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My Michigan surroundings were as they have always been. Nothing about the people in my routine nor in the stores where I shopped were noticably different from days gone by. What I saw, heard and felt was normal. That was all about to change.
When a good friend dropped me off at the airport, I was still oblivious to the old-new world that I was about to enter. My ticket was in order. Security was delightfully uneventful. My redezvous with my travelling companions was pulled off without a hitch.
Together we ate a quick meal at Mickey D’s. That’s when I began to suspect a subtle change. We laughed about the final meal in the USA being at the Golden Arches. Soon the food would change. Besides the food, the people and the culture would shortly change as well.
The first time that I turned my head was when I approached my departure gate. Deep in friendly conversation I involuntarily did a double take. Scores of passengers were milling about the same departure gate. But, these folks were both all very similar and at the same time very unique.
I looked up at the gate number and the posted information was clear. This plane was destined for Narita. It would brings hundreds of passengers into the international terminal that served the capital of Japan, Tokyo.
Many of the passengers shared wonderful physical features. They had black hair. Their facial structure commonly displayed almond-shaped eyes. Complexion was wonderful and clear. Yes, they were God’s zenith of creation: fantastic looking Asians.
Yet, I was enjoying not only their decidedly Asianesce grandeur but something else as well. No, their attire was not distinctive, in fact their clothing was decidely similar to styles that are prolific in the West. It was their height.
At 5’9″ I was no longer the average height of the Western male species. Rather, I was in the taller category of men. It felt good to look over the vast numbers of my fellow Asians.
Once on board Asian attendants filtered in among the crew. They served the passengers with remarkable politeness and professional behavior. At each Asian International airport, staff were plentiful, guiding lost passengers and helping direct traffic.
Of course the obligatory bowing was abundant. It’s a cultural import that was warmly welcoming. Each bow ended with a glowing cheer that was clearly sincere. Gradually and wonderfully, I was leaving the culture of the West and returning to the East.
Taking long flights over the ocean is a daunting experience. Such journeys have been part of my past on just a handful of occasions. Each time my strategy has been to fill up the seemingly endless hours with meaningful activity. But, who can really do that? None of my past plans have worked well.
Over the many miles of travel I have made a few helpful discoveries. First, there are some things that rarely work for me. Drug-induced sleep has been something that others have suggested to me.
The one time I tried to control my sleep by using sleep aids, I miscalculated that time-change. Oh, no don’t get me wrong. I thought that I was to return to the good ol’ USA at 12 midnight the next day. I was accurate with the number 12. But, I was off by twelve hours too. I actually landed just past 12 noon. God must have been laughing at me.
That messed up my body clock, confused my brain cells and left me groggy for days. I haven’t tried the drug method since . . . at least nothing that I’d ever put in print.
Second, doing work while travelling was a subtle challenge from a magazine article that I read. Some nosey knucklehead took pictures of sleeping executives on the plane and then he sent those pictures to company managers. He was annoyed that employees spent all of that valuable time wasted on non-productive activity, like sleep, while on company time.
So, I tried working while on a plane. But, concentration was so hard. I dozed off and really didn’t care if that busybody was taking my picture or not.
Then, I tried reading magazines. But, they never lasted as long as the trip. I brought a half a dozen magazines. Once I finished reading them I didn’t want to cart them around.
Non-fiction of any sort really put me to sleep. When it came down to it I just enjoyed getting caught up a few z’s. Most of my days are long and nights are short at home. So, on a long flight it’s nice to get in a long rest.
But, thirteen hour flights overseas gives my sleep biology more than enough rest to be completely satiated. There’s got to be some great ideas out there on how to pass the time on long flights. With tens of thousands of passengers hopping the pond every day. Any ideas?