Friday, June 26, 2015

Aspie Traveler Japan: 3 Weeks Later


It's been three weeks since I returned from Japan and it's a bit surreal to think that I did it, I actually did it. People have called me courageous for taking on such a wild endeavor but in all truthfulness it was easy once I realized that nothing was expected of me. Also, not being able to understand the language made things easier because I couldn't panic. Speaking of panic there was a scare on the plane shortly after I wrote my day 9 post.

About a half hour after I finished writing the end chapter of the away series a call came on the plane's intercom for a doctor to head to the back of the plane. I've heard this before and thought nothing of it. Then, an hour later, a call for more doctors and even a nurse came over the PA and as I looked towards the back of the 747 a flight attendant was running towards the front of the plane knocking anyone over who got in the way. This now wasn't your run of mill doctor call.

My mind instantly went to worst case scenario as to what was going on. Were these people attacked? Was a chemical released? Was it some extremely fast attacking pathogen that was going to put all of us at risk?

The flight attendant then ran back towards the back carrying at least a dozen sheets and it was now clear something bad was going on. Another flight attendant walked passed and she and the guy sitting next to me had chatted quite a bit on takeoff and he asked, "what's going on?" to which she replaced that she didn't know and then he asked, "are we stopping short of Detroit?" to which she once again stated she didn't know. Then, about 30 minutes later, she walked passed and said, "yeah, looks like we are stopping.

Stopping? Stopping where? About the time she said we were stopping the plane banked to the right and our flight pay shifted to the south. We were now going to fly over Anchorage, Alaska and all the evidence pointed to us stopping. But what did this all mean? If we stopped would we take off right away or would we have to wait until tomorrow? Would we have to deplane, or would this be one of those horror stories of being stuck on the runway for hours on end? I was longing for the days that had gone by when I couldn't understand what was going on. How could I panic if I didn't even know there was a brewing crisis?

The miles went by at 540mph but in my brain the flight was longer than anything I had ever experienced. My vigilance was as high as possible and I kept watching the flight tracker as we approached Anchorage and I was waiting for the message from the captain explaining that we would be landing. I was concerned on two fronts; the first, obviously, was the health for all on board (including myself) and secondly was that I was scheduled to ride with USAC to a race a mere 12 hours after landing in Indy so I didn't have much wiggle room.

Anchorage came, and then went. There was no announcement, no deceleration, and no descent. We kept flying along as if nothing was happening despite the constant shuffling of flight attendants to the back of the plane. All I had was time and my imagination. Why didn't we stop? Had they died, or was Anchorage not prepared for whatever was on board? Now do notice that my thoughts didn't go to the fact that, perhaps, all was fine and no further medical attention was needed.

Six hours later we landed in Detroit and I think most people had forgotten the drama that had occurred earlier and when the pilot turned off the seat belt sign and the typical mad dash to get up happened and the flight attendant in front of me looked at the other seated across the middle row with a look of panic and one she got on the PA and requested all passengers remain seated because medical personnel were boarding the plane. Right after the pilot told everyone that seat belt sign was off. There was confusion and few listened to the words to sit down.

The flight crew did their best to keep people seated but it was futile and the flight attendant who said that we might have been stopping in Anchorage told the guy beside me, "the CDC is coming on board, we may be getting quarantined." Quarantined?! There'd only be one disease that I could come up with that would require a quarantine and that would be a two week quarantine so I was now in full on panic mode. This was not good and then more fuel got added to the raging panic.

About a minute later another flight attendant said on the PA, "Could all passengers please get to their seats. We have not been medically cleared to deplane." That was it, wasn't it? It was a guarantee that I was going to survive Japan but not the flight home.

It was odd to witness as no one else was panicking, or at least they didn't show it. Were they simply unaware? I loathed my hyper-vigilance and the change in my attitude was great. I mean, I went from conquering my fears and feeling more comfortable about myself than I had in a long time to being crippled in fear. Oh, to be back in Tokyo!

Ten minutes passed and then the all clear was given and just like that whatever crisis was there was not. Once again I was amazed at how out of touch the other passengers were. There was a bunch of grumbles about the delay and the potential of missing a tight connecting flight without any seemingly hint of regard to the potential severity of the situation.

I made my next flight and worked the race a couple days later but ever since landing I've been amazed at the contrast in culture and my ability in things. Going back to people that have talked about my courage I have to admit that my Tokyo trip was easier than it is to simply go into a shop here in America. Case in point; a week after getting back I had to have new brakes put on my car and when I went in the price wasn't what was quoted and I simply paid and left. The ability to state my case and advocate the price discrepancy wasn't there. That's only one example, but I'm much more aware of minor things that I have trouble with that I had simply grown accustomed to.

So my second series is now fully complete. I never could have imagined the growth I experienced nor the awesome words that were written from this experience. Many people have asked me if this is going to turn into a book and it very well might which if it does it'll be a strange coincidence on the timing of it all. I wrote Finding Kansas in 2005 by accident that was inspired by a breakup and my original Traveler series to Amsterdam was inspired by a breakup. This series as well was started by accident should it turn to a book, but if it does I'm excited at the prospect that the world is open! Where would I go next? I chose Tokyo as my second location because of the high perceived degree of difficulty. I originally thought Tokyo would be the final destination in a long series as I thought I would have to build up my skills to make it in the world's largest city, but it proved to be easy. Maybe it's largeness allowed me to simply be there without expectations and be a chameleon of sorts. That being so where would I go that would prove to be a challenge? A small mountain village in Switzerland? A small island south of the equator in the Pacific? A cold city in the winter in Norway? The world truly is open and I know I want to to challenge myself, to push myself to the limits, and to write about every second of the adventure of seeing new places, meeting people I'll never see again, and learning more about myself and Aspergers.

There was a moment when writing Finding Kansas, it was when I was in Kisumu, Kenya in 2005 while writing my "Work" and "School" chapters that I thought to myself, albeit briefly, that what I was doing my actually be something of value and when I boarded the plane in Detroit that would take me back to Indy I had that same thought that this is something that could be exciting and new. I have no idea what is next, but the world is wide open and whether or not if this becomes a book, or if I simply have a neat blog series out of it, I look forward to wherever I head to next.

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