November 20, 2015; Los Angeles International Airport
Relentless fluorescent lighting, a hard floor and steady draft from the window pane did not make for a good night’s sleep at Denver International Airport. Basically, I was getting too old to sleep in transportation hubs voluntarily.
But since my flight to Los Angeles was at 5:30 a.m. and I had to teach my Public Speaking class the night before, driving straight to DIA, which is three hours from my hometown, seemed like a logical plan.
At any rate, I had no trouble making my flight to LAX and meeting my sister, Suzanne, who arrived around the same time, 7:30 in the morning. We were about to embark on a Japanese Journey that we’d been planning for nine months.
“To understand Japanese….
Actually, we’d really been thinking about it since the miniseries, Shogun, based on James Clavell’s novel, aired in the 1980s. Watching Shogun, Suz and I became obsessed with Japan and, in particular, Lady Mariko, the beautiful Japanese translator (played by Yoko Shimada) for English captain and trader John Blackthorne or “Anjin San,” (played by Richard Chamberlain.)
Word-for-word quotes from Lady Mariko flew from our mouths all around our house. “It is not sad, Anjin San; it is just one of life’s most important rules”; “In Japan, Anjin San, there are only Japanese ways”; “Anjin San, to understand Japanese, you have to think Japanese.” We pretty much wanted to be Japanese.
Consequently, this trip was a long time in the making, and Suz and I were just a tad bit excited. We killed time at LAX by plugging in and visiting Starbucks. Apparently, we killed a bit too much time. As we made our way to Singapore Airlines ticketing, an army of about 80 Japanese teenage school girls in matching uniforms flowed into line right before us.
A bearded man in an ill-fitting sportscoat, who appeared behind us said, “Don’t worry. The Japanese are excellent sleepers. I know. I live in Japan.” That statement, albeit completely random, was troubling on a few levels. How did he know that the Japanese, especially young school girls, slept well?
Not even knowing how to react, Suz and I turned away from the man and focused instead on the line. Soon, Vicki, a Singapore Airlines representative with bright fucshia lipstick, spied us and approached. Yes! Surely we were going to be moved to the front of the line.
“Hello, you are both traveling together?” Vicki asked of Suz and me as we nodded in unison.
“We are overbooked on this flight to Tokyo and we’re wondering if you would be willing to give up your seats.” She looked back and forth between us, directly reading Suz then me to see who was the weakest link, or perhaps, who was the toughest obstacle.
Sensing our reluctance, Vicki smiled widely and went in for the jugular. “We will pay you $1,300 to give up your seats.”