Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Written on the airplane

I set my alarm for 7:00 AM so I could wake up in plenty of time. Dad came in my room before it went off. I scooted over, he laid down, and we held hands for a few minutes until the alarm sounded. He left the room and I opened the door to Loki’s crate. Sweet dog did the thing he does some mornings where, rather than jump up, ready to run outside, he tucks his chin to his chest, makes the sweetest little raised eyebrow puppy eyes at me, and rolls over, showing me his belly as if to say, Here it is, you know, in case you were looking for something to pet, with his precious little puppy paws all folded up, just as darling as the first day I brought him home. I climbed in and rubbed and rubbed his belly and chest, kissing his sweet soft ears… oh how I love those perfect satin ears! Two good goodbyes to start my morning off.

Dad tells me he might sell Mabel while I’m gone. I didn’t give her a proper goodbye. In my mind, I had the photo I wanted all laid out. Someone standing outside the driver’s door, open, as I leaned in to hug the steering wheel, eyes closed, bliss and love all over my face. I intend to chronicle some of the journeys I went on in that car… of course, I couldn’t tell you every adventure we had, or I’d have to tell some things on myself that a lady simply does not divulge. But oh, how I loved that ’98 Mercury Sable for the past 9 years and 120,000 miles. That’s enough miles to circle the globe five or six times. That’s halfway to the moon.

Lots of transition lately, lots of goodbyes and lots of change. And now this new journey has already begun.

As I type this, I am sitting in seat 42F on Delta flight DL281 from Atlanta to Tokyo. I’m not online, I’m just typing it up in a word document to be uploaded later. It’s funny. First of all, there’s the fact that we’re flying into the future. I left Atlanta early afternoon on Monday; I’ll land in Tokyo late afternoon Tuesday, after flying about 13 hours. At least the wine is complimentary.

Secondly, the last time I flew a flight anywhere near this length was in the summer of 2004, as I was flying home from the United Kingdom. I had been working in Scotland for three months, then I packed what I thought I needed into a backpack (promptly decided I needed far less after carrying it around on my back, and mailed a box home as soon as I got to Barcelona) and explored the Mediterranean for a month. I’d had my itinerary home all lined up, but a late Italian train led to a missed flight and as a result, rather than arriving in Scotland with a full day to repack, do laundry, and say final goodbyes, I arrived with an hour or two to spare instead. It was crazy. By the time I was on the flight from London to the States, I was exhausted and famished. When the woman asked whether I wanted chicken or pasta, I said, hopefully, “Yes?” She did in fact end up slipping me both, bless her heart, before I found an empty row and stretched across it to pass out.

But the point of the story is to tell you about the movies on that flight back in ’04. There were exactly two. There was a screen at the front of the cabin we could watch it on, and we could plug our earphones into the jack to listen, switching channels for different languages. That was it.

Now, I can choose any number of genres from Hollywood or from other countries, or even TV episodes, and it’s not a shared experience like Shrek (or was it Shrek 2? Either way, I slept through it) was. Families sitting right next to each other are watching completely different films on the back of the seat in front of them. I remember being in Catering class back in Culinary School, and the teacher told us she had invested a large portion of her portfolio in this company that was going to be putting screens on the back of everyone’s chairs. She recommended that any of us with any sort of cash do the same. At the time I laughed. Everyone with their own individual screens? Never, I thought. Here I am, and I bet that lady is laughing all the way to the bank.

I’m reminded of my RealMom (as opposed to BirthMom or EggDonor) and how she behaves at dinner sometimes. Ain’t no shame in her game (like mother, like daughter, eh?). If someone gets out their iPhone and removes themselves from the dinner party (as so many with smart phones are wont to do) she will flat call them out. She’ll be gentle about it at first, making references to the fact that aren’t we all here to hang out with one another, not to look things up on Wikipedia or Facebook, and isn’t it just a little rude to ignore the party like this, stepping up her game bit by bit until the smartphone junkie is shamed into putting it away, and rejoining the Real World around them. It’s classy, it’s brave, and I like it. I wonder how she’d feel about these screens. Seriously, I got out of my chair to stretch my legs a bit, and everyone reclined looking at their screens reminded me of the people on the spaceship in Wall-E. Creepy.

I was nervous as we left the house. But here I find some calm. They put a meal in my belly, bless them, and then there’s always the complimentary wine. There will be another snack and a breakfast before we land, and I think I get fed on the flight from Tokyo to Taipei as well. Then I’ll take an airbus into town, then a taxi to my hostel, where I’ve booked a room to myself for my first night. I’ll sleep off jetlag (after perusing the night market that sits right outside the front door of the hostel) and move into shared dorms the next day. There are a few things I want to see while in Taipei, then I’ll catch a High Speed Rail south to Pingtung, where I’ll meet my roommate and move into the dorms and spend a day studying before I take my placement exam which will begin my two-month study of Mandarin at the university there. Things appear to be falling into place. This just might go easily enough after all. Nevermind that this isn’t like the time I explored Scotland on my own, where we both share (most of) a language, nor the time I went to Mexico speaking Spanish … my Mandarin is just tragic at this point but something tells me it’s all going to work out fine.

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