Well, I’m in Detroit. Glad I checked my ticket before trying to get on a plane to Seattle. The Detroit to Incheon flight is 13.5 hours long, which is the longest flight I’ve ever taken, but when one is going literally halfway around the world, it takes a while. The passengers seem to fall generally into two categories: Korean civilians (the large majority) and a multiracial assortment of American military personnel. And then a cross-section that are families with children who have a non-Korean parent and a Korean parent who are clearly either going to or coming from visits with family. There are also quite a few grim-looking adjummas traveling alone or in pairs who may be darling in person but who share my superficial resting face—grim, forbidding, don’t-mess-with-me-or-I’ll-bite-your-head-off. I walked a mile (clocked on my iPhone) to the other end of the terminal and back to purchase an overpriced ($7) smoothie, but it was good and I saw real strawberries going into it. One cannot survive on a chicken biscuit and a tiny bag of airline pretzels alone. The plane that we are supposed to take to Incheon (it flew in from Shanghai—a double-decker behemoth) just slid up to the gate, and it’s going to take them at least an hour to deplane, refuel, etc. And I just discovered that my computer does not have the files on it that I was planning to edit during the flight. Of course, I also hope I can sleep—the young African American military man that I sat next to on the plane here who is also supposed to be on this flight told me he was also functioning on 2 hours’ rest and (in his case) a caffeine pill, and hoped to sleep on the transpacific leg. He silently endured a full bladder in the center seat so that he didn’t have to wake me as I dozed on the aisle, and then booked it by me to the bathroom the moment they extinguished the “fasten seatbelt” sign. His arms were sleeved out in intricate tattoos, which included a cardinal and an outline of the state of North Carolina.
A little dog near the Delta counter barks maniacally every time the elevated tram goes by. It’s silent as trams go, but there’s a lot of ambient noise in the terminal, though thankfully not as much as in Atlanta, where I left my earplugs in for most of the layover. The regular announcements that warn about unknown persons and unfamiliar objects in English (and, oddly, Chinese, though the terminal signs are bilingual in English and Japanese) are bothersome enough—there’s the birdflock sound of conversation, the loud squeal from the aircraft outdoors, and then the particular announcements that our plane is delayed. And then “hmmm” the tram goes by and “yip, yip, yip” the little dog starts up again.
How can anyone look less than disheveled when traveling long distances? I know the usual tricks of wearing comfortable clothes and drinking plenty of water, but being shoehorned into a seat that is too close to the back of the preceding row for even a short person like me to be able to bend over in (I wanted to rest my head on the drinks tray in front of me, since I didn’t have a bulkhead beside me, and I discovered this wasn’t physically possible), in a steel tube for half a day doesn’t do wonders for the psyche, or the physique. Humans are by and large an unlovely lot. We’re really not attractive creatures, and age removes what benefits of energy youth had temporarily given us. I was getting dressed this morning in my “off to the mountains” gear—my hiking boots, my cargo pants, my long-sleeved shirt and my sweater tied around my waist—and my pale, untoned belly really bothered me. Rubenesque, but with wrinkles, that’s my current look. And hopefully rough-and-ready, like an adherent of Teddy Roosevelt. Am I the only female who occasionally imagines herself in Spanish-American War combat gear?