way, cheers from two newly-converted Jetblue customers for life. Did I mention they serve up a lethal combinaton of Doritos Snack Mix and ESPN on all flights? SCORE.
As expected, being back home is proving to be a bittersweet experience. I already miss the sense of adventure that only comes with being on the road. On the other hand, it’s an amazing relief to know that tonight you’ll get to sleep in the same bed you slept in last night. And that you don’t have to navigate imcomprehensible bus schedules and shifty taxi drivers just to get to that bed, all in a language you don’t really speak.
We were warned to watch out for the culture shock of the return to our native soil, and so far, I’m finding that it’s striking in unexpected ways. I have to keep reminding myself that yes, it’s really OK to brush my teeth using water from the tap. I find driving by a shopping center or strip mall to be a startling experience. And I’m seeing supermarkets as overflowing cornucopias of abundance. Everything is BIG in the United States, and there are SO MANY CHOICES. And I still haven’t had the courage to set foot in a Wal-Mart.
From culture shock to photos I still haven’t uploaded to the tales from the road we haven’t yet told (which Brittany alluded to in her last entry) we have some writin’ in us yet. So stay tuned, there’s more to come…