Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fly Away

Here I sit in this Starbucks analog, Tully's coffee, in Narita, where I haven't been since I first came to Japan almost nine years ago. Through the wonders of international connecting flights, I have roughly three hours to kill before I need to even approach the departure gate, and this after having walked very slowly to the check-in counter and wandered very lesurely from there towards the first sign of hot caffinated beverage vending.

I look out over a cavernous hall, dusty latticework over the check-in counters, cattle gates and rails for efficient packing and separation of humans. A slightly battered but still efficient machine for expelling people from the country at high velocity. (Somewhere, elsewhere, is the reverse image, the catcher's mitt made out of customs officials and luggage carosels, for capturing those intent on entering Japan, and making sure they are legitimate, or at least have the proper paper cards stapled to their passports.)

I wonder how long I will be able to keep my Japanese mode alive. It is already under assault by close cropped blond hair and strangely chunky looking American airline logos. The staff of this coffee shop are helping me fight it off, in their way, by saying konnichiwa every time someone walks past, and failing to be able to negotiate any deviation from the standard script of coffee sales in English. I like that. I don't need coffee sales in English yet. I'll get enough of that at the other end of this flight.

And look at that, my coffee is already gone, and only twenty minutes spent.

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