Sunday, December 21, 2008

Home for the holidays

Greetings from the city formerly known as Toronto. That's right. Toronto has a new name and it's "Snowmageddon." (Or at least that's what the scientists at Environment Canada are calling it.)

And while it's easy to dismiss this sort of thing as over-exaggerated hype, it really did feel like I was flying into some sort of apocalyptic nightmare on Friday. I was on my way from Osaka to Detroit, where a huge winter storm was whipping up winds and dumping snow across the region.

Now, hearing people scream is disconcerting at the best of times. But hearing people scream on an airplane is downright terrifying. Severe turbulence was shaking the plane like it was a pop can in an earthquake. At one point, the plane suddenly dropped about 20 feet. We were lifted out of our seats. You could actually hear all of the overhead luggage rise and then thump back down. It was so bad that people were screaming.

I wanted to hold someone's hand but I was sitting in the dreaded middle seat, sandwiched between a half-drunk elderly Japanese man on my left and an aspiring rock star working on a concept album about underwater robots on my right. I didn't think either one of them would appreciate me whimpering in their laps.

Despite the ice pellets, howling winds and thick fog, we managed to land safely in Detroit. I was supposed to catch a connecting flight to Snowmageddon but it was being walloped by an even worse winter storm. As a result, my 2 p.m. flight was cancelled and I was rebooked on the 5:30 flight out of Detroit.

So I wandered around the Detroit airport for a bit. Had a bean burrito at Taco Bell (my first burrito in three months! It was surprisingly delicious). Just before 5 p.m., they cancelled my second flight and rebooked me on the 9:30 p.m. flight.

So I wandered around the Detroit airport some more. Ate some sushi (it felt like I had been in Detroit for months and was feeling nostalgic for Japanese food. It was surprisingly terrible). I made some American friends. We talked mostly about the weather and our cancelled flights.

Just before 8 p.m., they cancelled my third flight. I lined up for an hour only to be told there were no more flights going to Snowmageddon that night and that the earliest flight they could book me on was the one leaving at 9:30 . . . the next night!!

There was no way in hell I was spending 26 hours at the Detroit airport. Not after a 12-hour flight from Japan. Not after spending eight hours at the Detroit airport. Not after not sleeping for 24 hours. Screw that and screw them.

I got the last seat on the last bus leaving Detroit for Snowmageddon. Due to the severe weather conditions, it took almost seven hours of painfully slow driving to get to Toronto. But I finally arrived. At 3:15 a.m. on Saturday. More than 35 hours after leaving my apartment in Kyoto.

I arrived in Snowmageddon but my luggage did not. It is being held hostage at the Detroit airport. It may arrive. It may not arrive. If it doesn't get here before Christmas, there will be no Hello Kitty-themed presents under the tree.

In the meantime, there is snow to shovel, gingerbread men to eat and parties to attend (in the same clothes I've been wearing for the past three days). Blogging will be light to non-existent over the next two weeks. So until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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