Courtesy Stockings Make the Man

Hometown USA 1997

A travel agent with a smoker's raspy voice booked me on Singapore Airlines from San Francisco to Seoul, non-stop. I had never heard anything about that airline before. But she assured me it was a "really nice carrier," and since it was comparably the cheapest ticket--just over $600 round trip--the decision wasn't a difficult one. We chose a departure date that would land me in the Land of the Morning Calm with a few days to de-jetlag myself before I had to start teaching. Since I also had to lock in my return date, I tentatively reserved a seat on a return flight some 87 days after that. I figured I could easily move my return up if I wanted. Oddly, the thought of doing the reverse never occurred to me.

I called JT, told him when to expect me. As for packing, all I needed was my new passport (my original one had expired and I hadn’t left the USA in 10 years since), my tourist Visa, a sleeping bag, clothes, toiletries, and my cliché but trusty Lonely Planet Guide to Korea. I crammed it all in my North Face backpack and was ready to go. Before I left, however, I heard from several friends in the same social circle as JT and me. I was charged with a serious calling.

"When you're over there, find out the scoop on JT's sexual preference. You know, I mean, see if he's gay or what. I mean, my wife wants to know, you know."

Yes I know. Your wife is still pissed JT told everybody that he could have slept with her while she was engaged to you.

Bearing that unheavy burden, I left for the airport. It didn't take but five minutes on the plane to realize that my travel agent had not lied about the quality of Singapore Airlines. The plane itself was huge; 11 seats across each 3-section row, but not 1/3 of the seats were occupied. I chose a 5-seat middle row near the back all for myself, took off my shoes and put on the purple courtesy socks provided. I figured that the courtesy socks were purple to match the interior color motif of the plane, and not due to some Donny Osmond influence, at least I hoped.

No sooner had I gotten comfy than a friendly attendant was offering me my first glass of free wine and we hadn't even begun to taxi yet. On the seat back in front of me--in front of everyone--was a personal-sized TV screen. My own headphones, my own remote control, my own viewing options. Every two hours a new movie, Seinfeld re-runs, countless music choices, Nintendo Golf and car racing, updated flight info including speed, location, ETA, weather and time at destination, all in three languages. In that plush and distracting environment, with all the free-flowing liquor, the 12 1/2 hour flight went pretty fast and soon I was touching down at Seoul's Kimpo International once again.

No comments: