This is the start of a trip that we took in December/January of 2003/2004. Coming from Chicago to Narita does induce jet lag, which the first trip I made to Japan caused me to be sick for a week. Now after half a dozen trips, I am able to adjust after a few days. I found that if I can sleep most of the flight, that it takes less than a day to adjust. Having a toddler prevents that from happening on this trip. The flight crosses the international date line, so tomorrow is now today. That is, Chicago is still on yesterday’s date. It is kind of fun to juxtapose the thought of this small sliver of time travel that we may experience on earth.
We usually stay in a hotel near the airport the first night as it makes the trip somewhat easier. My wife’s parents live 3.5 hours away from the airport, and after a 12 hour flight the thought of traveling another 3.5 hours in a car is not pleasant. It is an awkward experience for me every time to stay at a hotel in Japan, as typically they employ women as bell hops. Which, let me be clear, that I think there is nothing wrong with that. Just let me explain… when we get to the hotel they rush out to pick up your luggage… all of it. I come from the background that a man should carry the heavy stuff, but not here. The added benefit or guilt, depending on your sensibilities is, there is no tipping required.
However, to make it feel even more awkward, their uniform usually consists of high heeled shoes and knee length skirts… except for when they are wearing a kimono (and the wood block shoes). So not only do they have to do heavy physical labor, they also must wear an outfit not exactly suited for the task (pun intended). Which to be honest, my way of thinking is perhaps chauvinistic, because certainly they are capable of doing it. But it is the attire that they wear when performing this duty that makes it somewhat asymmetric as a westerner to observe.
Once we are settled in the hotel room, we decide to sleep rather than eat as we are too tired. I need to backup and talk about the flight itself a little. Having a toddler on a plane trip is a challenge and I know it is a pain for all passengers on an international flight, let alone us parents. I apologize to everyone, but we have to make the trip and we can’t wait until my children are mature enough to wipe their own behinds. We do our best to stay in the child zone… that part of coach which is the first section after the business class. This is the menagerie of kids. The second section of coach or the rear most part of the plane has kids as well, but usually there are fewer and it is the place to be if you want to try and sleep during the flight. Or if you really want to avoid kids, fly business or first class. This year we bought a Gameboy to keep our son occupied, which worked pretty well. He is only 2.5 years old, but he knows how to work the buttons and the action/animation keeps his attention.
For this trip we have the added burden of my wife being pregnant, so it is that much harder for her. My son actually behaves well for the most part, but he still wants to move about mostly when the fasten seat belt sign comes on. On the US airline we fly, the flight attendants basically treat the coach class passengers with little respect. They can be courteous, but often you are made to feel like you are underclass vermin, especially if you have toddlers. The younger attendants seem to enjoy kids more, where as the older ones, I think, view families as a nuisance. And most US airlines have older flight attendants. It also depends on how full the flight is… this flight was packed. So it is just an unpleasant trip, all the way around.