17:25 ET, March 17th 2015
It started with an Uber leaving my home at 2:30pm. I had my first doh moment on the drive to the airport as I realized I forgot my headphones. The driver was nice, but very deaf.
Once at the airport, like a complete moron, I walked up to the Air China counter and said, “I’m here for the flight to Hong Kong.” The two girls stared at me for what felt like forever but was probably only 10 seconds before saying, “we’ll need your passport sir.” The girl confirmed my final destination of Bangkok and printed my tickets. She couldn’t believe that I wasn’t checking any bags and must have asked me 4 times to be sure.
Finally, as I got my ticket, I wandered down to security, where a large man holding an iPad with random left/right arrows completely failed to keep up with the passengers walking by and seemed to be utterly unphased by the crowds’ decision to ignore the iPad and walk in whatever direction they wanted.
There are three “trials” at Dulles to get through security. The first is an ID and ticket check. There were two men there, one maybe 21, the other much older. The 21 year old was checking ids and I swear I’ve never seen my ID checked so carefully at security before. Even the older man watching seemed to nudge him to hurry up and let me move on.
The second trial and the third happen at once. First, I opened my bag to take out my liquids. After I was finished the man said I only had to take out my big liquids not the small (whatever that means). I left them all out to be safe. I stopped to take off my “jewelry” (fitbit) and was yelled at for stopping. I put the rest of my things into the tray and went to go through the rapiscan.
The woman manning the scanner was very nice but I had to stop and be checked. Apparently my razer-thin t-shirt caused the machine grief and I had to be patted down. Trial 2 complete.
Trial 3 is the xray machine for my things. They stopped to examine my liquids and I dodged a bullet; I intentionally brought my 4oz deet bottle instead of separating into its own container and the let it go. Grateful, I patiently waited for my bag. But they stopped and stared at the xray machine before ultimately yelling out “bag check.”
“What now,” I thought. A woman roughly my age grabbed my bag and took it to a special station. She seemed confused as to what she was to check, which was strange as I think she was the manager, with people stopping by to ask when their break was or when they could switch tasks.
She opened my bag and began swabbing it. This alone was strange, what could they have seen on x-ray that would require an explosive swab test? She kept looking around my bag for god knows what until she pulled out my day pack. She asked what was in it, to which I replied, “nothing.” But as she started openning the zippers, I learned that wasn’t true.
“Hey, my headphones. Sweet,” I said.
She said, “yes, but you aren’t going to be happy in a minute.”
She was right. Suddenly it hit me and I said, “oh shit, my knife.”
“Yes,” she said, “would you like to throw it out or check your bag?”
“What? We can’t just mail it home or something?”
“Nope,” she replied, smiling.
“Well I’m not checking my bag. Throw it out,” I told her. I never did see her actually put it in the trash. I wonder if they just keep those things for themselves.
Now that she had torn my carefully packed bag apart, she just started half-assedly stuffing things back in. She let me stop her and pack it myself (thankfully) and I was on my way.
With little time, I caught the train, found my terminal, and started the search for food. I had hoped I would get to stop in the airport lounge since I was flying business but time was against me. At least I didn’t have to buy new headphones.
I walked and walked down the concourse until I found the lounge and to my surprise, across the way was the Chipotle. For some reason I never hesitate to get some serious gas-inducing Chipotle right before a flight. After chowing down, I noticed I had 10 minutes until boarding time, and started my trek back to the terminal. I told my ex that I would try to call the kids and so as I walked the half mile back to my terminal, we facetimed as I strolled.
The kids were busy on a playdate and eating yogurt so we had a brief chat and I was on my way. I promised to send them a “video letter” from the plane.
As I got to the terminal they were announcing that economy entered from A25 and that first and business class entered from A23. I thought to myself, “how fancy am I, I don’t have to board with the commoners.” Of course, the other business class customers were probably thinking, “who let this poor person with sandals and a t-shrt fly with us?”
I boarded the plane without much fanfare and walked to the gate. There must have been 5 employees there to greet us as we boarded. Before even getting on the plane there was a cart with piles of different newspapers: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and a ton of chinese papers. I grabbed a WSJ and waited my turn.
As you step onto the plane, there is a nice gentlemen who takes your ticket and all but escorts you to your seat. I am shocked as I walk to my seat, not only is this plane huge (2 by 2 by 2 in business class) but the business class section is also huge. I didn’t get to see first but I can only imagine what that is like.
After taking my electronics and day pack out of my ruck and sitting down, a nice woman comes by to give me red slippers. A few seconds later a man drops by a white pouch filled with L’Occitane products (like lotion, lip balm, etc) and a few other things: comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a sanitary wipe.
At this point, I am sure this is the life; then came the champagne. And the noise cancelling headphones. This. is. awesome. I wish I could afford to fly business/first all the time.
Another woman comes by to bring me tonights menu. There is duck, filet, mongolian beef, cheese platters, etc. Two meals served on this flight. There are 6 different french wines, as well as some chinese and other. There is even an insane specials menu.
After takeoff, the woman brings me some green tea and some more champagne and takes my order. I ordered the Mongolian beef thinking I might as well eat chinese food on Air China. However, I soon learn that was just the second to last course. Before she leaves, I ask if there is wifi on the flight. “No, sorry,” she said. Damn. I knew this was too good to be true.
The entire meal was delicious and I’m disappointed I ate Chipotle now and can’t finish everything. Alas, at least I enjoyed it. As I pack up the silverwear, chopsticks, and napkin onto the tray for the flight attendant, she comes by to inform me that we also have a cheese, fruit, and cake course left. Who can say no to that? And so I ate some more.
Its weird, I thought I read once that food tasted more bland in the air, but the cheese was delicious and the fruit full of life. The cake was 1 inch tall, cut in a circle with a diameter of maybe 2 inches. However, it is misnomer to call this a cake. The cake portion was about 1/8th of height, with the rest being entirely frosting. It was delicious and it would have put my kids in heaven.
Its weird to sit here unsure what to do with myself. I wanted to check my email. And facebook. And instagram. I can’t help but wonder how people were different even just 20 years ago. What was it like to be stuck in a tin can without an iPad, Kindle, in-flight entertainment, internet, etc? It’s so difficult for people today to just sit with their thoughts; to experience what is going on within our own minds.
I decided to listen to music while I waited for the food to come and settled on Deadmau5 – 5 Years Of Mau5. Its very trancey but I actually enjoyed it; it worked well as a backdrop for eating and thinking.
Not long after I finished the lights lining the wall faded from a warm red to a soft cool purple and then finally off.
Which leaves me here now at 1900 ET, unsure what to do. I had 3 glasses of champagne, but I’m not yet tired. I’m worried I either need to fall asleep soon or stay up the entire flight or risk having terrible jetlag.
Either way I am excited for my trip and actually grateful that there is no wifi. Without this sitution, I certainly wouldn’t have opened up an editor and started writing. I would not have slowed down to truly enjoy my food. I would not have this intense moment of calm alone with my thoughts.
This is going to be really good trip for me.