Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.546

The flight to Vancouver where I stopped over on the way to Los Angeles was unexpectedly comfortable. The plane wasn’t crowded and the flight attendants were all nice and attentive. In my old days that I had traveled between Japan and U.S. back and forth every three months, I used to fly an awful airline that I chose for its cheap fare. That airline’s flight attendants were generally terrible. They were chewing gums and walking with stepping on the back of their pumps. They threw a bag of peanuts at a passenger and a requested drink was often off. I once witnessed they crammed a large number of cans and bottles of drinks that they hadn’t given out the passengers into their own bags right before landing. They must have had a spree with them in a hotel room that night. When I asked for a small bottle of brandy once, I was told it had been all out. A man sitting behind me asked for it right after that, and the same attendant pleasantly handed it to him. I asked my partner if it was racism. He told me that it wasn’t a grave thing like that but the attendant simply couldn’t lie twice in a row and had to give it unwillingly. That airline no longer exists after it went bankrupt several years later and was taken over by a rival airline. The flight I took this time was completely different. Adding to the good service, it wasn’t a bumpy flight and I didn’t feel sick as I had worried before. The only glitch I had was when dinner was served. Although I had requested beef beforehand, an attendant said to me, “We have extra chicken, too. Would you like it?” I reckoned that I could have chicken added to my beef and said yes. And I ended up having just chicken, not beef. Beside that small thing, I had enjoyed the flight all the way, which was quite rare to me. It almost blotted out all the unpleasant happenings before departure and I even got to like this low-cost carrier. But as always, nothing goes so well without an incident when it comes to me. It happened when the plane landed on Vancouver. The seat belt signs were turned off and the attendants were preparing for the doors. The passengers were standing on the aisles with relieved expression on their faces and their bags in their hands, waiting for the door to open. As the door opened, instead of the ground staff, half a dozen men and women dressed in black rushed inside the plane. They were wearing bulletproof vests on which the letters POLICE were written and carrying weapons that seemed firearms and others. The air inside the plane instantly froze. The flight attendants looked surprised too. One of the police shouted “Everyone, go back to your seat and stay there!” We all sat in our seats again, with a straight back for some reason. No one was talking and they were just looking ahead with shifty eyes. The plane was filled with extreme tension in a complete silence. I remembered a news sequence I watched on ABC World News a couple of weeks ago. It eerily looked just like this situation. The police rushed inside the plane aiming guns and it also occurred in Canada. I began to feel panicky, imagining that a shootout would start in any moment or a plane would explode. I thought I knew something bad would eventually happen. I would have never set my feet on North America with this trip after all as troublesome preparation had hinted. As I was being swallowed by fears, a young woman appeared from the back of the plane. She was walking with both her arms held by two policemen, accompanied by another policeman who was carrying her bag. After they left the plane, the rest of the police asked some questions to the flight attendants and got out. Then all the passengers were allowed to get off the plane. My partner and I finally reached North America and took in air of Vancouver. I wasn’t sure what happened to the woman, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t easy for me to get here…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.545

