Sunday, May 02, 2010

697 The Long and Winding Road

697 The Long and Winding Road.

As you read this, we are on our way from the US to Taiwan for a month's exploration. And the preparations have seemed endless, as do the new requirements for getting on and off and aircraft, or in this case, at least three aircraft. There's a puddle jumper from central Pennsylvania to Washington, a second from DC to Tokyo and a third from Tokyo to Taipei. On paper, counting layovers, the trip is about 30 hours. That's if everything works perfectly.

Nothing works perfectly. As far as is known, we're not on any "watch lists," we are carrying nothing the Transportation Safety Administration rules ban and our passports are current and in order. The weather projections are for a more or less clear sky along the whole route. But nothing works perfectly.

A regular aphorism on these pages says that when the "game is in the board room, it can't be won on the field." And right now, United, our carrier, and Continental are more focused on their so-called merger than they are in getting people from "here" to "there." (So-called merger because it's really an acquisition -- as are most so-called mergers.)

People interested in this trip ask "why don't you fly from New York?" The travel agent talked us out of it. First, there's the six hour drive to JFK. Then, coming back, it's either a six hour drive after a 30 hour flight or a stay in a New York area motel and THEN the drive back. More expensive. Nominally, less convenient.

Scoping out the Mount Tantamount Airport a few days before takeoff, we found... nothing. It was about eight in the evening on a Friday. No one in the building. No ticket window or baggage claim or snack bar open. But at least we got the lay of the land ... learned how to get an "e-ticket," and how to weigh baggage on an "official" scale. This probably is more accurate than standing on the bathroom scale at home, then standing on it while holding a suitcase.

Even earlier, we over-cautiously called and asked where we'd go through customs. The instant answer (didn't know there was such a thing as an instant answer in air travel, did you?) was "not here." Very helpful. So at this point we don't know whether the gifts we're carrying for relatives amounts to smuggling or whether we can just waltz through the gates with them. (There may be a huge underground in smuggled fish oil, vitamin pills and chocolate candy, you never know.)

The TSA has more rules and regulations and do's and don'ts than any mere mortal can count. Let's hope we've guessed right.

If you'd like to keep up with our "adventures," we are posting short items on the website of the Centre Daily Times newspaper. Here is the long and winding link. Caution: this is not the world's fastest loading website.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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