Lads and Lassies,
Japan. Round 4. Here goes nothin.
I’m now driving on the LEFT hand side of the road. Our new apartment’s door frames hit me in the chin. My head coach requested I smuggle 10 cans of chewing tobacco into Japan. Well, me and 2 other guys. 30 cans total. Apparently, this may only last him until Christmas. Tasty. Two weeks down. Too many to go.
What is it with the airlines? Has anyone said to themselves recently, “Boy, that was such a lovely trip, let’s do it again. Those airlines, gee whiz. They sure do brighten up my day.”? No. Airlines equal curse words. They just do. I wish it weren’t that way. But we can’t get around it. Maybe I just need to lower my expectations. “Well, I didn’t die THAT time. Job well done. You’ll get my business again.”
During our friendly 5 hour layover in DC (on our way to Tokyo), the airlines (ANA, yes I’m calling you out) tried to pull a stunt on us. We were sitting at the gate, actually sprawled out on the floor because it’s impossible for anyone to stretch out in those seats. SIDE NOTE: Can we start a petition to have arm-rests that flip up on the seats at the gate? At least a few? Maybe they can spring for them with all that loot they rob from us on baggage fees and paying to eat three bites of pretzel. You know they are going to make you start paying to wear clothes on the planes next. “Attention passengers. For everyone who chose to forgo the option to fly in the nude, you’ll have to pay a clothing fee of $50 per article of clothing. Heavy planes cost more everyone.”
And we’re back. The ANA staff rolls up to the gate in their prim and proper airline attire. And they break out… a scale. Whalaa.
What in the world are these people doing with a scale at the GATE? The bags are checked and long gone. Are we all getting complimentary physicals? Are they kicking all the fat people off the plane? I can already tell you that this will not go over well with any female on the planet if we have to start weighing in fight-night style.
One female gate attendant approached my lifeless body on the floor. “Sir, we are going to need to weigh your carry-ons. They can only be 22lbs.”
This will be bad. They’re at LEAST double that. I put all kinds of heavy stuff in there. Video camera, books, fire extinguishers. It’s the way around the idiotic “50lb checked bag” rule. They NEVER check your weight or size of your carry-on. NEVER. Until today.
37lbs. Her face looked like she had just witnessed a horrific assault on an elderly person. “Sir, this is too heavy.”
Next one. 29lbs. A similar look of pure shock and awe.
Thank the good Lord she didn’t weigh my backpack. It was a beast. She wrongly estimated that it would fall within legal limits. I can promise you that bad boy was at least 50 strong by itself. I’m a freakin marine walking through those terminals with my gear.
In her nicest voice possible she said, “Sir, you will have to pay $150 per carry-on that is overweight. Since you have 2 overweight bags, you will have to pay $300.” For overweight carry-ons. Seriously. You have to be kidding. There is no way I am paying $300 to bring Disney Princess books and 100 packs of chocolate protein powder in my carry-ons no matter how delicious it is. I had just flown with these “overweight” bags on United for the 1st leg. Now, ANA was telling me I had to pay for them on the 2nd leg of my trip to Tokyo. I kindly said in my friendly-angry voice that it’s insanely ridiculous that I would have to do this.
“Ok, maybe just $150,” she whispered as if she was cutting me a special deal that she didn’t want the other passengers to know about. Guess what - we are AAAAALLLLLLL about to know about this fiasco. How about I Tweet this all over the world? “ANA Sucks. Buy a ticket and find out why.”
$150? How about no.
“Ok, I will call my supervisor,” she says.
Take your time. A lot of it actually.
As much as I knew this was the dumbest thing ever, I also knew that they were serious and would pin me down and take the money right out of my wallet if they had to. Miraculously, airlines get this very rare type of power. The rank in order is Secret Service, IRS, Airlines. The CIA and telemarketers are remarkably 4th and 5th somehow in the power to invade and annoy your life.
So, I started shifting things. One way or another I was getting those bags down to 22lbs each. Fortunately, Hannah had her little backpack with like 2 lollipops in it. Guess what Hannah? You gotta start pulling your weight around here. Well I know it’s heavy, sweetheart. You can tell it to the lady over there that doesn’t want you to be happy.
I was ready to set up my own airport kiosk right there next to the Starbucks and Rosetta Stone and start selling. You sir! Come have a protein shake and bulk up a little - you’ll get more dates. Hello, Ma’am! - does your daughter need some My Little Pony toothpaste? Because our daughter doesn’t anymore. We’re fine with gingivitis. Young fellow! - these socks will be good as new with just one wash. Think stocking stuffers. It’s already August.
So after I put on my winter coat, stuffed Hannah’s car seat lining with Myoplex protein packs, and put the video camera around Hannah’s neck as her “accessory”, we were down to 22lbs. Boo yah. How you like that ANA?
