It was another Father's Day departure for me on my annual visit to the King's Cup tournament in Bangkok. I knew the traffic and the airport wouldn't be busy, so I left the house an hour later than usual, after breakfast in bed served by my sons, and a quiet couple of hours of making sure that the house was in order for my absence. Transferring downloaded apps and videos onto Jamie's iPod and laptop, for instance.
The cab driver was a taciturn one for a change, and took an unusual route down Parliament St to the Gardiner Expwy, but it didn't slow us down too much; the check-in process at Air Canada was smooth but left me wondering how next year's frequent flyer class changes will affect my travel experience. (Air Canada is switching from three classes to five, and increasing by 40% the number of miles required to earn most of my favourite perks, including StarAlliance Gold status.)
At international security, they now have three initial lanes, which at this time of day merged into two actual processing lanes. The three were labelled NEXUS, Priority (Air Canada Elite, Super Elite, AmEx, etc.) and presumably everyone else. There was no waiting at the NEXUS lane, and two passengers at Priority.
I had only 30 minutes at the Maple Leaf Lounge, because of the late departure. I had my customary beef/mushroom ravioli with cream sauce and chili flakes. They seemed to have expanded their menu slightly, or maybe it was just the time of day. In addition to soups and salad, they also had some sort of fruit pastry, and a wider range of sweet snacks.
I went to the gate at an hour before departure, and found the gate staff starting to process upgrade requests. I asked the wrong one, and she barked at me to sit down until my name was called. It wasn't, so I've got 13 hours ahead of me in economy, but at least it's Air Canada, with on-demand video and, more importantly, power for my MacBook Pro and iPhone.
I spend the time until takeoff wishing my dad a happy Father's Day, talking to my mom, helping Jamie with his homework, and chatting on Facebook with Kristen. We push back from the gate about 15 minutes late, after a last-minute change to our flight plan. Unlike two weeks ago, on this departure, flight AC 001 manages to successfully take off without losing an engine, having to dump fuel or making an emergency landing. It's possible that earlier problem is part of the reason today's flight was full though; I had a friend who was on that flight who said it took days for him to get rebooked.
I try watching John Carter for a bit, but with or without the sound, I find it unwatchable. I switch randomly to Act of Valour, and am rewarded 10 minutes into the film with a good Scrabble scene! They really ought to be mentioned in movie ratings. "Warning: This film may not contain scenes of Scrabble." "Warning: This film contains offensive language not found in OSPD4."
Two CIA Scrabble players are about 2/3 of the way through a game on a current deluxe Hasbro board. The game is apparently being played in Costa Rica, but it is unclear which rules are in effect. I assume NASPA, because of the board brand, and the nationality of the players; it is possible that the players were on a NASPA-sanctioned overseas tour tournament. If so, there are several irregularities. While there is no other equipment visible, the players are playing on a deprecated board (wrong premium square colours), tiles (can be brailled), and racks (cannot count tiles). No clock is being used. No certified official is present, though it is possible that one of the players is certified, or that they have arranged for a director to be nearby or on call.
Player A plays 13d DUMB from an existing D, gets confused by the dark blue double-letter score as a double-word, and misscores the play as 18 points instead of 11 points. Player B does not catch his error, because she is excited about what DUMB has just set up. (There is no evidence that she has intentionally accepted an incorrect score.) She plays 13c ADUMBRATING through DUMB and an existing T, but completely misscores it, 38 instead of 54 for the rare 11-tile double-double. Player A challenges, and Player B invites him to look it up in a copy of the SCRABBLE Word Building Book, an unsanctioned word reference.
I'm frustrated by the bad scoring, by the ominous foreboding that their game is going to be violently interrupted before they can recount, and by the fact that every time I try to pause the video to see the board clearly, the on-screen controls am important part of the board. Here's what I've made out so far; I'll have to find a copy of the film later on to fill the rest in. One nagging question, given the H that Player B kept, is whether or not in her haste to play the double-double, she missed the possibility of the bingo HIRAGANA.
|= . . ' ? . . = . . . ' . . =| |. - . . ? " . . . C . . . - .| |. . - ? ? ? ? ? L E . . A . .| |' . . - . . . S O L V E D . '| |. . . ? ? ? . . V . - . U . .| |. " . ? . " . . E " . . M " .| |. ? ? ? . . ' . L . . . B . .| |= ? . ' . ? A N E . . ' R . =| |. ? ? ? ? ? ' . S . . . A . .| |. ? . O . ? . . S A I N T " .| |. . . T - R . . . . - . I . .| |' . . E . T . ' . . Y - N . '| |. . - . . E ' . ? ? ? . G . .| |. - . . . ? ? ? ? " ? . . - .| |= . . ? ? ? . = ? ? ? ' . . =|
At this point, some kibitzers, apparently disturbed by the haphazard scoring, interrupt the game, and in a serious violation of the NASPA Code of Conduct, not only kill Player A, render Player B unconscious, and abduct her from the scene, but disturb the tiles on the board. No director appears to intervene, which may render a future investigation problematic, as without additional witnesses, it might degenerate quickly into a "he said, she said" situation. If the game being played was part of a sanctioned event, and it is not clear to me why else it would feature so prominently in a big budget movie, then the director would likely face a one-grade demotion in certification standing by the NASPA Club/Diector Committee.
