If you’re thinking I recycled my pictures from last month’s first trip entry, you’re mistaken – these are brand new and to prove it, I took the snapshot of the Tomokazu sign from the other direction.

Once again I find myself on the international concourse at SFO. Seems like only yesterday when in fact it’s been 4 whole weeks!

Today’s topic for musings is rituals. Things like saving little pencil nubs in drawers, taking time for a prayer or two at the temple, alternating brown and black leather fashion accessories on workdays and getting to the airport way too early relative to your departure. Rituals are good as long as they don’t rule your life – they give comfort and they offer a sense of security, as in the “old folks at home” security that makes wandering off the home-place an okay thing to do.

Which brings us to today – off again to Shanghai. Thirty minutes from the driveway to the gate suggests it might be time to adjust my airport timing ritual, there was nothing remarkable this morning to hold me up. Interestingly, the long line at the gate actually moved faster than my special international check-in line which tells those of you that know me well that I was already treating myself to recriminations for not making the correct queue choice. Ah well. The agent made a comment to the effect of “everyone in Albuquerque seems to be going to Shanghai today” which took me aback. From there a stop at the coffee bar for a danish, electing to follow the advice of the clerk to go with almond as he claimed they were fresh out of the oven and extremely delicious, a claim later brought into consideration when I saw the same danishes at the satellite coffee bar far down by the gates.

Security was a breeze – I had my choice of lines – and chose to bypass the sniffer line because it really does add 45 seconds to one’s transit. Having been burned at check-in, I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

Arrived at the gate and sat down in a chair overlooking the broad, dawn-lit expanse of the tarmac. Two planes sat there, drowzily awaiting their day’s assignment.

Thirty seconds and three bites later I was about plastered against the glass when an ample young man threw himself down into the chair behind be, launching me a good foot out of mine. What did happen to manners anyway? The rest of his family showed up and the three teenages boys started to argue about who had pushed whom in line and that was about it for me. I got up and moved to another gate. Where I was happy until the strobes and sirens went off due to a false fire alarm. So I got up again and moved even further down the hall.

We left on time and the flight was easy. The woman sharing my row introduced herself and told me she was on her way to Menlo Park to help with her “grandbaby.” I did the two available crossword puzzles, listened to Beethoven’s 9th and switched to his 6th when the first ended. I started to doze off and was brought back to consciousness when the music started to fade. Figured it was another dying battery but it turned out to be the music itself. I was coming into the part where the thunderstorm disrupts the frolicking peasants. No more sleep while the peasants were getting soaked.

We got in early, caught the Legionaire’s Bus (recall many trips ago when the air conditioner dripped on my head during the ride) pulled out, did a u-turn, pulled back, got some additional riders and headed to the elevator. Getting off I noticed luggage whizzing by overhead on the airport material handling system. The man with the padded pitchfork herded us into the elevator and up we went to the shiny white off-to-see-the-world gates and my ritual bowl of udon noodles.

Which were great despite the fact that my Diet Coke bore a flavor that evoked pool water. Hmmm.

So here we are waiting to catch the next leg. One can only wonder about next week’s adventures. Check back to see what they are.