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What do you mean 'I can't get on the plane'????

Escape from Las Vegas, Part 1! (Sat, Feb 18, 2006)

By 6:00am this morning I finally hear back from some of the people I had contacted through contacts and through hospitalityclub.org and couchsurfing.com about showing me around while in Japan. My friend David's contact, Yasuko (not her real name), said it was too short notice, and that she had commitments on Monday and Tuesday that would prevent her from hosting me, but that she would be willing to show me around on Sunday afternoon when I arrived. My CouchSurfing.com contact replied that she too, was out of town and wouldn't be able to help me. So, I called up Hotels.com and paid for a one-night reservation at Narita's Mercure Hotel. That would give me a place to stay while I got my bearings, determined the lay of the land and possibly make some other connections and accommodations.

Things are going great.

Excited, I shower, pack and do a final check my incoming email, and by 7:00am, my buddy Ken wakes up, and we prepare to leave for him to drop me off.

Ken and I get to the airport at 8:00am. We stand on line to check in for the 10:00am American Airlines flight to Tokyo; we get up to the counter, I give Eveylyn the ticket agent my passport and ticket confirmation. She smiles.


Me and Evelyn. Things are about to take a turn

She looks through my passport, and asks, "Do you have a visa?"

Visa!??? Visa??? No one told me I needed a visa???

(Actually, I wasn't really that perturbed. The sense I have of my life being a story to be told is so strong, that I was already starting to compose this episode as she was telling me this. Ken would later remark that he's seen people kick, scream, curse, throw their luggage and become downright otherworldly when faced with the reality of missing their flight and losing their tickets. For me, it's just another day in Walt World.)

"Yes, sir you need a visa. As a Jamaican citizen, you need a visa to enter Japan. I can check you in as far as San Jose, but you won't be able to go to Japan."

Well, to make a long story even longer, Ken and I go back and forth with her, pleasantly pleading my case, appealing to her sympathy, asking her to verify the regulations, even asking to speak to a supervisor before finally accepting the finality of her pronouncement.

"So how long does that take to get a visa?"I ask.

"Usually 24 hours,"she replies.

"Where's the nearest Consulate?"I ask.

"There's one in Los Angeles, and one in San Francisco."

Since Los Angeles is only 3 hours away, we resolve that we'll head there on Monday (it's now Saturday), and get everything squared away in time for a Tuesday morning flight. "But wait,"I start to think aloud, "if I don't make this flight today, will I be able to change it to leave out on Tuesday?"


Evelyn directs me to the customer service phone

She checks her screen. "This is a non-refundable fare,"she says. There'll probably be a fee. You'll have to call Customer Service to find out what that is..


Did you say, $1200???

You can use the courtesy phone on the wall behind you."

And then it dawns on us that Monday is Presidents Day. So the Consulate won't be open. That means I would have to get to the Consulate on Tuesday and actually leave on Wednesday.

So we head over to the phones and contact American Airlines customer service and find out that if I can change my reservation to leave on Wednesday. I discover that I'll have to pay about $900 additional dollars since I'd have to make a new reservation. Hmmm. Now THAT's clearly not an option, I thought to myself.

"Maybe you can go through Hawaii, and then Guam,"Ken suggests. "You won't have the visa issue since they're both American territories. Then once you're on Guam, you can always take a boat if you have to to get to Saipan."


Pensive prophet plans paradise particulars

Options are dwindling here it seems.

Ok. Maybe we can change my outbound flight out of Japan to leave the same day. Ken phones Northwest Airlines and starts the hold process.

Meanwhile, I start making calls to American, and then Continental to inquire about flights through Hawaii and discover that they all start at about $1,200. I pull out my laptop and start to search online for fares (luckily the airport was wired). Every airline showed prices of close to $2,000 for a new flight at this time. If, as I always maintain, the universe is perfect and that I'm always guided down the perfect path, then I needed to find that path quickly since time was growing short.

So here's the situation: It's now Saturday. I can't get checked in on my flight to Japan without a Visa. I can't get a Visa until Tuesday. But if I change the flight to leave any other day but today, I'll end up paying at least an additional $900. And, if I change the entire route and travel instead via US Territories, I'll essentially have to start the whole booking process from scratch, lose all the existing tickets I've purchased, and that would probably cost at least $1200 to start (are you following all this?).

It's now 9:48am. My original flight is leaving in 12 minutes, which means it's probably too late to check in and board I realize that having lost this outbound flight, that it won't be financially possible to get to Japan. If I can't get to Japan, then the Japan to Saipan leg of the trip won't happen. Things are falling apart. I can feel the dream slipping away.

So now I finally start to sweat. Visions of myself getting off the plane back at LaGuardia airport start dancing through my head!


uh-oh...

But, in the famous words of my friend Erroll Paden: "I ain't goin out like that!!"

(See also Walt's Life Rhyme #154 inspired by Erroll, entitled, appropriately enough, I Ain't Goin' Out Like That!)

Desperate. Not wanting to lose the momentum of this first leg of my journey, I wonder if I should attempt to get on the flight anyway and head to San Jose. Perhaps once I'm at a different airport, I reason, I'll meet with different luck, more knowledgeable agents, or someone who'll just let me through cause it's the &%($*%$( right thing to do!!

So I approach the check-in counter once again and wait for Evelyn to finish helping another passenger. I'm about to jump and pray there's water down below.

This time, however, another agent--David Serada, calls me over.

"Have you guys checked in already? he asks.

I pause. I wonder if I should keep dealing with Evelyn or go to David. I decide not to wait for her and start explaining my predicament to David, and then I ask, "Can I get on the flight to San Jose?" I ask.

