Day Zero – Getting There

The first day of the trip was really more like 36 hours. It began on Friday evening when Misou left work—striking a match and throwing it behind her, the IMF building on 19th St. in downtown Washington, D.C., was engulfed in flames.

After a quick last supper with her family in Sterling, VA, her sister, Sylvie, and Sylvie’s boyfriend, Matt (note these names, they’ll be coming up a lot once we are in Saigon), drove Misou to Dulles airport to pick up a rental car.

Since our flight was out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 6:10 am, we had to be there at around 4, which meant we had to leave by 2:30 am at the latest. Since we didn’t want to force anyone to drive us the airport at that ungodly hour (well, we did, but Sylvie dropped out), we rented a car down by Misou’s house, and she drove it up to my place in Frederick. What should have been a very simple process, though, was dragged out by the Alamo rental agent’s refusal to take a debit card. Though she had arrived at 8:30, Misou did not get out of Dulles until 10—after Matt graciously used his credit card to cover the car for us.

Misou came up to my place to say good-bye to my parents , sister, brother-in-law, and nieces, and we did the last of our packing. After a brief and futile attempt to take a nap, we said farewell to my parents and hit the road in our rented Ford Focus, of which Matt was supposed to be the sole driver.

Everything went swimmingly for the next couple of hours. We turned in the car, got checked in at the Continental desk, checked our heavy bags, and hustled down to gate D7 to await the first leg of the journey: a one-hour flight to Newark. Then strategy struck: the Greene Turtle at BWI was not open, and it would not be open until 5 am.

I suffered the fifteen minute wait. You see, I’m a world-class sissy when it comes to flying, and the one way I have devised to combat my bedwetting fear of takeoffs is to drink two pints right before my flight. I’ve found that 32 oz. of most beers, when downed as fast as esophagically possible, leave me not caring whether or not the plane ditches in the ocean.

Finally, 5 am rolls around, and the iron curtains of the Greene Turtle roll up. I am eager to go into this place, which under any other conditions I would not be caught dead in. We pull up two stools at the bar and wait to order. The bartender gives us two breakfasts menus, but I go with my old standby—a Stella Artois.

“We don’t sell alcohol before six am,” she says, citing some barbaric Maryland legislation. What, then, is the point of having a Greene Turtle that opens at 5? I want to ask.

“We should have flown out of Dulles,” I say to Misou. “At least Virginia has humane laws regarding early morning self-medication.”

Brandon settling for decaf coffee instead of a Stella Artois

When we move back to our gate, we’re surprised to find that the plane is not there yet. Taking a closer look out the window, however, we see that at the end of the Jetway is a set of stairs leading down to the tarmac. Our ride, it seems, is a minuscule prop plan… What are we, the Wright Brothers?

Our teeny, tiny plane

By the time we reach Newark, we are both exhausted. Misou rested her eyes a bit in the first plane, but neither of us really slept. We had some time to kill before the next flight, and so we spent an hour or so wandering around the food court in our terminal trying to decide which of the awful options we were willing to accept. Apparently, we had egg sandwiches from a place called Smash Burger. But I only know this because we have a receipt as evidence. I was practically hallucinating with sleep deprivation, and Misou’s and my conversation sounded like an Ionesco play.

We camped out by an electronics charging station, and ended up spreading out there. Just before tumbling into the inky oblivion of airport sleep, I set the alarm on my phone so that we would get up in time to board. I easily slept through this alarm. And though Misou heard it, she woke up a little confused. She thought we were leaving from gate 128, which was straight ahead and still not boarding—however, we were in fact meant to go to 138. By sheer luck, I woke up about ten minutes into boarding, peeked around the corner, and then—suddenly very awake again—grabbed Misou so we could haul ass for our plane.

The next fourteen hours were a blur of bad imitations of Japanese food (after flying Air France many times, being on Continental was like being in a North Korean prison), last summer’s blockbusters, and repeats of Big Bang Theory. I was pleased to sleep through the vast majority of it (thanks, Lorazepam!).

We were served 3 meals. The first one we documented and were excited to try. Awful, awful! We didn't bother to take pics of the second two.

At last, we landed at 1:45 local time at Narita Airport in Tokyo.

Misou’s post script:

The hours waiting at Newark airport was excruciating! We were in a daze, heavy with sleepytired-ness. We were probably the slowest moving people at the airport.

To Matt & Sylvie: don’t worry about being bored on the plane, there are hundreds of movies & TV shows, including new releases for you to choose from. I had forgotten that each seat has a TV in front of it (it’s been a while since I’ve flown internationally).

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