Sunday, September 02, 2007

How I Boarded the Wrong Plane

It may come as no surprise that I tend to do a little travelling for my job. I suppose I do somewhat enjoy the looks I get when I say "I'm going to Italy in a few hours and I haven't packed yet" (incidentally true right now, so I'm procrastinating by finally making another long overdue blog entry), but in all honesty the constant motion of travelling can get pretty tiring.

On my way back from Japan, I managed to get a last minute change from my flight itinerary, so that I didn't have to make another touchdown in Seattle and make it a 22-hour journey. I was lucky enough to call a few hours ahead of time and get a 2-stop journey from Nagoya Japan to Narita Japan and then on to Detroit. I would arrive at 2:40pm EST.

Arriving at Nagoya, they gave me both boarding passes and sent me on my way. The first one-hour flight went without a hitch. I arrived at 2:55pm (Japan time) with plenty of time to spare for my 3:55pm Narita to Detroit overseas flight.

So I decided to walk to my gate and make sure where it was even though I was really early. So I arrive about 3pm and they are already boarding, so I get in the line. When I get to the front, I hand the airline lady my boarding pass, and she looks at it confused. Then without a word bounces away running! She shows another lady the ticket, who takes it, rips it up and gives her a new one. Then she runs back over to me (they always run in Japan if you're waiting) and hands it back silently with a great big smile.

Daniel: Uhhh... thanks? What just happened there...?
Super Smiley Hyper Japanese Airline Lady: Oh... nothing.... you're ready!
D: You didn't just downgrade me to Economy did you?
SSHJAL: Business class okay!
D: Ummm.... business class?
SSHJAL: Yes! Thank you!
D: Okay....thanks....

When I boarded, they escorted me upstairs to the top floor of the 747 (I've never ridden on the top floor before!) so I knew I was in business class and everything was fine. (right? right!) The plane took off and I was excited to soon be getting back to the Western world!

About an hour in, I look at the monitor. Time to destination: 1:04pm. I'm a little confused thinking "How is that possible? We're going to be 90 minutes early? ...? ... Sweet!". It doesn't really state what destination, so I don't really think about that again until about an hour later, when they are handing out the customs declaration form. The guy next to me is filling his out, just like me. So I ask him:

Daniel: Hey, what flight did you write down there?
Guy Next to me: Northwest 12
D: Oh, you must mean Northwest 26 right?
Guy: No, no... we're on NW 12. [Motions to his boarding pass in his pocket]
D: Oh okay. Let me check my boarding pass.
Guy: uh huh.

D: Nope... we're on NW26, not NW12. Did you know this flight is going to be 90 minutes early!?
Guy: Actually my boarding pass says NW12. And it looks like it will be a few minutes late according to the screen. Are you sure you're on the right plane?

My heart begins to beat a little faster. I realise that I'm not on the right plane.

Guy: Where are trying to get to?
Daniel: Detroit!
Guy: [Laughing....]
Daniel: Are you even going to the USA?
Guy: Oh yeah, of course...
Daniel: .... AND?
Guy: I'm also heading to Detroit.
Daniel: .... non-stop??? ...
Guy: [DRAMATIC PAUSE] Yup! You're fine!

So I'm sitting there wondering how this happened. And it dawns on me: They automatically bumped me forward to the earlier flight. And then I start rejoicing internally. That truly is a fortuitous coincidence! And now 90 minutes early!! After about 45 seconds, I then realise my luggage will be on the original flight, and I'm going to have to wait for it, so its all an exercise in futility.

Sigh. I arrive at customs at 1:10pm, a full 90 minutes early, aheda of schedule and my luggage. The lineup itself is interminably slow and takes about an hour and a half because of the inefficiencies of the lineup process and many other things. In any case, as I make it through immigration, I'm too bothered about the useless windfall, the long wait and the later luggage to realise that its already about 2:35. So I remain annoyed until I hear the loudspeaker "Northwest 26 passengers arriving from Japan, your luggage has arrived on carousel number 6", and a smile suddenly hits me. I then think I've won after all, because I look back and my would-be co-passengers who are only now arriving prove that I would then be looking at a 2+ hour wait in the lineup for immigration. So would have ended up getting out of the airport at about 5pm, but now leave exactly when I originally planned to, thanks to my windfall!

My taxi ride home was exeedingly pleasant due to that one inescable conclusion: Sometimes, everything really does even out.