The most pressing of our worries concerning the trip to Japan was the idea of losing valuable time due to jet lag. Working a night-shift job taught me how to manipulate my sleep schedule rather quickly, although my method relies heavily on masochistic sleep deprivation. This is why I had the bright idea to not go to sleep at all the night of our wedding, opting instead to force myself to sleep in transit with as close to a normal Japanese schedule as possible. Keep in mind that I had only slept three hours the night before my wedding...
Jess made the wise decision to get at least a little sleep before our 3AM departure; I, instead, finally packed for the trip. At around 2:30, I came to stunning conclusion:
Had I seriously thought that going into twenty-two hours of travel with absolutely no sleep was not only viable but a good idea? By the time Jaime, one of my new sisters-in-law, came to take us to the airport, I was alternating between mumbling zombie and manic, air-headed philosopher, excitedly pointing out stunning observations that were completely obvious to everyone else.
Going through airport security is never particularly pleasant. Doing so while barely able to form coherent, if not cogent, sentences is a real treat. It turns out that the TSA expects you to have an immediate and definite answer to the question, "What is your final destination?" and they don't take kindly to you turning around to ask the woman that you claim to be your wife.
Apparently, they decided that I was too inept to be a danger to anyone but myself, because they let me through.
As the plane was about to depart on the first leg of our trip, the pilot declared: "If you are going to Dulles International Airport, we will be arriving in a little over an hour. If you were not planning to go to Dulles, I have some bad news for you."
Before I passed out, I remember hoping that we were on the right plane.
The second leg of our trip was a bit more interesting. Jess had the window seat, leaving me to serve as the buffer between her and a very inebriated man who claimed that he held an important position in the office of a congressman. He was heading to California on very sensitive business that he insisted he could not discuss. After that, he proceeded to spend the next half-hour telling me all about it. (Note to any government types that might be reading this: it was all very boring, and I only listened enough to nod my head at the appropriate intervals. No need for any covert ops or internments of indeterminate length.)
By the time he was done answering questions about his job that no one had asked, I was desperately looking for a way out of this conversation and any other that might crop up later in the flight. That's when he asked me if I had seen Hope Solo get on the plane. I had been able to sleep a little by this point, but was still rather groggy; that being said, being asked if I had seen Hope Solo board the plane immediately conjured something akin to this image:
The drunk man must have gathered from my blank expression that I had no idea whom he meant. Turns out that Hope Solo is a soccer player.
The conversation mercifully trailed off shortly after, which allowed me to stop passing in and out of consciousness while politely listening to him and instead pass in and out of consciousness while watching the in-flight movie: Battleship. I was asleep for most of the movie, but I'm fairly confident that it was about a man that was willing to fight aliens because Liam Neeson promised him a chicken burrito. (If I'm wrong, I'd rather not be corrected.)
Our layover in LAX was stressful, to say the least. At some point in the trip so far, we realized that the airline had put us at opposite ends of the plane for our third and final flight. We hurried to our gate, hoping that there would be enough time to straighten out the mistake. I not-so-secretly expected the airline to hassle us about it before finally not doing a single thing. Still, I tried to remain as polite as possible as we approached the Japanese man attending the gate and explained the situation.
His response? "Seat selections are just requests. The seats are filled in a way that is most beneficial to all of our guests, as a whole."
"It's our honeymoon. This is a thirteen-hour flight."
The man kept a stern look, but his message changed, "I cannot promise anything, but let me see what I can do."
Jess and I mentally prepared for the worst, telling each other and ourselves that it would only be thirteen hours of our nearly two-week honeymoon and that we would probably be sleeping most of the time, anyways. The first two boarding zones were called, then the man called for us over the speakers. This time, he was smiling widely.
"I found two seats next to each other. Will an exit row be alright?"
We couldn't say, "Yes," fast and emphatically enough.
I had never been lucky enough to be assigned an exit row seat before, so I was quite excited that my first time would be for the longest flight I had ever been on. This was also my first time on a jumbo jet, so I didn't realize that "exit row seat" actually meant "seat with fifteen feet open in front of it."
Sure, we were right by the bathrooms, but I had been stuck by the bathrooms plenty of times on flights. Having more leg room than I could ever possibly need was more than a fair trade off. Sure, sometimes the line would back up and someone would end up (accidentally?) standing a bit too close, but they would notice soon enough and back off.
About four hours into the flight, though, a woman came up to the open area and seemed to be waiting for a bathroom. I found it a bit odd, because none of them were occupied. She eventually turned and began to push against the wall like she was trying to knock it down. "Oh," I thought, "she's stretching. Nothing odd about that."
Then she started doing jumping jacks. For a good five minutes.
Jess and I looked at each other, then tried our hardest not to look directly at her, as if we would be the strange ones for looking at the hopping person directly in front of our seats.
She was the first but definitely not the last. Throughout the rest of the flight, people would come up and spontaneously start exercising in front of us. It began to seem like this was, indeed, normal for excessively long flights. It was still a bit awkward for it to be happening right in our faces. We made a little game of guessing whether someone was walking our way for the bathroom or exercise. Apparently, I can't tell the difference between being jittery and doing a wee-wee walk.
The sun had risen shortly after we landed at Dulles that morning. As we continued on our journey to Japan, we were also racing the sun across the sky. By the end of our last flight, most of our fellow passengers had closed their windows, casting the majority of the cabin into darkness. Every once in a while, we would hear someone wake up and curse the fact that the sun existed before their words trailed off into grumbling and they fell back to sleep.
It was the longest day of my life, both literally and figuratively. But none of that mattered when we got off the plane, the sun still high in the sky. We were fulfilling one of our dreams.
We had finally arrived in the land of the rising sun.