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notes from the mill brae. - Adam
notes from the mill brae.
I would really like to keep a daily diary of some sort of again, but this feels completely ridiculous. It wasn't particularly easy to keep up in my real LJ days, but now my brain truly has been rewired by twitter and facebook. At least the part that generates humorous quips and ostensibly-interesting thoughts suitable for Internet performance.

I've been back in the SF area for about five days now (though my perception of days through the jetlaggy haze and random sleep is questionable at best). The first night in SF, last Wednesday, was just after the Air China flight from Beijing, with a connection from LAX (with the power outage drama producing a surprisingly sub-hour delay!). I'd had an aisle seat on the their 747 but it was right near the emergency exit door and galley, so it was noisy and extremely drafty and cold, and the air was especially dry in general. At least, that's why I'm blaming the flight itself on the head cold that ensued, instead of any one of the, ahem, lovely fellow patrons in the cabin who were in no doubt perfect health. The three days and nights following I spent rolling around in a hotel bed in San Francisco trying to convince myself I was feeling better, despite feverish chills and an ear that had clearly never unblocked since Thursday morning.

At some level though, I really had no desire to return to China on Sunday, despite the obvious physical incapacity to do so anyway. I'd bought the PEK-LAX-SFO-LAX-PEK five-day round-trip two weeks prior mostly as a mileage run (a neurosis beyond the scope of this paragraph, by orders of magnitude), but also hoping to see friends and have a productive work meeting or two. Since instead I spent it doing nothing at all except tending to my stupid increasingly-fragile body (and being the crank who calls the cops on protesters outside his hotel), I was feeling the whole thing quite a waste anyway, especially to put up with the torture of another Air China 747.

So I simply cancelled my return Air China flight on Sunday. This was actually pretty liberating, the first time I'd ever called up an airline and basically saying: fuck you I'm going to walk up to a ticket counter of a better airline and fly them instead. They probably won't come through with that refund.

Generally I'm the "I am clearly too smart and well-bred to be racist" variety of white person, but seriously, Chinese culture is almost universally irritating. While I had visited Guangdong earlier this year and mostly enjoyed it (despite the police following us around on the metro), this was my first time actually sticking around and trying to communicate with Chinese other than trains (some of which are pretty interesting!). But I'd spent the previous six weeks in Japan, home to a culture that involves, if nothing else, being pathologically apologetic, not to mention taking the service industry ridiculously seriously. I'm quite sure visiting China from America would have been less culture shock than visiting China from Japan. So while I know, yes, I was in an aisle seat, you are a flight attendant, you really don't get to keep ramming your galley cart into me repeatedly. And when I ask for water while you're flirting with some pothead from San Diego, it's really not okay to point to the galley and tell me to get it myself.

But what seriously got me, in addition the head cold, which again I am doing my best to blame on Air China instead of any rational explanation like being run down and on a 747 with 300 humans teeming with microfauna from an to-me-unfamiliar cesspool, was that I couldn't know until a few days ahead of the flight that it was an 'Q' booking class, which means United will only give me 50% elite qualifying miles for. This is of course ridiculous and means I somehow completely failed at mileage running.

Obviously I am leaving out anger-inducing details about my short time in Beijing and Air China (eg the ridiculously awkward NRT-DLC-PEK flight) for some pathetic comic effect, but mostly because I'm getting tired of talking about it at this point. I'm already starting to sound overeager to justify what in the end are arbitrary decisions, so hey, maybe some other time. I will say simply that I was not in a mood to be open-minded about China, or their airline. I will go back next year, with an open mind and fewer expectations, and try to enjoy it. Right now, I still have work I need to check-in with frequently and actually keep things going, so while I am moving a lot, I wouldn't actually call it traveling. There is a certain baseline for places I can go, and it's largely those places where I know I won't spend 16 hours a day dealing with logistical and communication fiascos. (I am happy to do that while actually 'traveling'. Solving pointless self-created logistical problems *is* vacation for me!)

I've been in hanging out here at the Bayshore Hampton Inn for the last two nights. I'd already prepaid the reservation on Saturday night, in anticipation of an early flight to LAX to catch the Air China flight. And since San Francisco can't seem to afford nice things like trains that run at reasonable hours on weekends, it was easier to just stay down here next to the airport. Plus I love airport hotels. (I in fact had really wanted to stay at the Marriott with the rooms that overlook SFO RWY 28L/R, but somehow it keeps getting more expensive, and it's now up to 270$/night(!). For a hotel next to loud, angry jets all night long. When did sleeping next to airplanes become so expensively fashionable? Seriously, that's more expensive than a four-star hotel in downtown SF.)

