Thursday, April 1, 2010

#2: Some Predeparture Concerns

A couple of things are on my mind before I leave. Until recently, the flight I'm booked on was Delta #59. I began tracking this flight's performance record a couple of weeks ago and discovered that it had a 37% ontime record. It was scheduled to arrive at Narita Airport at 5:00 and often came in a half, full, or hour and a half late. The issue here is that I'll be staying (in April) at a university residence hall (Seikei University) in Kichijoji, a suburb of Tokyo, a minimum of an hour and a half (or more) from the airport by bus. (I move to central Tokyo in May.) The bus is far more convenient than the otherwise excellent trains that go to Tokyo because you don't have to shlep your baggage through the teeming Tokyo stations when changing and boarding densely packed rush hour trains. You step outside the airport terminal, have your bags loaded onto the bus, and arrive at Kichijoji Station in above-ground comfort. Even if you take the express bus into Tokyo, you still have to get on a train to reach your destination from the bus terminal. The Kichijoji bus leaves at 5:30, 6:30, and 8:00. If I miss the first two, I don't get to Kichijoji till maybe 9:30, and then have to go through all the rigamarole of getting to the campus, getting into the room, signing the papers, being instructed in the dos and don'ts of the place, etc. Even with my colleague, Kei Hibino, at Seikei helping, the very thought of this after the long flight and bus ride gives me the jitters. Then there's jet lag and, of course, the possibility that I'll be starving.

A week or ten days ago, I noticed that, toward the end of March, the flight number was being changed to #173 from #59, and the departure time from 1:50 to 1:10, although the arrival time of 5:00 p.m. remained intact. My ticket had always said I'd be leaving at 1:10 but I hadn't known about the change in flight number. Further, the plane seems lately to have picked up speed, and ontime arrivals have been steady, many flights arriving from an hour and a half to a half hour early. I'm praying that I get in an hour and half early. Not only because it shaves considerable time from the nearly 15 hours of scheduled flying time, but because after I land and go through customs I have to find the phone rental counter and pick up a reserved cell phone I ordered (at an exorbitant rate). Who knows how long this will take? The counter is in the departure area of this huge terminal, so after I get the phone I must wend my way back to the arrival area to get the damn bus. All this, of course, while dragging a large, wheeled piece of luggage, a substantial carry-on, and a heavy, 18" laptop whose heavy-duty carrying case is packed with papers. I really hope I can make the 5:30 bus, but I'll be content if I have to settle for the 6:30.

If I survive the ordeal, I'll be back with a report.

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