July 30-31, 2001
After my usual flurry of activity, I am on my way to Bangkok! There were lots of little tasks that I absolutely had to complete before I could leave home for two weeks; in the last few frenzied days, I actually completed some small subset of them.
My flight plan to Bangkok require a Los Angeles departure, and so today it is to Los Angeles that I must go. After spending the night in L.A., I will be flying on Korean Air from LAX to the new Incheon airport in Seoul, thence to Bangkok. Why not wait until tomorrow morning to leave home, you ask? Well, it just seemed like going the whole distance in a single day was too much.1
My carrier for this first leg was Alaska Airlines. I had never flown them before, although I have heard good things about them. The flight went well, and the crew was marvelous. There were two strange things, however: First, the main flight attendant in First Class, Jan, was very outgoing, thrusting her hand out for a shake from each of her passengers. Second, each lunch came with a little card quoting the Bible.
I expected to arrive a bit late into Los Angeles: A week ago, the latest "on-time" survey for U.S. airports rated Sea-Tac Number One for delayed flights. Nipping at its heels in the Number Three position: LAX. Let's face it, the only way I could make my likely arrival less likely to be on schedule would be by including a stopover at Number Two LGA ... but I think this trip is long enough already, don't you?2
My brief home in Los Angeles is the LAX Hilton ... a fine property plopped down (along with representatives of virtually every other airport chain) between the very runways of LAX. Its Century Boulevard address offered me a mini-dose of everything L.A. has to offer: palm trees, fine dining, world-class entertainment. Of course, I also had views of the other hotels, as well as the airplane traffic at a dusky LAX.
Exhausted just from this first brief part of my trip, I retired early and slept for many hours.
1 Lest you think that I am a weak traveler, however, please be assured that I have scheduled a very grueling marathon for my trip home. Stay tuned for those details later!
2 As it turned out, we did leave SEA about half an hour late, but the official schedule was sufficiently safety-padded that we landed in time anyway. Still, ramp traffic at LAX managed to take about 20 minutes, so we were indeed a bit late.
Well, this is strange: We just flew all the way up the west coast of the United States, passing over Portland and continuing all the way up the coast of Washington and beyond. We're now just offshore, with British Columbia on the starboard side. From the looks of things, we're heading for Alaska.
I am still confused by the Mercator cylindrical map projections that we see every day. I had unthinkingly expected that a trip from Los Angeles to Seoul would just head out straight across the ocean and continue over water for the duration. I suppose this means my mind is still working in a two-dimemsional "flat-earth" mode, which was of course the dominant (and really quite successful) view of things for a very long time, so maybe it's not so bad.1 ... I'm just a little old-fashioned. If I am better to embrace reality, however, perhaps I should start carrying around a globe and some string that I could stretch across its surface from one point to another. In this way, I could see the way things really work in three dimensions.
Speaking of three dimensions, I am very soon going to be able to see Bangkok that way. After years of seeing two-dimensional photos of the Oriental Hotel, the Chao Phrya, and all the rest of Bangkok's sights, I will soon have them all around me. Of course, you know what this means for you, the reader: You will be provided with lots of additional two-dimensional images of everything, courtesy of my digital camera!
Anyway, getting back to our current flight path: Why did I fly all the way down to Los Angeles yesterday when this flight was going to be passing practically right over my home today? It could have just touched down and picked me up along the way; this would have been more convenient for all concerned, I think.
I should be grateful to be on this flight at all. When I checked in at LAX this morning, the people at Korean Air were totally surprised to see me. Somehow, there was a little lapse in communication between Delta (which merely printed my ticket) and Korean (which is supposed to actually transport me the applicable thousands of miles). Three agents spent 15 minutes working on their terminal and making phone calls, trying to get things straightened out. It felt like at least an hour, however, as I stood there and contemplated other ways to spend my two week vacation in places other than Bangkok.
The check-in agents were extremely helpful, and it looks like everything is going to work out all right. There is a small chance that I will never make it beyond Seoul, where I am supposed to transfer to another flight on which I also was not listed ... but if you're reading this, I almost certainly did make that connection!
It's totally dark in the cabin right now, except for the glows emanating from my Presario notebook and the video screen up front. My glow shows these words; the one up front shows Korean MTV-style music videos. The window slides are all pulled down; nobody even has a reading light on.
Despite the fact that's it's actually just past noon, I suppose the dark is appropriate given the local time in Seoul, the flight's destination. There, it's 05:00, and too early for us to be awake. But while this makes it seem several hours earlier in Seoul than it is in LA, it's actually later! Indeed, while it's July where I sit, it's already August where we'll land!
All right, those of you who have read my journals before know that I always bring a childlike amazement to these basic concepts of time and space. You should have expected that my first encounter with the International Date Line would only make this breathless reportage worse. You're probably already skimming past this part, and that's fine. Isn't the written word wonderful? See, if I were speaking, you wouldn't have this great "skimming" option. You'd have to be rude and ignore me to my face.
1 Indeed, the official doctrines of the Catholic chuch might still adhere to this view of the earth.
Up next: Bangkok