Of course there is nothing to do down here except sleep, work, eat expensive food from the grubhub trough, and take pointless photos of airplanes that I'll never get around to posting. You can see why I like airport hotels. But somehow this hotel is also expensive tomorrow so I had hotwire find me a place in downtown SF, which it is occasionally clever at doing. We'll see how the Le Meridien is tomorrow. My flight on Tuesday is in the early afternoon, so no worries about taking BART. Right. So I'm flying to Incheon tomorrow.

After canceling the Air China return legs, I went to singaporeair.com and dug up the cheapest flight to Asia, about 700USD for full-fare one-way SFO-ICN, and since they're up-front about booking class, I know this mileage run *will actually work*. I've flown way more miles with Singapore this year than I have with United, and been extremely pleased with them. Their pricing is more transparent than any airline I've used, their website actually works (no hidden taxes!), their full-fare tickets are reasonably priced, and if you run into trouble, the staff at their field offices are real humans with real smiles and pretty much always actually fix things. (The biggest thing they've wronged me on is crediting my LAX-NRT flight in October to the wrong FF program account, but they've fairly successfully convinced me that was my fault. But convincing your customer that something impossible to fix was actually their own fault is also a sign of good customer service!)

Why return to Asia at all? Well, mostly because I like Asia and I'll take another week there any time, but mostly because I want the miles for Star Alliance Gold status (dooooouchebag) and because I already have a flight on the 16th for Tokyo to Los Angeles. I suppose I could cancel that flight, but. I've never been to Seoul before, so I'm looking forward to that. I'm told it's a lot like Tokyo and man if there's another Tokyo in the world I gotta go. (What should I do?)

This leaves me in Seoul but my flight leaves from Narita, and lo, when I went looking for that flight was I surprised. Guess what the cheapest Star Alliance carrier for ICN-NRT is? *United* will actually sell you this route, right on united.com, as connecting service for their LAX flight, for a suspiciously precise price of 300.00USD. Business models for North American airlines generally don't include seeking out Fifth Freedom routes these days so I'm always pretty surprised when I find them. And hey, I won't have to worry about United not crediting me miles.

I'm also going to spend a few days in Japan again before the 16th, because I love that Narita airport hotel so much, but I also miss apologizing to everyone I meet.
8 comments or Leave a comment
darquis From: darquis Date: December 5th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
oh hey, you're still alive!
a daily diary would be nice, but yeah, twitter effect. occasional long posts like this one are cool too. moar content is moar bettar, right?
kishenehn From: kishenehn Date: December 5th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Clearly, you still have an attention span that's long enough for LJ. :)

And even with all your travails, I'm still insanely jealous. It's been way too long since I've been to Asia.
bluepapercup From: bluepapercup Date: December 5th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
LOVELY to see you post.

I love the idea of you picking up journaling again. I would read and comment avidly.

I've found myself getting out of the habit and then consciously back into it. When I write longer pieces on a regular basis, I find my thoughts are more organized and I remember the errata of my days better, which pleases me. The facebook/twitter effect is present, but I am actively fighting it.

Speaking of, after these zirons run, perhaps I'll write about my weekend.
cellboy From: cellboy Date: December 6th, 2011 05:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Good that your posting. Had I known you were in town.... I live but 10 minutes from SFO!
henare From: henare Date: December 6th, 2011 06:42 am (UTC) (Link)

mileage runs--don't miss those

hope you're feeling better soon. i look forward to hearing about seoul--of all the places you've mentioned in this item seoul is the only one i'm remotely curious about.
octal From: octal Date: December 6th, 2011 10:49 am (UTC) (Link)
You know you can get Star Alliance Gold for like 7k miles/yr credited to Aegean, right?
sajith From: sajith Date: December 7th, 2011 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)
You sir, you're hereby encouraged to keep writing.
cityratbuddy From: cityratbuddy Date: December 8th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
What an awesome blog! I don't recall you writing anything this lengthy or full of character and wit before. Well done, sir. Keep on being you!
8 comments or Leave a comment