Saturday, December 9, 2006

Buckle your seatbelts

It’s along way to Asia from San Francisco, and the movies on flight 837 seem to have been selected by someone we’ve offended in a past life. They are uniformly bad. And why is it that as soon as someone gets on an airplane he acts as if it’s inconceivable that someone else (who?, you may be wondering) might want to have the window shade up at midday? Talladega Nights is not enough reason to spend 10 hours in the dark if it’s not nighttime, folks!

The flight to Bangkok, our first destination, stops in Tokyo, where Shelli thinks she remembers that United’s Red Carpet Club used to offer showers to transiting passengers. In the old days, when they seemed to want to make their customers happy, they gave you a card to let you know about the available amenities. This was both good, for obvious reasons, and bad, because if everyone knew you could take a refreshing shower between your just landed 10 hour flight and your upcoming 7 hour flight then everyone wanted to do just that, and so you rarely got to take advantage of it, since the wait for showers was several hours long.

So United’s attempt to keep this a clean little secret between themselves and those passengers who go searching for it turns out to be a good thing overall, since there are in fact free, lovely shower rooms available for the asking, and we asked. With the little packet of shampoo and soap and body lotion, you are sent to what looks like the bathroom of a good hotel, there to steam for as long as you like. A hair dryer and fresh towels are provided. Who says United doesn’t love you anymore?

No beds by the hour however, and 3 hours later we’re off again, exhausted but clean. Even those of us who can’t sleep on planes drop off almost as soon as the wheels leave the tarmac. Seven hours later we land at the brand new Suvarnabhumi airport where dozens of jetways stand unused while our 747’s passengers are transferred into buses and driven off to an inadequate immigration hall. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it works. The control freak in Shelli, who for the first time has let someone else make the arrangements, has been concerned about how it will go, but we are met by Wall (pronounced Wow as far as we can tell) and transferred to the hotel where they seem to expect us, upgrade us to a room on the 26th floor with a balcony overlooking the Chao Praya River, and wish us good night.

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