DAY ONE – VANCOUVER / NEW ORLEANS

Well, before the school year starts to kick my ass, I thought I’d just document my trip to Nawlins.

So where was I? Oh yeah, I go to bed around 3am and I get up at 6am. I’m feeling pretty awful at this point and I’m wondering if it would have been better to just stay up all night.

I get dressed and clean myself up. I go downstairs and my Mom for some reason has woken up and made me breakfast. So sweet of her.

I eat and then I go do a last second check of my luggage. Assured that I have everything with me, my father drives me to the airport. He leaves me at the curb of the international terminal. As I go through the doors, I am feel a surge of excitement. I have not flown since 1999. Four years since I’ve been on a plane.

I’m flying business / first-class all the way, so I get to bypass all the line-ups. I waltz straight up to the next agent for American. She processes my ticket and hands me my boarding passes (for the connecting flight as well). I then go to get cleared by the American authorities. I’m very curious to see what it’s like now. I wait for my turn to be interrogated by an American immigration official. Surprisingly, it’s the standard questions I got in the late 90s. Purpose of visit, what do I do, and where do I live. I’m waived through. Now I have to get myself and my bags checked. Again it’s the standard remove all metal items and place them in the tray routine. My carry-on goes through the machine and I step through the thingy. It doesn’t go off. The x-ray machines they use now are really cool. They can see everything and the gradient of colours in the image really helps to distinguish between items. As I go through, I’m asked to take out my digital camera and my PDA which were all concealed in my bag. Neat. I take the items out and they wipe down each of them with small cloth swatch. This happened to me in Boston in 1999, but I’m pretty sure they were looking for drugs that time. Now, it’s explosives.

I’m cleared to go and I’m off to my gate. I check my watch and I realize I have more than an hour to kill. I wander around the gates looking in the various shops. I see that there’s a Tim Horton’s as well. I also realize that I have no Canadian money on me anymore. I also don’t want to start spending my American dollars even before I leave Vancouver. So, I sit and wait, and walk, and read my New Orleans travel book.

Another thing I do is to look at the people at my gate. I start guessing if they’re from Dallas, from Canada, or from another place. I see several women with big hair. Definitely Dallas.

Pretty soon it’s time to board and they make an announcement that business class passengers should board first. For the first time in my life, that announcement applies to me. They also announce that coach class passengers should pick up their “bistro” meal from the cart on the jetway. As I make my way towards the plane, I look at these “bistro” meals in the cart. It’s like a paper bag lunch. Poor saps.

I enter the plane and I’m seated in the third row or something, in the aisle. The seats are wide and made of leather. The seat in front of me seems like it’s a mile away. I am impressed. As I get settled, I notice one of the cabin attendants coming around to each business class passenger. She gets to me.

“Would like something to drink before we take-off?”

I tell her some orange juice would be splendid. Wow. A drink before the plane even moves an inch. This is nice. I’m served my drink and by this time, the cattle passengers in coach are boarding. Since I’m in the aisle, they eye me and my orange juice. All of them are carrying their paper bag lunches.

Everyone gets settled and the attendants come and get the glasses (real ones, not the plastic shit in coach) from business class. The plane takes off and we start to climb. As soon as it’s safe, the attendants start moving around again. I notice now that two of them are exclusively catering to business class, less than 20 people in total. The other two attendants are servicing coach which numbers about 100. Me likes.

An attendant comes around with a clipboard, she’s talking to each one of us individually. She gets to me.

“Mr. Tang, good morning, my name is Donna and I’ll be taking care of you all today. Before we serve our meal, would you like another drink?”

I order myself up another orange juice. Moments later, I receive my drink and an asortment of nuts in a ceramic bowl. The bowl and nuts are warm to the touch. I try a pistacchio. It tastes so much better because it’s been heated. This isn’t some cheap bag of nuts in a cold aluminum wrapper, it’s the high life.

For lunch I get my choice of a roast chicken sandwich or smoke turkey in a croissant. Despite my affinity for roast chicken, I pick the croissant thingy. I like croissants.

After lunch I bring out my course scheduling for the school year. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Donna coming by.

“Mr. Tang is there anything else that I may get you?”

“No Donna, I’m fine for now, thank you.”

At this point, I’m starting to get worried about flying coach again. Seinfeld was right. I can’t, I won’t! After trying to fit a dozen classes into a dozen spots in my schedule, I get tired of picking classes. I lean back and let Mr. Sandman take me for a while. I wake up about a half hour later.

I rub my eyes and check my watch. The woman in the window seat next to me turns and asks me a question.

“I saw your schedule there on the tray. Are you teaching or taking classes this year?”

“Both.”

What follows is a delightful conversation for about the next twenty minutes. I find out the woman is going home with her husband (in the row ahead of us) from a trip to Alaska. They live in Florida. They’re about retirement age and hubby works in the cable TV industry. He supplies cable TV to the islands in the Carribean.

We discuss her son, who’s graduating from university soon and how he wants to go right back when he does. I tell her about my five-year break from school. She’s curious about my time at EA and the video game industry. I get her to tell me about life in Florida and living in the islands of the Carribean.

From our conversation, it seems she is a pleasant, well-spoken, and articulate person. I’ve had worse conversations on a plane before.

Pretty soon it’s time to land at Dallas-Fort Worth. As we de-plane, I see the lovely couple outside our arrival gate. I wish them a safe trip to Florida and they wish me well in New Orleans. I will never see those people again in my entire life. This is the nature of travel.

I make my way to my connecting flight’s gate and wait less then 40 minutes to board. The one hour flight to New Orleans goes without incident. The neat thing about the airport in New Orleans is that it’s surrounding by swampland. As we land, I see miles and miles of swamp. From the air it looks surreal. Different shades of green, marked by trees here and there.

We land and I get my luggage. I make arrangements to get to my hotel via a shuttle bus. I hop in and I’m off to downtown New Orleans.

I’ve made it. The next thing I do is…

Well, that’ll have to wait since I want to go to bed now…

TO BE CONTINUED….

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