Saturday, January 21, 2006

Narita refugees

(10:53 AM Saturday MST)

I am lying down across three seats in Tokyo's Narita Airport. I have been in this airport for the past nine and a half hours, except for a two-hour interlude during which I sat in a snow-covered plane, and I expect to be here for at least five or six more.

Let me back up. I'm on my way to Yongpyong Ski Resort in South Korea for the opening World Cup races of the season. I woke up at 3:30 AM Friday in Winter Park, drove through a snowstorm to Denver, flew from Denver to Seattle and then Seattle to Tokyo. I have been traveling for over 30 hours. My final leg, Tokyo to Seoul, is only a two-hour flight, but it is snowing hard here at Narita and many flights were delayed all afternoon. Ours was pushed back again and again until we were finally allowed to board the plane. Of course, it wasn't meant to be. We weren't early enough in line for de-icing, and we missed the 2 AM departure curfew. Our flight is cancelled. All the nearby hotels are full (or so United claims), so there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people camped out all over the airport: jowly American businessmen, demure Japanese mothers and their children, surly American servicemen, Koreans on vacation, even the occasional bewildered European. We are all clutching the standard blue United blankets and pillows, and we are all hungry: the cardboard box lunches they gave some people weren't much, and some of us didn't get them at all.

A man is making a long, detailed announcement in Japanese over the loudspeaker. The only words I can make out are "sandwichu" and "overnighto."

At least six other iTunes users near me have their laptops on, and I can listen to their music over the airport's wireless connection. God bless Steve Jobs. Too bad actually accessing the Internet over the Narita wireless network requires a password, or I could post this now. As it is, I think I'm going to put both my PowerBook and myself to sleep for a few hours and continue this update in the morning.

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