Back in Baltimore. I woke up this morning around 4am and for about a minute could not figure out where in the world I was. Kameoka? Osaka? Baltimore? New York? A very odd feeling. I had to turn on the light and look around before I could make what I saw match up with "home" in my head.
A few random travel observations:
- Avoid flying United Airlines if possible. Up to now my experiences with them had been fairly positive, but they decided to change the rules on me after I bought a ticket, which is unacceptable. When I left Baltimore, the weight limit on checked bags was 70 pounds for flights to Japan. Ok, I was well under. I planed on that for returning; I realized I might be a little bit over that 70 pound limit on my suitcase, since I'd bought some heavy items, but seemed more sensible to pay a fee of about $25 for a slightly overweight bag, than to airmail another box home.
But when I checked in for my return flight, I found that they had lowered the limit to 50 pounds - regardless of when the ticket was purchased. The best the woman behind the counter could suggest was to move some things to a third bag (fortunately I had an empty small backpack in my suitcase) and check that, bringing the suitcase under 70 pounds and so only a small fee for that, but a large fee for a third bag; the fee for a 70+ pound bag was now astronomical.
I'd guess there's probably some small print that legally allows this retroactive change without notification, but as an ethical business practice it's simply unacceptable.
- When you travel with a guitar, you get attention. As I walked toward the check-in counter, pushing my laden luggage cart, a polite, nicely-dressed Nihonjin man came up to me, asked if I spoke Japanese. "Sumimasen, no."
He identified himself as a police sergeant, showed my a badge. Asked what the big box was. It told him it was my guitar, explained about putting the hard case in the flight case to protect it. He didn't ask me to open it, but did ask to see my passport, copied down my name and passport number. Don't know what it was about.
In line at checkout, an American couple in front of me. "So what kind of music do you play?" About six people asked me that in the course of my airport perambulations.
Outside BWI, waiting for Rachel to meet me, a limo drive came up to me, looking for members of Eddie Money's band. He saw the guitar case and figured I might be with the band.
- I don't know if it's the alignment of the stars or what, but in the past few days I've been witness to all sorts of personal romantic drama in the lives of strangers. Wednesday night, as I packed, in an apartment down the way, a big shouting fight between a couple - Americans, I think, maybe Canadians. Sounded like they were breaking up but still stuck in the same apartment, unable to move out. It was bad enough that I went looking (but did not find) for the apartment in question to see if I could help cool things down, pass on the number for the Japan Help Line.
On the plane out of Osaka on Thursday, young man, maybe mid-twenties, sitting next to me. Before takeoff he reaches into his bag, pulls out an envelope, puts it in his lap and looks at it. Doesn't open it. I see a girl's name written on it. I figure that he met a girl over here, this is her farewell letter and he doesn't know what it says. For about ten, fifteen minutes, he looks at it, picks it up, puts it back down, trying I think to gather up his courage. I was actual getting worried for the guy. Finally he opens it, breaks out in a big smile as he reads, throws back his head and laughs. I tell him, "I don't know what it is, but I'm glad it's good news."
Then at San Francisco airport. I have a few hours layover, so I find a desk (they provide these) and plug in my laptop, buy a few hours of wi-fi internet access, get some stuff done. A British(?) woman sits down at the next station, pulls out her cell phone, and for about twenty minutes has a good fight with her boyfriend, all about how she's given him so much and he's not done anything for her, to the point where I felt sorry for the guy on the other end.