Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.551

When I left Anaheim on my latest trip, I got up 6 a.m., took ‘Uber’ again and then caught a bus to LAX. I know so well that the bus to the airport seldom comes on schedule here, which made me too nervous to have room in my mind that should feel sad to leave California. I took the bus because I had purchased the ticket by a round-trip discount, but I thought I would most likely use ‘Uber’ for my next trip. That thought told me I was determined to come back here. Actually, I was searching for a way to move in and live here somehow throughout the whole bus ride. After I arrived at the airport, I joined a long line for check-in. I heard a conversation between a customer in line and an airline employee. “Excuse me, I need to show this passport of mine for the flight, right?” “Let me see, well, no, yours has expired.” “Whaaaat?” I was envious of those easygoing people who hadn’t cared to see an expiration date on their passport up until they got to the check-in counter for an overseas travel. I started to prepare for this trip well over eight months ago. A couple with a baby was checking in before me. The counter person said to a woman, “You can’t check in as your name on the reservation is different from the one on your passport.” She replied, “That’s OK. I made a reservation by my maiden name, that’s all.” “That’s not OK, you can’t take the flight.” “Whaaaat?” The couple and the airline employee began to make numerous phone calls. At one point, they were required a marriage certificate. At another, the woman resorted to pity for an exception, saying, “We have a baby.” Every try didn’t seem to work though. I was envious of those people who casually made a flight reservation. When I made it online, I checked the spelling of my own name on the screen at least ten times. As too many careless passengers occupied the counter, it took so long to have my turn to check in. I intended to show people how smoothly things could go by careful preparation I had carried out. Then I was told, “Both your flight and the next one on the schedule have been cancelled.” “Whaaaat?” It was a clear fine day without a speck of cloud. I wondered when this airline’s planes flew if they didn’t in such nice weather like this. The good thing was, the flight was to Vancouver and I had purposely moved an international flight to Japan to the next day so that I took it with any delays since I didn’t trust this airline. Two flights were cancelled altogether and the next one to Vancouver was five hours later. The counter person told me that the larger airplane would be used because of the two cancellations and my seat would be in the business class. I was also allowed to use the executive lounge. To me, five-hour waiting would be nothing considering the business class and the lounge. I was even grateful for the cancellations. I was headed for the security gate cheerfully with my head full of the coming goodies, and never prepared for the biggest ordeal of my trip that had awaited me next…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.550

I tried some novelty that people call ‘Uber’ for the first time during my stay in California. I heard Japan also has it in the Tokyo metropolitan area, but it’s unavailable in the remote mountainous town where I live. Although I had some trouble signing up and using its app at first, I was thrilled when I saw a car actually pulled up right in front of me. I felt as if I was in a future world since I got a ride by just tapping a smartphone for a couple of times. There’s no need to call a cab company any more. No need to calculate a tip or pay to a driver either. The car was clean and the driver was courteous. And the fare for this safe, worry-free ride was incredibly low! I wondered what kind of person had devised such a remarkable service like this and admired Americans afresh. In Japan, there are too many government regulations or restrictions or vested interests that prevent new ideas and services from materializing quickly. That makes people in Japan give up easily and reluctant to try something new. They are resigned to living in patience. Compared to them, Americans are far more challenge-oriented, which always impresses me. I have had some unpleasant experiences when I used a conventional cab, but each ride of Uber was pleasant one during this trip. I used it for several times and all the drivers happened to have a positive attitude. One of the drivers immigrated with his family from Nigeria and now lives in Anaheim. He told me he had thrown away everything he achieved back in Nigeria for opportunities and possibilities in U.S. With a twinkle in his eye, he said that people could do anything here as long as they’ve got money and that he is working hard for his children’s college tuition. I gradually understood why I had to travel to U.S. by spending what little money I had and by getting over numerous troubles. Hope still exists here. When I was born in an old city Kyoto, hope had long gone. I left home for the Japanese capital city Tokyo, but it no longer remains there either. But here, I saw hope that makes people go forward. I got back to my hotel feeling it was a right decision to take this trip. I watched a twilight view out of the window. While Japan is densely populated with houses and condominiums closely line back to back, houses here had enough space between them and plenty of greenery with broad roads around. I was imagining how comfortable it would be to live here when a siren of a police car became louder and stopped right beneath the window. The police officers began to stretch yellow tape that was familiar in movies and TV shows. Many more police cars arrived and the road was blocked. Finally, a SWAT team showed up with a big black van. I turned on TV for a local evening news show, but it didn’t mention anything about this, which meant it was too small and usual to be covered. Thinking I might witness something and be murdered for it, or a ricochet might hit me, I drew the curtains and pulled away from the window…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.549

