Escape From Tokyo (Immigration Queue)
After the security check at Narita, you go downstairs and hit the wall. Of people. That's a wall of people. There are lots and lots of people and they are so densely packed into the customs hall it's like they make a big wall. Of people. That you walk into. Yo, bang you head against the people wall, people! (No, actually, don't do that, they get upset, the people will get upset if you bang your head against them, it's just a metaphor, it's me being silly.)
They are maybe twelve long queues all the way to the back wall of the room and they curve around on themselves, tangling, braiding queue into queue. It's outrageously full. It's going to take forever. This is one fucked airport here at Terminal 1. Really crap flow. Not as bad as the new Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok, which is TOTAL crap, but this is still pretty substantial crap. How long have these people been here? E@L looks at the faces of people without hope, people lost in exhaustion. They are low on will. Low on morale. Children are crying to picked up again. Weary parents are sweating, shuffling from foot to foot, their backs aching. People are so bored they've given up reading and counting old country stamps in their passports and comparing the passport's age with pages used against each other! They have already worked out the next time they can enter Thailand without exceeding the visa restrictions.
Old people are losing control of their bladders. The room smells of ammonia and uric acid. Sporadic gunfire is heard in the distance, echoing through the hills. Smoke from smoldering fires is choking the far end of the room as people cook sushi on the embers. Oh my God, that couple are actually making love on the floor - people are watching, cheering, mothers try in vain to avert the eyes of their fascinated children but it's too late they have been contaminated and will later reenact the profane epiphany behind anonymous school shelter-sheds thus ensuring the long-term survival of the human race. One little girl even bends down and smacks the humping guy's arse! "Give it to her good mister," she says. Emergency services have been delayed, water won't arrive for several days due the organisational chaos. Will people die, how can the frail and unwell not succumb to circuumstances such as these? Oh no, it's really bad - isn't that Christine Amanapor taking inteviews over there?
Will E@L ever get to his plane on time?
Aha, what's this? E@L seizes the opportunity for a fast break. He like, has this cunning plan. He pulls out his ancient travel wallet and extracts a white card. Four letter are emblazoned across the top. He takes it by the edge and holds it up for all to see! Spotlight! Siren! Cheers and hurrahs burst out. There is hope after all! Can this man bring release to all, or is it just his good fortune to be an example to them of the power of all that is possible...
The awestruck crowd parts like Moses's hair on a windy day as E@L moves effortlessly through the
milling (yuck, what a word? but what else does a throng do?) milling throng towards the one empty counter at the opposite side of the room. E@L steps to the counter as his eager and supportive apostles flock behind him, hoping to observe what their own eyes what will be passed down in legend, nay in divinely inspired holy writ, as The Miracle Of The APEC Card.
A gaunt old man, the eternal gate-keeper of lore, appears as from nowhere out of the deep shadows of the office. He stands erect, holding a long gnarled stick in support, dressed in a wizard's dark contumely, his face in shadow. He slowly advances to the counter and, pulling one hand from the depths of his cloak, reverentially offers a silver platter for E@L to lay down his APEC card, completed immigration form, passport and boarding pass. The lights in the office dim further and the man, without backing away, dissolves back into the mysteries of the Japanese bureaucratic process. E@L shrugs and looks around as the crowd utters a communal cry of awe and anticipation... But almost instantly, a brilliant burst of light shatters the sacred moment, as on Easter Sunday morning on Gethsemane, the old man reappears clothed in shining white, his hair white and luminous like that of an angel, his smiling face a kabuki mask of respect and joy, while the office behind him is full of respectfully clapping Japanese immigration officials. E@L says "Ta, mate," and takes back his APEC card, passport, and boarding pass and all sound hushes (apart from the cries of Yes Yes, from the girl getting fucked back on the floor over there) while the crowd of petitioners behind him step back to give him room. The Japanese bow deeply from the waist while to E@L's left a stone-colored door marked "Staff Only" rolls away, revealing... the duty-free shopping mall, clear and bright, free for him to enter.
E@L waves a heartfelt farewell to his new cheering friends and supporters, pats one or two on the shoulders. A little touch of E@L in the night brings hope and courage, like the promise of victory, for these people who face a long and daunting quest ahead. He promises to remember them, but he must take this chance now for such miracles do not come every day and, waving encouragement and love, he makes his way through the door.
"Losers," mutters E@L under his breath as the faces on the other side, all those hopeful emigrants, are lost when the stone slowly grinds back into position...
Off to Gates 31-47, towards the Star Alliance Business Class Lounge there-in, down the escalator on Level 2. Beer and maki for breakfast...
He kisses the APEC card. "You little ripper," he says to it.
Speaking of Business Class lounges, Singapore Air must be reading this blog, because in response to his whingeing of a few weeks ago about the Singapore First Class Lounge being crap (or identical to the BCL), he has been kicked out!
Yep, even Gold or PPS Club members with Business Class tickets have to remain in the BCL nowadays - even though this change is not detailed on the webite. Since September 1 it seems, ironically the date of that post!. Fucking bastards. The PPS Club membership now offer diddley-squat advantages over just common or garden Gold Membership.
Fuck, what's the point of Elitism?
OTHER MONKEYS SAID
Look at the bright side-it rained like all get out last night. Would have made for a soggy time in Roppongi.
Ah immigration at Narita! When the S.O. and I travel together, she usually is through in 5 minutes because of the plethora of Japanese lines and while I sit in the 30+ minute Gaijin line. With empty counters galore.
I think they do it to make sure we Gaijin are put in our place from the start.
There was no-one at the APEC counter on the way in, so I had to do the queue - it was surprisingly short that time though, so no big problems. But I have waited over 45mins on several occasions.
This APEC card works at HK as well, where the foreigner queue can be a bastard.