"Well, it's too late for that,"he says. "They're about to close the boarding gate in 5 minutes."

"I can run really fast,"I offer.

"I don't think that'll matter,"he says with a smile. "It takes 20 minutes just to get to the other side of the terminal where the gates are."he says, and starts tapping away at this keyboard.

"Here's my original reservation,"I show him, and continue to explain my situation as he types.

He asks, "Can you contact Northwest and change your reservation to leave the same day you arrive in Japan? That way you won't run into the Visa requirement since you won't be leaving the terminal."

"We've been trying,"Ken says. "We've been on hold for about 40 minutes now".

"Wouldn't it be easier just to go down to the Northwest counter at the end of the terminal?"Dave asks.

Ken and I look at each other and laugh.

Then Dave punches some more keys, and from there at the American Airlines check-in counter, he accesses the Northwest airlines flight schedule and says, "Once you get down there, find out if they can get you on their flight NW77 leaving out of Tokyo on Feb 20, then I can change your reservation and put you on a flight to leave tomorrow instead, and that way you can get to Tokyo on the 20th, leave later that the same day and not have to worry about the visa issue. You'll essentially only need what's called a Transit Visa. You'll never leave the terminal, and you'll be on your way to Saipan! In fact, here it is,"he says handing me my itinerary. "I've already rebooked you on tomorrow's flight."

"You can do that?"I asked. "You can change my reservation to leave tomorrow? And I won't have to pay a change fee, or rebook."

"That's the easy part,"he says. (Now why didn't Evelyn suggest that? I thought silently to myself.) "You just gotta make sure your continuing flight on Northwest can be changed as well so you can make the connection. Go down to the end of the terminal and see if you can make the change." At Northwest making it happen

So Ken and I gather my two pieces of luggage, the laptop, my bag of food, camera, and head towards the Northwest ticket counter.

After a quick explanation to her, our agent Judy says that flight NW77 is all sold out.

"How about stand-by?"I ask. "Can you put me on a stand-by flight?"

"No, I don't think that'll work,"she says. "You actually have to show a confirmed continuing flight. They won't accept a stand-by reservation for a Transit Visa.

So Judy wasn't able to make the change. But now that I know that my new best friend, good ol' Dave can work his magic and change my departure date with a few keystrokes, that opens up some new options, I realize that things are going to be all right!

So leaving the Northwest reservation (out of Japan) as it is, Ken and I head back to see Dave at American Airlines counter where I ask him to do me another favor.

"I can't change the Northwest 2nd leg of the journey,"I tell him. "But if you can put me on a Tuesday flight out of here that puts me in Tokyo for me to connect to the Northwest flight to Saipan. If you can make this happen, Dave," I tell him, "I'll name my first-born son after you." Dave does his thing!

Before agreeing to the challenge, he reads the regulations to confirm that as a U.S. permanent resident I won't need a visa to enter Saipan, and then he types away for what seems an eternity (making special notations in my reservation so that Tuesday's agent knows the deal) and then voila! I see a crisp new itinerary and flight confirmation shoot out from his printer, and he hands it to me with a smile!

"Dave,"I tell him, "I'm writing a book about my adventures traveling around the world, so this will definitely be in it," I say as Ken snaps a picture.

And so it was. I'm now booked on a flight leaving Las Vegas Tuesday morning, arriving in Tokyo Wed afternoon just in time to connect to my Northwest NW77 flight to Saipan!

Dave's the man!!

I thank him profusely, shake his hand, and we head out.

Whew! Yes, I'm back in business.

It's my philosophy in life that everything happens for a reason. So why has my escape been delayed? Is it because I'll meet someone special on the flight I'm now booked on? Is it to give me more time here in America to take care of some unfinished business? Or perhaps this all happened... just so I can have this story to tell you.

EPILOGUE:

The anatomy of escape. The anatomy of creation.

As I relax after my day of drama at the airport, I'm right now reading Ask and it is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Dreams by Esther and Jerry Hicks. I've just read the part that reminds me that I create my own reality. I know this to be true. The challenge, of course, is figuring out the reason for the specific creations that seem out of synch with what says consciously that one desires to create. I created the escape. I created today's apparent glitch. If so, what was the reason for today's glitch? I must assume that it is of my own creation. Am I sabotaging my escape? Or, am I also creating on other levels of which I am not aware? It's always been my own teachings to my coaching clients that our realities of our own creation.

I have no one else to blame but myself for failing to fully ascertain the need for a visa for my trip. I know, however, that I will still get to Saipan. I don't believe that there is any other force thwarting my plans. So, I created this apparent delay (unconsciously?) to give myself one more day. Interestingly enough, when I got back to Ken's place, I turned on the radio, found a country station and shortly heard "One More Day"by Diamond Rio, one of my favorite groups (love their harmonies).

Anyway, I can see clearly that today's events were created by last week's decisions in a moment of indecision. In other words, at some point back when I was making the reservations, when I had ample opportunity to act on the hunch, the information and the awareness that my visa, passport and travel documentation should be in good order, I chose not to. If I think about it, there were times of doubt during the period from when Ken told me about Saipan, and when I actually purchased my Northwest tickets to complete the final leg of the journey. I even recall having the opportunity to get the answers I needed and not simply assume that permanent residency was equivalent to US citizenship in that regard. So today was created yesterday. So while I may be committed today; while I may be excited today; while I may be fully ready to create my new life in Saipan, I am living today the effects of yesterday's doubts.

Next episode: Escape from Las Vegas-- Take 2

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