We were in SFO almost an hour ahead of scheduled time. Immigration was painless, and the officer even managed to make me laugh by asking why I never smile. (‘Coz you aren’t allowed to in Finnish passport photos.) After its NRT adventure, my bag was unsurprisingly among the first to come out, and I embarked on a semi-circular quest to find my check-in counter — I thought I had an America West flight codeshared as UA, a double mistake at that as “America West” turned into US Airways some time ago, but no, it turned out to be the real thing. Or at least almost: this was my first encounter with the faceless, amorphous, omnipresent entity known only as Ted. There were no earlier UA flights, although I could, theoretically, have gotten onto an HP flight that left 30 minutes earlier, in exchange for spending umpty-ump minutes trying to endorse my RTW over to them — no thanks. But with grandmotherly kindness, Ted gave me an Economy Plus seat.
It was my first visit to SFO, and while it’s heads and shoulders above LAX (which is why I routed this way), seeing signs proclaim it the best airport in the US was a little depressing: surely you could do a little better? The TSA security carnival seemed positively painless compared to LHR last year (although that bit with the shoes was still ludicrous). Only one problem now: I was dog-tired and in severe danger of falling asleep, but I had no watch, my cellphone’s battery was dead and my charger doesn’t like 110V, so I couldn’t set an alarm. The Red Carpet Club was packed to the rafters, but I managed to snag a seat and, through a minor miracle, even get free wireless thanks to some bizarre T-Mobile/Vista crosspromotion thingy, valid until the end of the month to boot — just long enough to cover the US portion of my trip, and just the distraction device I needed to keep me awake. Spiffy.
Dodging somebody else’s projectile vomit all over the men’s bathroom, I eventually headed out of the lounge to find a refugee camp assembling at the gates. Both had Ted flights, and both were late, mine by 20 minutes — but the one to Vancouver, scheduled to leave half an hour before me, was still there as we pulled back.
As expected, the plane was a museum piece, but I was again a little surprised to find an Airbus in this land of Boeings. Oppressively chirpy video announcements told me that Ted wants me to do all kinds of things, including following instructions and fasten my seatbelt. As soon as we were airborne and in the impenetrable fog, I stuck in my earbuds, put on my eyeshades, closed the windowshades and drifted off into a twilight zone of fitful, unfulfilling sleep.