Fortunately, higher officials take charge of the situation, sending in a team of Navy SEALs to rescue Player B from the kibitzers. In this unusual situation, it's hard to say how the interrupted game ought to be handled. At the point where the kibitzers killed Player A, Rule V.J. (Forfeits and Byes), clause 2, ought to have been applied, as the game could not be resumed at a later point. It seems unlikely that Player A would intentionally have gotten himself killed to assure a prize for another player, so clause 3 does not apply, and no Incident Report needs to be filed against Player A. An alternate resolution would be to assign both players +50 byes for the round, perhaps on the grounds that both players left the playing area in the middle of a game without the permission of an official. In situations where the rules are ambiguous, I would normally explain and propose a ruling and ensure that both players understand and agree with it; this is unfortunately not possible in this particular situation.
Watched a forgettable movie called Warrior, about a high-stakes single-elimination MMA competition, featuring Jennifer Morrison (whose departure from House marked a shark jump moment) as a pretty face to cut to whenever the cameras would otherwise show an interesting martial arts technique. Wrote about 100 lines of Perl code for TSH while distracted by movie; not very good coding performance.
Had some instant ramen noodles and a sandwich, then slept through The Smurfs, caught enough scenes from it that I can more knowledgeably discuss it with Liam. Very sleepy, looking for a comfort film now, going to try The Usual Suspects. Who was Kaiser Sose again? Less than five hours left on the flight, wondering what it will be like to do this flight with kids. Catching up on email with GMail Offline.
Slept even more solidly through 21 Jump Street, about which all I can remember is an overall impression of puerility. Woke up to have some okayu for breakfast (at about 2:00 A.M. ET), feel not too terribly tired. Watching Le Maitre du Grill, an episode about how to make your own maple and beer smoked turkey pastrami, and smoked jerk ribs.
Arrived more or less on time at NRT, but security was unusually congested, taking about 10 minutes rather than the usual two or three. Then as I got to the ANA Lounge at Terminal 1 Satellite 4, I realized that my departure gate was in Satellite 5, at the other end of a series of long people movers through an underground tunnel. The Satellite 5 Lounge has a much nicer view though, as for unknown reasons they have had to combine the ANA member-only first-class suite lounge with the regular ANA lounge that they open up to StarAlliance partners. The first-class suites need to have a good view of the tarmac, and are therefore on the top (4th) floor, unlike the regular T1S4 SA lounge, which is on the 2nd floor and shut off from daylight.
Arriving then at the lounge at 16:45, 65 minutes before departure, I was able to squeeze into 35 busy minutes: a shower, some sushi, some tanuki soba, a massage, some more sushi, and then a quick visit to a toy store to see what's available at the airport in case I later experience shopping fail.
My second flight, from NRT-BKK is operated by ANA for a change, rather than Thai Air. This means that the priority passengers line up in two neat rows, as though they were boarding a Tokyo subway, and then they all get to board before the first regular passenger does. I counted on the way to my seat nine ANA staff bowing at me, welcoming me aboard, and thanking me for my custom. To be fair, a Thai flight would have involved an equivalent amount of wai-ing, but I'm more comfortable with appropriate responses in Japanese culture. For a middle-aged man like me, that would be either a reflexive twitch of a nod, or just brusquely walking by. Actually, I'm not so comfortable with what's socially expected of me, having been raised by a Japanese mother from another century, and being at a point in my career as a dad where I am having to inculcate my own sons. I catch myself asking the flight attendant in polite language if I may use the toilet before the flight departs, before I realize I've been way too polite. The flight attendant is unflappable though, and just smiles and replies politely to set me at ease.
I sleep for at least four of the six scheduled hours of the flight, along with part of the extra hour added on by runway construction at BKK. It helped that I had two seats to myself. ANA offers seatback video, but weirdly, only two channels: an interactive flight map, and a short program of Japanese news. The coolest feature of the plane is probably the live external video feed from the cockpit, which plays during takeoff and landing.
I text back and forth with Ravee as I proceed through immigration, baggage claim and customs, step out into the tropical soup that the Thai breathe instead of air, and have no trouble finding his car. Then it's off to get Amnuay and go to Thipsamai for the world's best pad thai. There is some concern as to whether or not they will be open. On the one hand, it's Bangkok, so good food should be available at all hours; on the other, it's 1:00 A.M. by the time we get there. As it turns out, it's not only open, it's almost full with people passing the time until the 1:45 (local time) start of the last Euro 2012 group match, between Spain and Croatia. The quarterfinals take place tomorrow (Tuesday), Thursday and Friday, so there are going to be a lot of tired Thai football fans this week.
The pad thai is as good as I remembered it from last years, and is the perfect way to reawaken my palate after a year of less satisfying food eaten away from Thailand. It strikes a perfect balance of tartness, heat, sweetness and umami, with an underlying harmonious complexity of flavour that I cannot put into words.
It's about 2:00 A.M. local time (3:00 P.M. ET) by the time I make it to the Baan Silom Soi 3 hotel, my home away from home for the next nine days. It's a small, quiet, independent boutique hotel in the Silom (central business district), with everything that I need for my stay: WiFi, A/C, a quiet, clean room; and within easy walking distance public transit and a small market. I Skype with the family back home, take a shower, and spend the rest of the night sleeping through movies, just as though I were still on a plane.