Author’s Note: While the events outlined in this story actually did happen, and while these events did lead me to have three phone conversations with Whither, I feel I must point out that that roughly 90% of the contents of these conversations have been fabricated so as to properly tell my tale. It’s what you call “dramatic license,” folks.
The place: Vancouver International Airport
The time: Mid-June, 2002
Me>> Hey! How are you?
Whither>> I’m pretty good. How was your flight?
Me>> It was OK.
Whither>> Did you sleep for most of it?
Me>> You know, I tried, but the truth is, I just can’t sleep while I’m moving. Best I can do is close my eyes really tight and pretend I’m sleeping.
Whither>> Ahh. So, where are you right now?
Me>> I’m actually at my departure gate. Where are you?
Whither>> I’m in the main concourse, right where I said I’d meet you. Why are you at your departure gate?
Me>> Well, as soon as I got off of my plane, an attendant asked me where I was going. Naturally, I said, “Tokyo,” and he steered me away from the exit gates down this hallway. Before I knew it, I was at my departure gate.
Whither>> Oh. Well, you know, if you wanted to meet me, you really should have walked by that attendant and out those doors.
Me>> I know. In fact, that’s why I called. Now that I’ve found my departure gate, I’m going to try and find a way out of here and catch up with you. I’ll probably just be a little later than we hoped.
Whither>> You should be able to just go back the way you came.
Me>> Yeah, that’s what I’m going to try first. If all goes smoothly, we should be talking in person in a matter of minutes.
Whither>> Hey, how are you calling me?
Me>> They got payphones here. I’m glad you remembered to carry your cellphone. See you soon.
Whither>> See you soon.
Me>> Me again.
Whither>> I’ve been waiting here for, like, half-an-hour. Where are you?
Me>> I’m back at my departure gate.
Me>> Well, it’s like this. I tried to head back out the way that I came in, but some other flight must have just arrived, and the line to head out is really, really long. As soon as I got out, it probably would have been time for me to check back in. I didn’t want to attempt it.
Whither>> So, what’s the plan now?
Me>> Well, there’s got to be some other way out of here. Try and find it I guess. What time do you have to be back at work?
Whither>> Around 1.
Me>> And let’s see…it’s a quarter past 12 right now. Think I should keep looking?
Whither>> I think you should. I really wanted to hang out with you before you left the country.
Me>> And I want to see you. Hey! Did you know, that if you changed the area code to an Alberta one, your cellular phone number would be exactly the same as the store back in my hometown.
Me>> Anyway, all this talking is keeping me from the search. See you soon!
Whither>> See you soon.
Me>> Guess who?
Whither>> You couldn’t find a way out, could you?
Me>> How could you tell?
Whither>> Because it’s a quarter to one, and I still haven’t seen any trace of you.
Me>> I’m sorry, but (chomp, slurp) I must have wandered all over the international departures wing of this airport (slurp, slurp) and I can’t find any sort of exit that doesn’t mean standing in long lines at security gates. (chomp) I think I’m trapped here.
Whither>> Are you…eating?
Me>> (chomp) Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. (gulp) I’ll stop.
Whither>> What are you eating?
Me>> Well, while wandering all over this part of the airport, I did find a Burger King. It’s been a while since breakfast, so I thought I’d get a Whopper.
Whither>> Why a Whopper?
Me>> Hey, for all I know, they don’t have Burger Kings in Japan. This could be my last Whopper for at least a year.
Whither>> How did you pay for it? I thought you had all your money exchanged into yen by now.
Me>> I do, but they have ATMs here. I also kept my back home ATM card. Japan might have Interac, for all I know. I took out $20 to buy lunch.
Whither>> So, then, how much Canadian money will you be taking with you?
Me>> All I have left is $10 and some change.
Whither>> Hmm. Well, at least I hope you enjoyed your lunch.
Me>> Did you get something to eat?
Whither>> No, I just kept waiting here for you and thought that we’d eat together. I’ll probably grab something to go and eat on the bus back to the office.
Me>> I’m sorry. Here I made this big deal about wanting to hang out with you at the airport, and now we didn’t even get to see each other. I dragged you all the way down here for nothing.
Whither>> “All the way down here?” It’s just a 10 minute bus ride.
Me>> That’s right. I keep thinking of Edmonton International, where it’s 100 miles outside the city. But still, I’m sorry I put you through all of this for nothing.
Whither>> That’s OK. I just wish I could have seen you.
Me>> I know.
Whither>> So, how much longer until your flight leaves?
Me>> About half an hour.
Whither>> What are you going to do to kill the time?
Me>> Well, the company sent me a book on adjusting to Japanese culture. I’m on the last chapter, so I’ll probably finish that. For the most part, though, just put down my bags and relax. I must have been hauling around 40 pounds worth of carry-on luggage as I tried to find an exit.
Whither>> Really? Why did you bring so much?
Me>> I am heading over there for a year. I’ve also got two suitcases and a box in the belly of my plane.
Whither>> How long a flight is it?
Me>> 8 hours or so.
Whither>> Wow. I hope you brought a second book.
Me>> I did, and the company sent some preliminary paperwork for me to do. Probably get that done. And who knows? A flight this long, I might even get a movie.
Whither>> You’ll probably get two.
Me>> Wow. I’ve never flown overseas before. I didn’t know you could get two movies.
Whither>> One of my friends actually got three on a really long one.
Whither>> So, are you nervous? How are you feeling?
Me>> Not too bad, actually. My big emotional moments came when I was leaving from Edmonton. My whole family came to see me off. When my 3 year old nephew gave me that big hug, that’s when I lost it. It’s tough to walk away from that.
Whither>> I can imagine.
Me>> Yeah. I’m going to miss them. But this isn’t permanent. I’ll be going home in a year.
Whither>> But what if you renew your contract?
Me>> Then I’ll at least be going home to visit in a year.
Whither>> You’re not going home for Christmas?
Me>> I don’t know if I’ll have the money to do it by Christmas. So, probably not.
Whither>> That’s cold. How will your parents know you love them?
Me>> Hey, I’ve lived in their basement for the past three years. If they don’t know by now….
Whither>> Well, I guess I’d better be heading back to work.
Me>> Once again, I’m sorry I dragged you all this way for nothing.
Whither>> Hey, don’t worry about it. Good luck in Japan.
Me>> Thank you.
I got three movies on the plane: A Beautiful Mind, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and American Graffiti. My final $10 bill hangs in my classroom. There are no Burger Kings in Japan. Interac exists, if you can find the right ATMs. Whither now resides in Prague.