Traveling Home: Two Fridays for the Price of One

We woke up on Friday in time to catch our 6:30 car ride to the airport. On Wednesday, since the phone attempts had failed, we had emailed United and ANA asking for clarification on what was going on with the seats for our first flight. On Thursday we did hear back from United and ANA. United claimed they couldn’t request specific seat arrangements because they don’t have the seat maps for ANA. Fine . . . except we learned from ANA that they aren’t allowed to touch United seats until the 24-hrs immediately before the flight takes off which United hadn’t mentioned every time they told us to ask ANA for seats. I think perhaps the 2nd ANA person I talked to on the phone had been trying to explain this to me but we were having a communication problem (Calvin was screeching in my ear which made it harder for me to interpret everything).

Anyway, we made it to the airport and stood in line to check-in. From what I’ve read, having children ride in car seats in cars in fairly uncommon in Taiwan (though I think this is changing) so taking the car seat on the plane is probably unheard of except for crazy foreigners like us. In any case, we somehow managed to confuse the flight attendant that checked us in so it took longer than we expected but eventually we thought everything was figured out. Because the iPad entertained Calvin so well on the way out, I reduced the number of other toys I brought out and was able to consolidate Calvin and my carry-on bags to 2 (versus the three we’d used on the way out).

After check-in was over we headed over to the security line which I discovered was huge. I’m not sure if it was longer than the security line at Denver but it was certainly organized less well. Instead of a large official queue, there was a smaller queue section with people lined up past all the check-in counters queuing for the queue. As I was looking at it in disbelief a security guard came by, saw Calvin, and motioned that we should follow him. We followed him and he passed us off to another security guard. Neither really spoke English so we weren’t entirely sure what was going on until someone who’s flight was soon, and thus was getting priority security screening, explained that because we had a child with us, they wanted us to skip the line and go straight into the priority queue. Once again, I felt a little sheepish about it but didn’t try to pass up the opportunity. As a result, we passed through security and immigration fairly quickly.

We got breakfast at one of the terminals and then managed to board our plane, with Calvin’s car seat. I was very glad I had gotten our carry-on down to two bags as the area under the seat only fit two bags (on my prior flights I was able to fit all three bags under the seat). The flight served a meal but we had booked through United, which claimed the flight didn’t have a meal, so we weren’t able to request a vegetarian meal. Personally, I am not pleased with how United integrates with its airline partners. There’s got to be a better way to do it.

The flight was unexceptional and we landed in Tokyo. Unfortunately, Calvin decided right at that point he needed to go potty. Calvin and I rushed off the plane leaving Jaeger to deal with the car seat. We dashed towards the nearest restroom, which wasn’t nearly close enough, and I almost despaired when I saw there was a good 10-15 women ahead of us. However, then one women pointed out a room specifically for the handicapped and children and I rushed in. It was a little too late but at least we got there before Calvin started actually dripping onto the floor, or me. The bathroom was amazing. They had all sorts of contraptions, for what I’m not sure, but it looked like a very
useful room if I had any idea what some of the stuff was for. The extra large sink with a hose attached looked great for a diaper explosion but I’m not sure that’s what it was intended for. The toilet momentarily confused me as there were all sorts of functions on a control on the seat, all in Japanese, but finally I figured out the flush was on the wall. Because Calvin hadn’t had any accidents on the way out I had reduced my extra clothes down to 2 spare pair of pants and 4 pairs of underwear. Given how much flying we had left to do, I was nervous about having to use up one pair of pants already.

After I got out of the bathroom we queued for the international security screening. This time I remembered to make sure my water battles were emptied and we passed through without any incident. As an aside, of all the screenings we went through, the US was the only place where we had to take off our shoes. When I asked at one security point if I had to take off my shoes they looked at me like I was insane. Pass security, we found our gate and plugged in our electronics to charge. Jaeger stayed to watch them while I wandered around looking for food. The vegetarian options were grim. Eventually I found a place that had edamame and pizza (very sad pizza) so that’s what I brought back. After we finished that, Jaeger left in search of better food in a different concourse while I continued to watch our electronics charge. After Jaeger got back we went to the little play area we had visited on the way out and Calvin played for a bit. A few minutes before our flight I took Calvin on another potty break and I once again got to figure out Japanese toilets. This toilet had a panel on the side that buttons labeled in English. One button said it was a “flush sound”. Since I wasn’t immediately finding a flush button, I experimentally pushed the flush sound thinking it might just be a translation error. No, it just made an electronic sounding flushing sound. Later, Jaeger posited that this was to cover up the sound of using the toilet. I looked it up and seemed to find collaborating evidence that claims Japanese women didn’t like the sounds of using the restroom and so would continuously flush to cover it up. Ok, that’s fine. But, why did the cover-up sound have to be flushing? Surely there’s another sound that would work just as well and be more pleasant.