During my latest trip to U.S., I visited Disneyland Resort on Friday of the Memorial Day weekend. The reason that I chose this date was because it was the first day of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary celebration event and the parks opened for 24 hours. It was a special day that new shows and parades started and we could stay there for the whole 24 hours with a regular one-day ticket. Considering both two different parks were open for 24 hours, getting the ticket for hopping between both parks was a great money-saver rather than the ticket for each park on separate regularly-operated days. I felt lucky that I could save money by staying in the parks for 24 hours and got in one of the parks called California Adventure right after it opened for the day. I was going to get a commemorative pin and T-shirt that were limited and available exclusively on that day, but the long line for those items had already been formed and I gave up. I don’t like thrill rides but I had decided to try them on this visit because it would be even harder to try when I got older. Before I was headed for the thrill ride that featured the film ‘Cars’, I got on an easy tea-cup-style ride for small kids, as there was no waiting line. Although those who rode it were all small children and their parents, the ride had speed and wild moves, and was actually scary. It spun and jolted violently and made me scream while other kids were having fun. Now I wasn’t sure if I could ride the Cars attraction that was clearly labeled as a thrill ride. I’m timid but also cheap. I had to ride the main attraction not to waste money I had paid for the admission ticket. I mustered up all the courage I had and got on it. The former half was fun with showing the story of ‘Cars’, but the latter half was ferocious. The ride plunged into a race, zipping up and down at breakneck speed. I was scared to the maximum and just kept screaming with my eyes shut until the end. The photo was taken and showed at the exit, in which I gaped my mouth to the full on a contorted face while others were smiling. Needless to say, I didn’t purchase a copy. My throat ached from too much screaming and trembling didn’t stop. I learned I wasn’t cut out for a thrill ride after all and retracted my decision to experience all the thrill rides. After I was impressed by a superb show of ‘Aladdin’, I moved to Disneyland where I enjoyed seeing Darth Veider beaten by kids and rode a submarine. As the park was getting very crowded, I moved back to California Adventure to see a fountain show that premiered that evening. By then, the park’s congestion had become terrible. There were no empty benches and every shop and vendor cart had an extremely long line, not to mention hours-long lines for the attractions. I couldn’t get even a cup of coffee or popcorn unless I joined those eternal lines. I tried to get back to Disneyland after the fireworks display to avoid excessive congestion. At the exit, they told us that Disneyland had stopped admittance due to dangerous congestion inside. Also, once we got out of California Adventure, we couldn’t get back in unless we waited in a line at the entrance for at least two hours. I was stuck in the extremely crowded park that more people still continued to flood in. I couldn’t eat, drink, or even sit down. The only option was standing and waiting. I gave up staying for 24 hours and decided to go out. Instead of 24-hours fun, I exited the park earlier than its normal closing time. I didn’t get to see the new nighttime parade in Disneyland and hop between the parks as I had planned. I surely enjoyed seeing people having fun in the special festive atmosphere. But it didn’t go according to my plan that I would save money by getting in the both parks as much as I wanted. I still grumble about it now back in Japan, thinking that I should have been there on a normal day…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.548

After I landed on Los Angeles, I took a bus to Anaheim from LAX. It was playing outdated rock music on the stereo and running on a patchy freeway that had eternal traffic. Out the window were rows of shabby houses along the freeway. Everything was so familiar that I felt as if I had been here last month, not ten years before. It seemed that I had just awoken from a long dream of ten years in Japan and actually never left here. I thought nothing changed after all, but realized I was all wrong about it afterward during my stay. The biggest change that surprised me most was people. Until ten years ago, I had lived or visited regularly here, and people weren’t nice. At a fancy beauty salon, when a receptionist was about to lead me to a seat, a manager stopped me and asked me to leave. I was told that the seats were full although the salon was apparently empty. At a deli, a salesperson ignored me and wouldn’t take my order. She took an order of a white man who was standing behind me in the line instead. I used to encounter unkind people with horrible attitudes and racism almost every day. For those experiences, I had braced myself for similar bad treatments on this trip. As it turned out, what awaited me was a miracle that I never had them at all during the whole trip this time. Every single person I met was nice and kind. When I took a local bus and was standing, a man offered his seat to me, saying his stop was next. I have a storage unit here and went to open it for the first time in ten years. Because I paid late a couple of years ago, the lock had been changed. I explained the matter at the office and the man with a Southern accent pleasantly came over to my unit. He didn’t mind extra work inflicted by me and cut the lock with a circular saw for free while burning his fingers a little, smiling and laughing all the way. I was wearing a pin of a movie ‘Tomorrowland’ during the trip, and seven or eight people who spotted it talked to me. Everybody was smiling and friendly. I’m not prettier or richer than I was when I lived here. While I remain the same, people’s attitudes toward me have dramatically changed. I wondered where those then-mean people had gone. They might as well have been abducted by aliens who in turn put down new nice people. As the trip went on, I had been getting more and more in high spirits. It had seemed silly that I spent months ahead of the trip worrying so many things. I was elated enough to get a lot of souvenirs. At the checkout, a salesperson, who needless to say was polite, said to me smiling, “It seems your card can’t be processed. Do you have a different card?” Everything in my eyes suddenly went black. My charge card was maxed out, which meant I completely used up my entire budget for the trip. I paid with my emergency-only credit card and my shopping spree came to an abrupt end. A new worry that I would manage to cut and contrive expenses when I returned home grasped at me. I felt an urge to be drunk…

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