The gate agent weighed my 1st one. 22.8lbs. I gave her a look that said, “Don’t even think about it.” That .8 lbs was my little victory for the day over the airlines. I knew it was there. I knew it was technically over the 22 max. But, I wanted them to feel my victory over their insanely moronic rules.
What happened to those extra pounds? Let’s just say that my 50lb backpack became even a little bit heavier. And Hannah’s pink and purple backpack was bursting at the seams.
I’m fairly sure my family and I have now been red-flagged and are on the no-fly list. Or at least the “Hey yeah, that’s the guy” list.
I’m taking the boat that goes to Japan next time.
So our new team did a nice thing. They gave us a car. It’s our 1st in Japan. The last 3 years have been all trains, buses, piggy backs, and pandas.
It’s a Nissan Cefino. Which apparently they have discontinued. Maybe because Americans were crashing all of them.
For those of you who don’t know, Japan is one of those odd countries who prefers to be different than most everyone else and drive on the LEFT side of the road. They tell me it goes back to the samurai days when they had their swords sticking out from their waist holder thinger and if they walked on the right side and passed someone then they would all run into each other. Fine and dandy. Last time I checked all the swords have been put away. Yet, they remain with the whole left side of the road driving gig.
Instead of driving in the left driver’s seat, I sit on the opposite side of the car. Instead of looking up and to the right for the rear view mirror, I look up and to the left. Which means I don’t ever find it. Rather than using my left hand to hit the blinker, the windshield wipers turn on. There is no left turn on red which would be equivalent to our right turn on red in the US. And that’s probably for the best.
To bring it all together: I’m turning with no signal into a lane I shouldn’t be driving in and my wipers are now flying back and forth during the hottest day of the summer. With no idea who is beside or behind me.
Basically the whole city’s safety has been compromised. All 500,000 of them. No one has technically been physically harmed. Yet. But there may have been a close call or twelve. I can now understand how my late grandfather once (or possibly much more than once) drove onto the wrong side of the street. INTO on-coming traffic.
I’m playing for a new team this year. The Tochigi Brex. Tochigi is the region. Brex is the mascot. $1M to the one who figures out this mascot.
I’ll spare you the research. Supposedly it stands for “Breakthrough” and “Rex” means “King” in Latin. So we’re the “Breakthrough Kings”? I guess. What exactly are we breaking through? The glass backboards? Breaking through good names for mascots into the puzzling/really bad names for mascots? Possible. Not sure how the whole Japanese and Latin really go together. But you have to remember this is the same country that has the following mascot names. And I am NOT making this up. The Sleeping Sheeps, Alvark, and Seahorses. Quite intimidating. Especially those sheep. If you’ve ever had a wet one come in from the rain right into your family room and shake… oh you know how lethal they can be.
It’s the same league that I’ve been playing in for the past 3 years, just a different team. They are actually closer to Fukushima’s nuclear power plants. But what’s a little radiation between friends? Don’t freak out though, we are still a good 100 miles away. And the radiation levels are ironically lower here than in our old city despite us being closer to the destruction.
Our team is very talented with the Japanese players. They won the championship 2 years ago. Hopefully we can get another one as I have been in the finals, but have yet to taste the champagne. Or saki.
My coach is American but has lived in Australia for the last 20 years. He calls everyone “mate” which is awesome because he is saying it to a bunch of little Japanese guys. He likes his Skoal. And his golf even more. Shot an 85 on Sunday he announced to the team today. He is an absolute character and you’ll love him as much as I do. He is an outstanding coach and I think I will really enjoy playing for him. Plus, after playing for a Japanese head coach the last 3 years, the very best part… I can understand him.
Lastly, the classic part of the whole trip is this. We arrived at our apartment after 26 hours of door to door travel. We weren’t tired or anything since Hannah slept for like 2 hours of that 26. We walk into our new mansion and there is a mattress on the floor for Cara and me. No bed for Hannah. Why is that you say? Were they being rude? No, they were being practical. #1 - the Japanese sleep on the floor on tiny futons all the time. #2 - Japanese kids will sleep with their parents often times until 6 or 7 years old. Hannah is 3. So why would we even NEED another bed, right?
Thankfully a couch folded down that we made work. It’s about as comfy as sleeping on the street, but Hannah didn’t seem to mind until we purchased her a new bed. Our apartment sleeps 1 comfortably. We do have a trusty rice cooker though. And if I fold myself up just right, I can even squeeze into the bathroom.
We’ve only had 3 or 4 earthquakes in 2 weeks. Better than the 30 or 40 we had in 2 days at the end of our last stay in March. Pray for fewer tsunamis. Like zero.
Oh and we did find Costco. God bless those beautiful souls who dreamed up that wonderful experience. I love a store that I can go in and buy an ice-fishing tent, an 8lb jar of peanut butter, a life-size Santa in August, and some Disney princess read along books. A great time just waiting to happen.
See you at the game.
I brake for Japanese People,
Anybody have some extra swedish fish or York peppermint patties they can send Cara? We’re about to lose her.