I did eventually find the correct flush button and Calvin and I were able to exit the restroom. When I relayed my experience to Jaeger he noted that in his restroom you had icons on the stalls indicating what kind of toilet the stall contained (squat, sit-down, or enhanced sit-down) so I probably accidentally chose a stall that contained an enhanced toilet. In retrospect, I regret that I didn’t document the various toilets I found more thoroughly. There were some that I really liked. For example, one family restroom I used had a regular toilet a tiny divider, and then a preschooler-size toilet next to the large one. Then, they had a large sink and a little sink. It made using the bathroom with Calvin much quicker and easier. Also, I really appreciated that most of the toilets we used did not automatically flush. I’m sure automatic flushing toilets can make people feel more sanitary, or something, but they really scare Calvin. I always scary post-it notes with me to place over the sensors of automatic toilets so they don’t prematurely flush.

Eventually, we boarded our plane to Seattle and took off. This plane was obviously older than the one we flew out on. The entertainment system was a little on the older side. We each had personal screens but instead of having movies/TV on demand, each channel had a movie that repeated the entire flight. So, it was a little tricky to catch the movie at the beginning. However, this wasn’t a huge problem because the movie selection was very dismal. Fortunately, the iPad
entertained Calvin until I asked him to try sleeping, which he did. It helped that it was dark outside so he felt it was a legitimate time to try sleeping. Calvin did go through one-more pair of pants though he claims, perhaps correctly, that it was water instead an accident. I was a little bored but it wasn’t too bad. I felt I should nap but had trouble doing so and spent a fair amount of the flight listening to an audiobook on my iPod. Even though this plane didn’t have electricity I didn’t have any need to pull out the external batteries for the iPad. However, I hadn’t been as vigilant in making sure my iPod was charged so I did end up using one of the batteries for that.

We arrived, bleary-eyed, at SeaTac. Because of the time change, we arrived in Seattle before we had left Taiwan. So, we had two Fridays in a row. We made it through immigration fairly quickly. However, they asked hard questions like “what do you do for a living?” that was hard to answer coherently with the amount of sleep I had gotten. We had to wait for our bags because there was a jam in the system. Eventually it came out and we made it through customs. I was concerned that we’d have to go through normal security but was pleasantly surprised when they had a screening security area setup just for international arrivals (maybe this is normal but I swear I had an international flight that made us completely exit and deal with horrible security on the other side). We got breakfast at a cafe and were excited to be back at a place where we understood everything the menu boards said.

I turned on my phone and picked up my messages and was appalled to learn that Xcel, our gas company, had gas line problems the day we left for our vacation. They had an automated caller who told us that it may have interrupted our heat and to let Xcel know if we needed our furnace or water heater turned back on. Jaeger had said that it had gotten well below freezing in Colorado while we were gone so I had horrible visions of our pipes breaking and a huge water mess to deal with when we got home.

Eventually we caught our plane and arrived in Denver. Unfortunately, mid-way through our last flight Jaeger realized he had left his tablet on the Tokyo plane. After getting off the plane at Denver we went over to a United Customer Service center and after waiting a while talked to a service rep who told us we’d have to submit the lost item to United’s website and hope they had found it on the plane. We got our bags and went to our car only to discovery the battery was dead. We called the parking service company and they sent out someone to give us a jump (with an absolutely adorable portable battery, I know want one) but all that took time so it was sundown by the time we made it back home. The furnace appeared to be set to 50 degrees, though we weren’t entirely sure, but the pipes seemed to be in tact so I was relieved.

We also got a chance to look at our new wood floors which are gorgeous. Unfortunately, the place where the fridge gets water had a slow leak which caused some problems and we may need to see about re-replacing that part of the floor. That part is still better than how our old floors looked but the rest of the flooring looks so good it’s more obvious. Anyway, that’s something to deal with later.

Because our appliances were still in the garage, we went out to eat supper. It was amazing driving in a car and going to a place where everyone spoke English (though we were tired enough it didn’t always feel like they were speaking English). We came back home and managed to stay up till a reasonable bedtime

Thus ends our great Hong Kong/Taiwan holiday experience.

Our Hong Kong/Taiwan Trip:

Traveling to Hong Kong

The First Day

The Second Day

The Third Day

The Fourth Day

The Fifth Day

The Sixth Day

The Seventh Day

The Eighth Day

The Ninth Day

The Tenth Day

The Eleventh Day

The Twelfth Day

The Thirteenth Day

Traveling Home