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. on the day that I set out for my first travel to U.S. in about ten years. Some last-minute preparations before going to bed and tension granted me only a three-hour sleep. Considering the coming ten-hour flight and the time difference, my next sleep in bed would be 30 hours later. I remembered my old days when I had been to U.S. several times a year. I always departed with lack of sleep and arrived with a strong headache or vomit. I was afraid of being sick again this time and added a new item to my bursting worry bank. I set off on foot to the train station near my apartment. When my partner who accompanied me on this trip bought train tickets, he found a 100-yen coin left in the ticket machine. He told me excitingly, “Look at this! 100 yen! You hardly ever pick this big amount!” He was all smiles as if the 100-yen coin would promise a successful trip. After the local train, I took the bullet train to Tokyo and arrived at Haneda Airport two more transfers later. My connecting domestic flight would depart from this airport that amazed me with the new convenient technology. There was no need to check in at the counter. We just went straight into the security gate without boarding tickets, had our mileage cards scanned with a device that gave us a piece of paper like a receipt on which our flight and seat numbers were printed, and went on to the boarding gate. It was as easy as getting on a train. I flew to Kansai Airport that I had never been before. After I received my suitcase I had sent beforehand and dollar bills I had exchanged online, I was headed toward the check-in counter of the airline I had booked. The airline has two brands, the regular one and the low-cost carrier. My flight was the low-cost one called ‘Rouge’. Although their website said we could check in with a machine, those machines were deserted and lines of people were formed at the counter instead. I had prepped for a use for the machine online, which was a waste. Since the airline has two brands, I wasn’t sure which line I should join. The airline worker approached and asked me which flight I would take. When I said “Rouge,” she repeated dubiously, “Ro..u..ge…?” She sounded like she heard the word for the first time. I was alarmed. Those who were checking in here now were most likely on the Rouge flight. But the airline worker apparently didn’t know her company’s flight. As she directed me the wrong line any way, I looked for the correct one by myself and my turn to check in came. I handed over my passport and my reservation was on the computer screen. Looking at it, the woman said, “You’re going to Las Vegas, right?” My blood ran cold. My destination was Los Angeles. What had happened to my reservation? Was there neither ‘Rouge’ nor Los Angeles? I said in a trembling voice, “No, to LAX.” She made sure of my reservation in her computer screen and said again, “Your destination is Las Vegas.” When I froze at her words, she threw me another blow by saying, “Oh, I see. You’re going to Las Vegas the next day!” My worry bank ruptured and I felt I was going black. The whole itinerary was disrupted and I couldn’t avoid going to Las Vegas. I regretted from the bottom of my heart that I had chosen this airline. I braced myself to end my trip even before leaving Japan. Then, beside me who was knocked out and almost unconscious, my partner said to her calmly, “We’re going to Los Angeles.” She looked in her screen again, nodded, gave us boarding tickets according to my reservation as though nothing had happened. The fact was that she thought LAX stood for Las Vegas International Airport. She was a professional sitting at the check-in counter and seeing customers’ reservations every day, and yet didn’t know LAX. I was about to leave Japan and cross the Pacific by a plane of an airline like this. Now I realized that I was standing on the edge. It was time to jump…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.544

Every major holiday, my apartment building in the rural mountains is packed with families and groups from the city who want to spend some time in nature. They use this apartment as a vacation home and the regular residents, one of whom is me, call them ‘Visitors’. Most apartments in the building are used by Visitors and usually vacant. Since only few apartments are occupied by permanent residents, we have a quiet living environment. But once a holiday comes, Visitors that are four times as many as the residents rush in and destroy serenity. They are exceedingly in high spirits on the day of arrival, talking and laughing loudly, and their children are running tirelessly at the hallway. Both the communal spa and gym are full. The jacuzzi is crammed with shrieking kids. My usual heavenly jacuzzi turns into hell. When I once heard a mother who was soaking in that hell cry out ecstatically “Oh my, I am so happy!”, I felt pity wondering how disastrous her daily life was. Visitors, especially families from the city, wouldn’t obey the rules here. They often have a barbecue or light hand-held fireworks at the parking lot and are stopped by the caretaker. They let their kids use machines at the gym although a notice tells machines are adult use only. At the spa, they let their kids swim under big no-swimming stickers. They let them dive headfirst in a shallow stone tub over and over again. Needless to say, they let them pee on the floor inside the spa like animals instead of leaving for the bathroom at the locker room. A group of young women drink cans of beer in the jacuzzi. Visitors also take their pets here although this building is no-pets-allowed. They unleash a dog at the nearby park. They even dump cardboard trash beside the street. There is no end to their lawlessness and it’s hard to tell they break rules intentionally or they just can’t obey them. It seems to me that they come here to enjoy breaking rules. They annoy me so much in so many ways that I always wait for a holiday to end and for Visitors to return to the city. The closer the end of a holiday comes, the quieter Visitors become. In the end, they go back to their city life dejectedly with their head drooping. They pay an upkeep fee of this building every month to use it merely for several days in a couple of times a year. The total amount of money they spend for what they don’t use regularly is huge. And with their money, this apartment building is well maintained and the communal facilities are operated, which I use every day. Since I’m an accustomed giveaway-taker, I have no right to complain their bad manners. After they’re gone, I monopolize the whole spa and have the gigantic tub to myself again. I spread my limbs in the jacuzzi alone and say out loud “This is the life!” On my face is a malicious smile like a villain…

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