Non-Fiction

My Trip to Japan | Day 1, The Worst Plane Trip of my Life

Previously: Advice for a trip to Japan

November 1

I was flying from Ottawa to Toronto to Tokyo to Osaka, economy. The flight was around noon. My mother drove me to the airport. We checked in my luggage together, ensuring it would make it to Osaka, and we said goodbyes. We hugged and I promised to email and Skype.

And then I was alone.

I had never traveled internationally by myself before. It had always been with my parents, or one time with a high school class. It made my worry, especially because I would be totally responsible for my passport and I didn’t have my mom or teachers to fall back on.

My carry-on was a waterproof backpack with an over-the-top flap that was almost impossible to open one-handed. I had my passport, all my papers (hotels, reservations), money, book, tablet, an airline overnight flight bag, some unimportant junk, my instax camera, and instax film.

ASIDE: This film is troublesome during air travel, but it would bring a whole new level of problems in Japan due to the language barrier. Instax film cannot go through x-rays because it is technically film. Going through an x-ray exposes it and therefore ruins it. Fortunately, security agents are reasonable and instead of x-ray it will be examined by hand.

I get through this Ottawa security easily, grab some Timmies, and wait for the flight. Air Canada calls it and we board the plane. I get on, settle down, and we fly to Toronto in less than an hour.

This would be the easiest part of my day. Everything spiraled downward from there.

I had bought my plane tickets via my family’s trusted travel agent. October 31, I did pre-check in and had chosen my seats for the Ottawa-Toronto and Toronto-Tokyo flights, but not Tokyo-Osaka. The travel agent had gone through the Air Canada affiliate All Nippon Air, but I wasn’t able to check-in for that seat. If I had to guess, it was likely because of the time difference.

At the Toronto Airport, I found the Air Canada assistance desk and inquired about this issue. I can’t say I remember the exchange entirely, but it boiled down to me asking a lot of questions and getting decent answers. She printed me out a new ticket for Toronto-Tokyo and told me I would have to pick up my luggage in Tokyo and transfer it manually to the domestic flight desk.

She did not, however, totally resolve my concerns over my Osaka flight. I think she just said something like, “you have a seat on the plane, go to the domestic desk and it’ll be resolved.”

I thanked her and continued to my grave gate.

People had already gathered, ready to board. As you can expect, it was a lot of Asian people. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was happy to see other black people amidst the crowd. When we boarded, I was somewhat surprised to find that three other black passengers were seated around me (two in front, one in the same row). I took a second to appreciate it since the numbers were so against us.

I also had a little mishap where I initially missed my seat and had to wait five minutes for people to pass so I could get back to it, but I won’t linger anymore on such a boring topic. I won’t waste words on trying to romanticize air-travel.

The next 14 hours were torture.

This was the longest flight I’d ever been on. I was in economy and had snagged an aisle seat. I’m the type to take my shoes off, but it didn’t help. You get a blanket and a pillow, obviously, but I was either too cold or sweating. It was just all-round unpleasant.

I somehow managed my way through the first nine hours by watching in-flight movies, TV shows on my tablet, and reading my book. At some point, however, I just couldn’t anymore. It was a frustration and desire to get up and move around. But it was a plane, so there wasn’t exactly a lot of room to do that.

I find it’s easy to forget how uncomfortable air travel is. When you go on vacation, you remember the sights or the beaches. Because I’m writing this series, I’m remembering the good and the bad. And let me tell you, recounting this day is making my current mood sour.

I ate the dinner provided (okay) and the snacks. I drank mostly water and got up once or twice for the bathroom.

It wasn’t enough.

By the tenth hour I was going crazy. I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t recline back far enough or hunch over. I couldn’t even manage a couple winks, like I do during car rides, by leaning my head back. I think over the whole flight I managed 45 minutes, but I was woken up by my neighbour spilling water over me.

This experience makes me seriously considering first class the next time I have such a big trip, because I need to lie down to sleep. I need something better than a 70 degree angle. Or, if I can’t afford it, maybe I should just grab some sleeping pills.

As the flight continued I descended further into madness because of my hunger. I only had a small breakfast and a small snack at the Ottawa Airport Timmies. The dinner and snacks provided weren’t enough. We were given a second meal, instant noodles, but that still wasn’t enough.

As a person who used to work 8-hour overnight shifts – I get super hunger when I don’t sleep. I was ready to ransack the food cart. I was ready to knock someone out. I was angry man. Angry.

By the time they called our descent, I was desperate. Desperate to get off the flight, desperate to move around, desperate to eat anything. I was ready man, the second that seat-belt light when off I was gone. I was sticky and sweaty and generally unhappy, but damn didn’t I feel good when I got off that flight.

We landed sometime in the evening and I practically kissed the ground. I instantly connected to the airport Wi-fi and posted to Instagram. Because of the time difference it had become November 2nd.

Next time: My day gets worse when I get horrible news about my luggage

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2 thoughts on “My Trip to Japan | Day 1, The Worst Plane Trip of my Life

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