Coming back through Narita I was suffused with a dreadful feeling of deja vu, until I realized I’d been in the exact spot just four days before, standing in a line to have my carry-on bags rescanned as I transferred from one flight to another. This time round I had an extra suspect package, a brand new breast pump that had exercised the suspicions of the Seattle TSA, but which didn’t spook the Japanese in the slightest.
My trip back has been less unpleasant than the way out, because I’m going home and I’m not utterly deprived of sleep, but then again on the way out I wasn’t coughing and sneezing every five minutes, or dosed up with extra-strength Tylenol, which can cast a dampener on festivities. Drugs aren’t always fun, y’all.
One fun consequence of my cold is I discovered the scanning machine at SeaTac doesn’t like it if you have damp tissues in your pockets. I wish I’d just insisted on a pat down, but then again this way I got to hand snot-soaked tissues to a freshfaced youth in uniform, so I guess you take the rough with the smooth. I said recently that I knew I was getting old because cops in Singapore all look too young; at SeaTac it’s more like feeling you’re in a country in the middle of massive enlistment. Every TSA staffer was either about 12 (like the young scamp who has to investigate my possibly-exploding breast pump) or utterly geriatric. There was a laughably long queue for a shortsighted old woman to check the name on your passport matched your boarding pass, before you went through the scan/grope/swab process.
Given that I only got a boarding pass after a computer had scanned my passport to verify my identity, and it would all be checked again at the gate, and the added value she supplied was a ballpoint pen and nothing else, it was really hard to figure out what she was doing there. You go through a similar palaver at Singapore (straight after fingerprint scanner figures out who you are, a bored person compares your name on two different pieces of paper) which seem to imply a belief by the authorities that nobody has ever faked a travel document, and (probably) that reading the dame edition of a newspaper three times makes you three times as informed about the events of the day.
Or it’s a huge boondoggle to justify lots of people doing not very useful jobs. I don’t know.
I was somehow one of the first people to board the plane, and after fifteen minutes a garrulous chap from LA sat next to me, excited to be flying on a 747 for the first time in his life. But when he saw the mound of tissues and drugs I held,he took fright and asked to be transferred away from the sick man in seat 51B. Which was fine; I would have done the same if it would have prevented me succumbing to this weeks cold, but it meant I then got quizzed by a flight attendant about how nauseous I was (I’m not, I’ve just got a nose dripping like a bust tap and the lungs of the Marlboro Man) and then they sat a Chinese or Korean lad next to me for the flight, who didn’t nothing apart from snore and make disgusting noises instead of blowing his nose. Ah well.
The flight itself was fairly uneventful. I watched a forgettable film that was a Will Ferrell rehash of The Incredibles, almost cried when I watched the Katy Perry documentary (did I not say cold and flu drugs aren’t always a highway to sublime pleasure and even temper?) and refused to eat a disgusting egg-sesame-unidentifiable-mass bagel, after which it was time to deplane and wait for my flight home, which catapults me into bed at some time around 2 on Monday morning. The way I’m feeling right now, a cheery return to the office at 9 on Monday is not looking likely…