Where is panda…!? In a happy, peaceful panda place!!
This morning started out in typical Japanese fashion. See, I first received the phone call I talked about in the last post on Thursday night. Thus Friday, I went in to work to try and arrange vacation time and was informed that I should leave sooner, rather than later, as there was some “presentation” in a week and a half(I use the term lightly, as in actuality, I will just be sitting behind a desk with my co-worker listening to repetitive speeches all day, this despite the fact that a) we don’t even grade them and b) we actually will know all the speeches before hand, as we have spent the last week helping them write them) I simply had to attend, lest the sky fall down and the world come crashing to bits all around us. This imposed a very stressful time limit on my journey, barely enough time to book it to Panama and back, when you consider that the journey includes three transfers and a travel time (each way) of around 30+ hours. Of course, upon learning this news, I thought it would be a good idea to leave on saturday, or even friday, if I could get a ticket.
This stupid stamp cost 2700 yen…!
Of course, providence willing, Japan will find some way of screwing up the best laid plans of mice, men and pandas, and in this case, the wonderous beauracracy which can always be counted on to fuck something up, willingly obliged.
See, in order to leave this country while you have a visa, you need a sort of stamp referred to as a “re-entry permit” (再入国許可 – sainyuukoku kyoka), and of course, this pointless bit of ink, much in the same vein as the mandatory car inspections (shakken) or countless battery of x-rays, CAT scans and mountain of oddly colored pills one incurs whenever they visit the doctor for a sore throat, is just another way of the lurching, self-perpetuating zombie of a government to provide for the unsustainable welfare state by charging you outrageous amounts of money for things that your average sane person clearly would classify as superflous, unneccessary, or, and pardon my french, a load of crap.
It gets better, though, since – and here’s the beautiful part – the immigration office where you need to go to get said stamp is only open every day from 9 fucking AM to 10 fucking 30 AM. Yes, that’s right, heaven forbid these fuckers should work too hard, as 1.5 hours a day is already this close to putting them in an early grave.
So of course, as I am informed of my need for immediate departure at 10:15 am friday morning, and of course since the immigration office is closed saturday, sunday and oh, of course – monday, since it’s fucking “physical exercise day” (which apparently merits its own national holiday here), that means that the earliest I could get my damn re-entry stamp would be tuesday morning, which was sort of a problem since my flight left Osaka (a good 4 hour train ride away) at 3:30 in the afternoon, which really sort of leaves no room for error whatsoever.
Anyway, through a miracle of panda go-get’em-ness, a sly slip of a hefty amount of yen into a daredevil taxicab driver’s hand and a whole lot of gross sweatiness, I managed to not only bitch slap my way through the immigration procedure in 10 minutes (it normally takes 45 minutes), but make my train down to Osaka and catch the flight out at the last minute.
Which brings us to the current juncture, which is to say, I’m sitting in the middle of Vancouver International awaiting my transfer to America (from which other transfers will subsequently follow).
Exhausted and bleary eyed, more as a direct consequence of the fact that the woman in front of me on the plane kept her overhead light on THE ENTIRE FLIGHT than as of the fact that my body has no idea whatsoever what time it is (it’s like 10am tuesday, which is weird since I left at uhhh… 3:30 pm… errr… tuesday…), I have nevertheless come to several mini revelations in the last few minutes.
My sexy pandah-boots. I am turning into a J-boy…
The first is that one should never, ever wear boots with multiple strappy buckles when going on long plane rides that require multiple passes through immigrations and customs. I hate being searched, and it’s the worst when they make you take your boots off three or four times before you finally make it on the plane. My manly panda-boots look stylish, man, but they take forever and a day to put on/take off and i swear, I’ve spent a significant portion of my day dealing with my footwear – and it’s only 11 in the morning…!
As a corollary of the above, you should probably not wear toe socks when going on a long trip, as the scary looking customs women will giggle at you when you have to walk through the metal detector sans shoes, but with your cute uniqlo multi-colored striped toe socks drawing the eyes of all present.
As a secondary corollary of the above – customs/immigrations in Japan is staffed entirely by incredibly short, cute girls whom one would gladly let search them. I had forgotten, however, that customs in the US is staffed by automatic weapon wielding brutes who actually get more and more asshole-ish the deeper into the maze of plexiglass and steel people barriers you go. Fuckers, all of them. Power hungry fuckers.
What’s this yummahness!? Read on to find out!
The second, and much more happy revelation is the fact that Air Canada actually rocks. Which is ironic, since usually people only associate one or two adjectives with the word “Canada” and “rocks” is not one of them (“maple-y”, however, is). Why does Air Canada rock? Well you see, they let us lovely mortal peons use their (cue gigglefarts) “maple leaf lounges” if we’re traveling on a regular fare y-class ticket (economy international man). Which explains why I am sitting here in the middle of all this swanky faux wood paneling and free coffee and bagels (see below) whilst business men and rich first class fools shout into their cell phones all around me pretending to do important rich people business (invariably using the words “merger”, “aquisition” or “arbitrage” every other sentence) while sneaking drooling envious looks at mah sexah computer. Yes, silly name, maple leaf lounge, but hella nice I’ve never felt so… snobby before…!
Finally, not really a revelation, but I am rediscovering it all overagain nonetheless. Cream cheese and strawberry jam bagels (REAL BAGELS…! praise providence…!!) are one of the most delectable inventions known to man. Mmm… it’s been more than a year since I’ve had a proper bagel. And just wait till I stop in the states and get a REAL real bagel! *cue pandadrool*
Okay, flighttime is almost here. Off to a long slog through to Chicago.