I often get asked if I ever go anywhere besides China. While it doesn’t seem that way here in the blogosphere (aside from Ireland, Mexico and a few other locations), this trip is different – I am going to Japan. Well, Japan and China, and I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve not been, and we have the incredible luck of heading to one of the very desirable regions. But before that happens, it’s more of the same domestic haul, starting with my regular 6AM trip on the Barbie Jet to San Francisco.

There is something fundamentally un-right about airports at 4:50 in the morning. Adults look as though they’ve been there all night, children are dazed and the workers give the impression that they’d rather be anywhere else. But that’s the time my flight leaves, so it’s into that Dantean horror I roam.

We boarded on time and I immediately knew I was in for an experience. The guy next to me apparently felt as though he had paid for one and a half seats judging from the amount of mine he decided to commandeer. His arms were not unlike two Virginia hams and so I was consigned to 2 hours of flying in an airborne smokehouse. Once aloft, he did me a favor and went to sleep, folding those porky appendages across his chest.

The people in the next row were clearly in a mood to party, as the young man directly seated directly behind me said upon boarding “I’m ready for some alcohol.” Folks, it’s 6AM. Mother, a round headed matron with a bob cut and bangs pulled back in twin barrettes agreed and they proceeded to debate the relative merits of either a late dawn beer bash or Bloody Marys, finally settling on the latter. Dad didn’t say much and Girlfriend was twittering about something or another.

The flight attendant started the drink service and once done, she parked across from the Loud Bunch to talk about Hawaii, their destination. The attendant kept running back and forth between them and the front of the plane for more shots of vodka, paper towels (we were having a slight spill problem) and additional bags of pretzels. Mom offered that they should pick up a liter of Citron Vodka once they arrived at the hotel and Junior enthusiastically agreed. Dad downed his drinks and stared blankly out the window. Junior kept going on about whatever and Girlfriend smiled and giggled.

Mom finally fell asleep on Dad’s shoulder and Junior pulled out a handheld video game and jacked the volume up to the red zone. While I love my noise cancelling earphones, they do have their limitations filtering out most of the cabin noise, but allowing some things like conversations and higher frequency sounds to pass through. What this meant for me today was 100 Great Opera Favorites competing with the soundtrack from Grand Theft Auto while I tried to doze off. Junior joked that he was drinking and driving. I tried to sleep amidst the gun fire.

After all this time, I really don’t know why I continue to be amazed. I suppose by now I should be ready for anything when a vacationing family consisting of a shants wearing Junior, a Dad sporting a soul patch and a Mom with tattooed feet sits behind me. I retain my hope for the human condition, but some signs cannot be ignored. I guess I need to be more open to the obvious.