Arrival in Shanghai

I made it.

The flight was a surreal experience. The Ambien I took to try to reorient myself through sleep to a twelve-hour time differential only gave me about
4 hours’ restless sleep, and produced a strange sense of time compression. There are large chunks of the flight I simply can’t account for. Perhaps it’s just as well.

I’m now holed up in the airport bar waiting for the rest of my travel companions to arrive. Got about 2 hours to wait.

Immigration and customs was efficient, quick, and friendly — more so than my recollection of US customs when returning home. Not exactly warm, mind you, but pleasant and businesslike,  and not off-putting.

The weather is appalling right now — overcast and rainy, as it’s forecast to be for much of the next week. And the humidity, and general unaggressiveness of the air conditioning, conspire to produce an overall sogginess that, atop 24 hours of travel grunge, has me longing for hotel and shower.

For now,  this half-pint will have to do, as I hurry up and wait.


On My Way to China


2100Z, 33,000 ft, somewhere over the Canadian North.

A short hop to Atlanta, a quick stop at Customs for one more Form 4457, and yet another Starbucks; now I’ve boarded a Boeing 777 for what I hope will be the longest flight I ever have to take.

I expect to arrive in Shanghai at around 2:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, 16 hours and a day after takeoff. I fully expect also to learn what hammered sh*t looks like with my first glance in a Chinese-restroom mirror.

Our flight path takes us north-northwest from Atlanta back over Louisville, then onward to skirt Chicago to the west. From there we overfly Ontario and the western edge of Hudson Bay, going feet-dry again over the Northwest Territories. From there it looks like a whole lot of nothing below us as we cross the Far North of Canada and the roof of the planet over Siberia on our way to Chinese airspace.

I really wish either my seat-back moving-map display were better, or I’d paid more attention in geography class. But what I’d thought of as a trans-Pacific flight is really a trans-Arctic, if not polar, route. Makes sense, because the shortest distance between two points on a globe is a segment of a great circle. What’s that, you ask? Mark the route on the globe’s surface and start sawing along the line. If you cut through the globe’s center, then the route is a great circle.

Deploying my smart phone to write this provided a “duh” moment, as I pondered the absence of wi-fi on this flight.  Well, Marconi, that’s because the wi-fi in the cabin can only distribute an internet feed from somewhere else, and a glance at my map display shows nothing but Arctic waste below. Evidently there’s no satellite feed, either, our I’m confidently Delta would have figured out how to monetize that, too.

So by the time you read this I’ll already be on the ground in Shanghai, no doubt wondering where the hotel van is; our what I did to deserve the customs cavity search. Wish me luck.

Sleep? Noise and movement hath murdered sleep. I very much want to move my bio-clock toward Shanghai time, where it’s currently around 4 a.m., but I’ll have to somehow convince my pineal gland it isn’t really 4 p.m. in Louisville. I have Ambien, but I’m not sure I want to take that until the rest of the passengers have settled down a bit.

I’ve already watched “The Guard”, and I have the first season of “Breaking Bad”, three Kindle books, and “Bridesmaids” teed up on the wife’s iPad (thank you, dear). I’ve even found time to aid a stricken passenger when the call came for “a doctor onboard”. But sleep is what I really want.

Stay tuned; I’ll let you know how it worked out.