There is a liminal space between clouds, where time doesn’t follow what’s on a wristwatch. From Chicago to Tokyo, we spent 13 hours in the air and crossed 14 different time zones; flying west and chasing the sun as it only slightly outpaced us.
I’ve never seen a sunset last for half a day before.
The price of admission is discomfort - a bill that increases for those blessed with height and/or width, of which I certainly have the former and am working on the latter. There is no getting around this with flying, but not all airlines operate equally. Transferring from the haphazard hands of United Airlines to the caring touch of All Nippon Airways (ANA) was revelatory.
It is a night and day difference in service; not just in what is offered, but in how it is offered. Most airlines make you wonder “What did I pay for?” or whether you are even the customer, but not with ANA. The flight attendants actually attend to you, and in a professional and sweet manner. The cutlery is metal, granting us more trust than the usual assumption that we are cagey inmates in a flying prison. The food is well prepared, making me question whether I actually needed to stuff my face in desperate preparation at the Chicago terminal. And…are the colours more vibrant too? The green tea certainly tastes greener.
The safety video we buckled up to was beautifully made, integrating traditional Japanese theatre (Kabuki) in a playful way that introduced all the security features of the plane. A fun extra touch was a behind-the-scenes look that they rolled to show how they made the video. Endearing!
What is the opposite of culture shock? Because I think I’m experiencing some sort of culture relaxing.
At least a part of me is letting go of what I left behind on the ground. After watching “tonight’s” perpetual sunset, time has become meaningless and my weary mind has slipped into a state of…not sleep, but certainly not wakefulness. Travel time is now pushing 30 hours since leaving my front door and, despite the lovely service, I am feeling antsy, achy, and tired.
It is dark now and Tokyo is on the horizon - exciting, but night arrivals are disorienting. They just re-rolled the safety video - still great, yet now feeling aggressively bright to my droopy eyes.
Looking out the window there is a lot to see, but right now I only have an eye for whichever of the lights below is the beacon for my hotel. Rest tonight, eyes wide open tomorrow.