Monday, December 29, 2008

The Way to Taipei

As I approached the security check line at SeaTac, someone tapped me on the back. An Asian man asked me if I was on the flight leaving from gate S11 to Taipei and if I would make sure his wife and young son, who both knew very limited English, made it there. I happily obliged, feeling a bit honored. Their names were Jessica and Danny. They are Vietnamese and live in Mill Creek.

We chatted down the escalators, on the tram, and into the international terminal, and arrived at our gate plenty early. Like I'm sure I did when I was five, Danny ran straight for the windows and stuck his forehead against the glass, admiring the impressive airplanes and speculating which one was his. I found an empty seat and devoured the pizza mom had sent with me. Before long Danny began running back and forth in my field of vision waving his arms and making noises. I took these subtle actions as a signal that he wanted to play. He showed me his toys, we wrestled, I laughed, he screamed, and his mom tried to keep us from disturbing the others. She had told me previously how her husband worked for Boeing and now she described how he'd missed a month of work, pumping her fist in the air and saying something which I only understood as "ashtray." After a bit, I remembered "Oh yeaahhhh, on strike."

The plane began boarding and Danny and I said our goodbyes. They choose to actually respond to the call for rows 30-65 to board while I stubbornly stayed seated. Rather than standing in that sluggish line, I opted to save my energy for the 13 hours of sitting ahead. When the line died down, I boarded. With everyone already seated, I felt sooooo darn clever making my way through that wonderfully clear aisle toward the back of the plane. Row 10, 20, 30 – hey, there's Jessica and Danny back there – 40 – whoa, I must be sitting near them – 50, 1, 2, 3 – No way. Yes way. Out of this 777's 316 seats, Danny's and mine were next to one another. I was probably more excited than he was.

The plane ride went smoothly, Danny and I played some more, the food was okay, and the flight attendants were young and beautiful. I slipped my shoes off and took advantage of the complimentary slippers in my seatback pocket. Danny asked his mom to help him do the same. I asked for a blindfold, and Danny wanted one too. I watched a highlight reel of the Beijing Olympics on my private screen, and…

In addition to the coincidence of being asked to see Danny and Jessica to the gate and then sitting right next to them on the flight (seeing them the 6,248 miles to Taipei), under LEO (July 23 to Aug. 22) of the "Your Stars" section of the free copy of Taiwan News I'd received, it read "Today, plan out a work schedule for yourself. Tackle practical matters. Make a to-do list that you really want to accomplish." That's, of course, precisely what I did Friday, it being my last day home before a long trip.

ALSO, Taiwan News reported that Friday was the birthday of Carlton Fisk, a famous catcher who played some of his career for the White Sox, and I played catcher for the White Sox in Little League. Okay, okay, I know; now I'm just getting ridiculous.

When we got off the plane at the swanky Taipei airport, I stopped in at the video game arcade, the book store, and the Green Relaxing Zone, while Jessica and Danny went searching for a McDonalds. They never found one. But later I found my new Vietnamese friends, once again, waiting for a flight to Ho Chi Minh City at the very same gate from which my flight to Bangkok would depart just after theirs.