blarg?

I was in Tsukiji and Akihabara yesterday, and I found the future. One possible future, at any rate. I didn’t find it where I expected to, so I’m going to let it rattle around in my head for a few days before I tell you about it.

I’m typing this on the Shinkansen, the bullet train, on the way to Kyoto and Nara. We just passed the Pokari Sweat factory, and whenever I see that name, I imagine a room full of knockoff pokemon shackled to treadmills, tubes leading from the bags strapped under their citrusy armpits into a huge, vaguely stalinist bottling machine. There are fields, Neo. Endless fields.

On my first morning here, I rummaged through my luggage and discovered two things:

  • A note saying our luggage had been searched by the Department of Homeland Security, and
  • No socks.

One of two things may have happened here. The first is mere absentmindedness and coincidence, and the second is that the American national security establishment has stolen my socks.

I’ll let you guess which way I’m going to  tell that story. Fortunately my underwear was not deemed to be a threat, and none of you will be subjected to a rant about Hoye stomping Tokyo commando-style. That doesn’t mean I’ll spare you the mental image, of course, because that’s how I roll. Don’t worry, ma’am, I’m from the internets.

It occurs to me that perhaps my socks were not confiscated, but commandeered, playing some shadowy but crucial role in the war on terror that the world can never be allowed to know.

We’ve just taken off on the second leg of our trip, the 10 hour flight to Narita International, which I have accidentally called “Naruto International” at least twice so far. We’ll be landing at about two thirty in the afternoon, and I’ll have had two hours sleep in the last forty at that point, so it should be good times.

My very brief stay in San Francisco’s airport was a flurry of marginal weirdness – I didn”t work in the time difference between there and YYZ, so we only ended up there for about 45 minutes. Snack, bathroom, go. Is there a law that says that airports need to be completely, pervasively uninteresting? I suspect yes.

I noted, for future how-not-to reference, how many times the voice on the PA asked people to help them “identify suspicious behavior” and “be on the lookout”. Be on the lookout for what, exactly? If I’m anywhere close to being an “average” traveler, then the average traveler spends about five hours a year in airports. What’s normal, in an airport? I have no idea, and I bet that not one in a thousand people hearing that message does. If there were some widely accepted convention that all villains were required to dress and act like villains, have vaguely abrasive, foreign and somehow anonymous accents, aquiline features and waxed moustaches this might all make some sense but, yo, it ain’t like that.

Though, I’ve got to tell you, the idea of seeing Bomb Voyage led past muttering “Zut! Foil-ed again!” while I’m waiting to board has a certain appeal.

We had a bit of an awkward start this morning, when our cab driver got lost on the way to the airport. Lost in several tiny little increments, it’s worth mentioning – I could see the airport from where we ended up, so strictly speaking we weren’t actually lost, but we did end up on the roof of the employee parking facility somehow. You might ask yourself what sort of cab driver would struggle to locate the major local airport, but due to our pressing schedule we were unable to fully investigate these entirely reasonable questions.

We’re in the air now, traveling from Toronto to San Francisco. The turbulence is a little exciting, but even more exciting are the announcements coming over the intercom: not just “we are experiencing some turbulence, please remain in your seats”, but the somewhat more dramatic “It is not safe to be standing right now. Turbulence can throw you into the air and in any direction, so it is safer for all of us if you remain seated.” Is this sort of thing typical for United? I don’t have a lot of experience with this, I couldn’t tell you.

This has been my first run-in with the Department of Homeland Security, and… let me tell you. Oh, indeed, let me tell you. I’m carrying my usual day to day bag, mercifully empty of some of the more… exciting, possibly, stuff I usually have with me, but let’s play What’s In Your Bag anyway.

One SLR camera, one P+S. Flash, extra 50mm lens. Nokia n800 and e51, shared power adapter and bluetooth keyboard. Gorillapod tripod, cheap little metal tripod, extra SD cards, usb cables. GPS widget. A DS and a GBMicro, plus games, those in Altoids tins. And to round it off, a wirebound notebook and some pens.

Yes that is my bag, baby.

Weighs less than you’d think, and has a reasonable chance at keeping us entertained for the next 24 hours or so.

So I put all of that into the X-Ray machine, along with my jacket, hiking boots, and belt, it all trundles through, the staff giving me the eye the entire time, and when we get to the other side, they decide that they need to take a good hard look at my wife.

Who’s carrying a purse, with a wallet in it. I assume that it’s a random search, but the idea that she’s on a watch list somewhere is amusing enough; my wife is about as dangerous and threatening as a sleeping kitten. I mean, she hates me for my freedom, sure, but that’s only because I occasionally come home mildly inebriated after exercising it. But then, awesome, they decide they need to turn her bag inside out and pat her down.

Yo, what?

The DHS apparently teaches this wierd patting-down technique that involves the backs of the agent’s white-gloved fingers being pressed against various parts of you while you stand there looking kind of perplexed. It’s pretty clearly optimized for avoiding bad-touch-related lawsuits and putting a check box in every square on the training form rather than, say, actually finding something concealed. I don’t see a good reason for meticulously patting down the bare arms of a person in a t-shirt, for example, but you’ve got to mark off that you checked their arms, so here we go.

There’s a lot of stuff here that doesn’t make a ton of sense. But we have to do something, or at least be seen to be doing something, and this is, well, it’s something. So we’d better keep doing it, right?

Right.

It’s midnight, here. In three and a half hours I’ll wake up, and six hours after that I’ll be in San Francisco for a three hour layover.

Six hours later,  and I’ll have just passed the halfway mark over the pacific on my way to Narita International. Oddly, this is the first time I’ve travelled by air with my wife; let’s see how that plays out, shall we?

I will, of course, keep you abreast of developments. Stay in touch, internets.

If God had meant for man to fly, I always say, He would have given him metallurgy, aerodynamics, radio electronics, mechanical engineering, climatology and petroleum chemistry.

So, yo, I’m going to Japan and Hong Kong in a few days.

Anybody want anything?

The Spores “Yum Yum” might be the sexiest song I’ve heard since Massive Attack’s “Dissolved Girl“. However, you may inform me of competing candidates in the comments.

A conversation from around the house:

M – “Can I start calling you ‘bride of lolwut’?”

A – “What?”

M – “Can I start calling you ‘bride of lolwut’?”

A – “What does that mean?”

M – “Bride, and then lolwut. Bride of lolwut.”

A – “What is lolwut?”

M – “You know, lol. And then wut.”

A – “I have a knife.”

M – “So, no lolwut?”

A – “It’s not a sharp knife, either. It’s a bread knife.”