My passport will not swipe at the self-service kiosk – do I really have to get into that giant line of people behind the check-in counter?
An airline employee on the floor attempts to rectify the situation, but after ten minutes of failed attempts (and the aggravated bending of my passport) she directs me to the much feared line of customers for check-in. Shit.
Twenty minutes pass as I slowly make my way to the front of the line (good thing I arrived early, for once). Finally, I make it to the counter where I am asked by the agent for my final destination.
“Japan”. Turns out this was the wrong answer.
For some still unknown reason the agent refuses to check me in (she doesn't even pull up my reservation), and after almost becoming “that asshole yelling in the airport,” I make my way over to the customer service counter. The line here is considerably shorter and upon my meeting with an agent I am told that I need to go check myself in at the main counter. However, this is not going to happen.
I make my stand and sell out the useless employee who failed to check me in. My new agent friend finally obliges.
She pulls my reservation and it turns out my passport would not swipe because I do not have a return ticket or continuing flight on the same airline (Hawaiian for those wondering). Fun.
She tells me that she cannot issue me a boarding pass without a continuing or returning flight – a fact I was previously unaware of (and would much later find out is not entirely true).
By a stroke of luck I have a flight to Korea booked for the day after my Japan arrival, and my email flight confirmation (shown to her on my phone) is enough to get me a boarding pass – but would it be enough for Japanese immigration officers, I wonder.
The security line moves quickly enough, but as per usual, I opt out of entering the cancer machine at the front of the line (I'll get cancer on my own, thank you very much TSA).
I watch as my items go through the x-ray, and I am now left waiting for a “male-assist” as they (the TSA) like to call it.
This particular assist takes far too long to arrive, and I begin to stress about my belongings – now invisible on the other side of security. Finally, my pat down arrives, takes me to the post-x-rayed items, and asks me to point out my belongings (NO TOUCHING!).
My laptop case (with my passport, exchanged money, and camera) is missing. My stomach drops and panic begins to creep over me. I ignore the TSA employee's questions as I frantically look for someone with my belongings.
“My laptop case is gone,” I tell him. He suggests that it may have not come through the machine yet.
“It went through the machine five minutes ago.”
I don't know what to do. I am furious at the TSA's lack of efficiency, making me wait so long for a pat down; and naturally, I blame them for what has happened. As I consider taking off into the terminal to blindly attempt to run down whoever has my things, he asks me, “Are you traveling with anyone else today?”.
“No, I am not. You need to come with me to find my case right now,” I say to him. He again directs me to the pat down area, lacking the urgency and desperation necessary to convince me that he is sympathetic to my cause.
Just then a stranger walks up to us and asks me if I am missing anything. “Yes, my laptop case,” I tell him.
“Here, I took it on accident,” he says as he hands me my laptop case. What?
Momentarily relief trumps my anger, and the stranger escapes back into the terminal before I have the chance to lay into him for being such an unobservant dickhole.
My pat down continues, ball touching and all, and then I am told that since there was a small amount of water left in my water bottle (admittedly, my mistake) it will have to go back through security (mind you, this is a $100 CamelBak All Clear water bottle with a UV purification system built into it, so I am not tossing it).
“Okay, so put it back through the x-ray, I will wait here.”
“No, sir, you have to exit security, empty the water bottle, and then wait in line again to come back through security,” the TSA agent tells me.
…you have to be kidding me.
“There is no way I am doing that,” I say to the agent, “that's incredibly silly that I can't just pour it out here, don't you agree?” I ask him. He does, but says that because of the cameras he cannot permit me to just pour out the contents.
Completely fed up with the airport in general at this point I plead my case to the agent, and am approached by another TSA employee. “Great”, I think to myself, now I am in trouble.
“Give the water bottle to me,” he says. The agent with me resists, but ultimately hands it over. Having seen everything that happened, the new agent takes the bottle to the other side of security, empties out the contents, puts it through the x-ray, and returns to me with a new empty bottle. “There you go. Have a good flight,” he says to me.
Finally, a break. Thank you nameless TSA employee, may your pragmatic attitude always prevail in the world of unjust TSA dealings.
Most of my time in the terminal is spent attempting to find a place where I can print out the flight details for Korea (since I doubt my phone would pass as acceptable again. Ultimately, I am successful.
I get to the gate as everyone is already boarding, a gate agent approaches me and asks my name. Turns out she has been looking for me (yup, I'm special). She wants to see my continuing/return flight from Japan. Luckily I just spent the last hour of my life obtaining said documentation, and so I pass her test and am allowed to board.
The plane's seats are organized in a 2-3-2 configuration and I am in seat 14C (leftmost aisle seat in the middle grouping). The two seats to my left and two seats to my right are occupied by elderly Japanese couples. This should be a fun eleven hours.
After everyone is onboard, and before we push back from the gate a kindly female flight attendant stops next to me and says “rows 24-27 are empty, you can move there once we get in the air if you want.”
“I'm moving there now,” I tell her. She obliges but advises me to do so once she leaves (so as not to let on that she provided me with this insider information. Now I have three seats to myself and nobody in front of me to recline their seat into my space – beautiful! We take off and get in the air shortly after my move.
And things just keep getting better. The crew now hands out tablets loaded with movies (and they are actually good movies) to help everyone forget they will be hovering seven miles above the ocean in a tin can for the next eleven hours.
Then the beverage service begins.
As I am in the middle of the plane I am able to hit up both drink carts as the make their way past me – open bar, dude. I soon lapse into comatose and awake hours later having missed the end of Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Seeing as the beverage service has stopped I make my way to the back of the plane where I replenish my stock and return to my seat. The cycle continues until I am again asleep – across three seats all to myself.
Again, I wake up, but this time due to the plane hitting the ground. Huzaa!
I thank all my new flight attendant friends, and step into Fukuoka International Airport. I quickly make my way to the front of the immigration checkpoint and am greeted by a Japanese immigration officer who speaks very little English. We make it through the basic questions (why are you here, how long are you staying, have you brought and weapons, etc.) and I get a stamp.
But wait, that guy didn't ask me for any documentation showing my departure from Japan. What the hell, Hawaiian Airlines?
I no longer care. I am in Japan and off in search of some sushi and sake.
Lastly, let us not forget this classic by The Vapors. You are welcome.