Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tokyo - Trapped in Tokyo

Pearl and I woke up bright and early for a super-important and super-nerdy mission: to get the seventh Harry Potter book. It was being released in Japan at 8 AM, which I assume is midnight in London. But it's only 6:00 PM back home, so I was able to feel great about the fact that I had it 6 hours before my much more obsessed sisters could get it. Losers! Of course, I was the only person in Tokyo to have bought it, since it hadn't been translated to Japanese. The people standing at the sad little Harry Potter table outside the bookstore practically went nuts when I bought it. They also gave me a gay little bright orange Harry Potter bag to embarrass myself with on the subway.

We packed our crap up and left for Tokyo Station. Pearl would be returning to camp, and I would be going to the airport to try to get my flight moved up two weeks.

Some of you must think I'm crazy for cutting my vacation (a vacation from not working, however) short by two weeks. But any of you who have been to Japan for more than two weeks probably know that - no offense to Japan - it all starts to become the same. All the temples and shrines blur together, and same goes for all the neon cities. I'm sure it would be a great country to live in, but sightseeing here for six weeks in a row can get a bit redundant. And rather than two weeks (back to being alone, mind you) of the same old, I thought my time would be better spent at home with my friends and family before I take off again.

So Pearl sat and waited with me for my train, where we had a nice, half-hour goodbye (she really hates goodbyes, but loves to drag them out, apparently). I can't help but be struck by the fact that four years ago, when I stopped in the hall at school to comfort a little Asian girl crying about failing a Spanish exam, I was setting in motion events that would lead to the two of us hugging goodbye in a train station in Tokyo. I think she and I are both in agreement that our time together in Japan was a bit surreal. But I am very lucky to have had her there with me - she puts up with my sarcasm that often borders on being just a plain old asshole, and she knows how to have a good time anywhere (much to the bewilderment of the quiet, reserved Japanese). It's a shame she won't be in Cairo with me.

So anyway, I got to the airport and, as expected, things turned sour. Since my tickets were bought with frequent flier miles, they could only get me specific seats, of which there were none between the 21st of July and the 5th of August, my scheduled departure date. I tried several different ticket agents, all of whom appeared to be heartless, ignoring my cries of, "My sister was hit by a car!" (Five years ago, but I didn't tell them that.) One guy even started yelling at me when all I asked was, "Isn't there anything you can do?" I think I found my very first mean Japanese person!

Since it was a Saturday, there was literally not a bed in Tokyo or any nearby city, unless I was willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for the Park Hyatt (where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson stayed in Lost in Translation). Which I wasn't. So I settled down for a nice, long weekend in the airport, even though I knew it would be impossible to change my flight before the 5th.

After searching online to no avail for any room of any kind, I began to explore flight options. I found one that was fairly cheap (read: cheaper than two weeks in Japan) from Osaka, so I called my dad, waking everyone at home up at 3 AM - sorry, family - to ask if I should do it, since I would have to book it and hop on a train to Osaka as soon as possible if I was going to make it in time. By calling, I regrettably ruined my planned surprise - I really wanted to beg my way onto a flight from Tokyo, so I should show up at my parents' doorstep in a few days, much to their surprise. My dad said he'd look for better options online, and said he'd call me back. And that's where we are now. I'll try to provide updates as things go along.

5:32 PM: This couple has officially been in this airport lounge making out for three hours now. I got to watch the whole process as they introduced themselves, and now this. I can only hope I'll get to see them break up within the next couple of hours.

5:34 PM: Why do they pick the most nasal woman to do the announcements?

5:39 PM: My dad just called. He said he's just going to use miles to fly me from here rather than Osaka. Isn't he the best? By the way, I forgot to mention that when Pearl and I were leaving the hostel, Sebastian the creepy German said, "See you later," even though there's no indication they'll ever be able to find each other again. Unsettling.

6:37 PM: My god, how things turn. I am now flying business class directly to Chicago tomorrow. I'm still spending the night in the airport here, which I'm fine with (although I'm beginning to suspect that since I'm not past security, I'll be kicked out on the streets at some point), but I figured I would try to check in 20 hours early and spend the night in the Red Carpet Club lounge. I was so excited to deal with the nice Business Class people rather than the frigid Economy Class bitches, but when I went to the Business Class area, the desk was empty. So I went back to Economy, and asked if they would be back so I could check in.
The woman said I would have to wait until tomorrow, and when I asked what time the counter opens, she actually rolled her eyes at me, like that was a totally inane question to ask. Then she shrugged and said, "I don't know. 11:30?" Brilliant customer service.
Now my problem is that I got from the ATM a crapload of money in anticipation of staying here for two more weeks, so I bought an enormous pile of junk food for my dinner, and then settled down in my seat/bed for some Harry Potter. Just another wild night in Tokyo.

10:29 PM: For the past three hours, I had been watching this lone security guard walking in a circle around me and the three French guys also sleeping in the lounge up here on the fourth floor. He was visibly nervous about saying anything to us, since there were four times as many of us as him and he was uncomfortable with using that much English, I took comfort in his unease and slept up there even though it was obvious it wasn't allowed, as did the French dudes. Next thing any of us know, he's waking us up, saying, "Stay. Follow me." And then he just walked away. All of us were confused - did he want us to stay or follow? He stopped about 20 meters away and just stared at us. Finally, one of the French guys went over and asked him what was going on. He came back and said to me, "If I understand, we have to go to ze first floor to a zpecial area."
So we all gathered up our stuff and followed the security guard through the strangely deserted airport. It wasn't so much a parade as a hilarious shuffle, since the security guard was sort of meandering at his own pace without even looking back to see if we were following.
Eventually, we got to the lounge on the first floor, where a couple guards watched over thirty prisoners - er, passengers. One by one, more passengers shuffled in, escorted by guards, looking as confused as the rest of us.
The worst part is we had to leave the empty, perfect quiet of upstairs to this cramped, loud lounge that has been totally taken over by a huge, sleepless group of Japanese teenagers.

10:59 PM: Now all of our guards are making their way through the crowd, checking passports and tickets. It makes sense, since we're not behind security so we could be hobos or something, but it isn't detracting from the prison feel they've got going here. The guy that checked my information wasn't happy with my lack of a ticket, or the fact that all the info I had about my flight was scribbled on the back of a receipt. But I think I passed, and I don't have any reason to fear being taken out behind the dumpsters, where I saw them take a Jewish family who never came back.

No comments: