10.6.09

Day 212. The Really REALLY Patient One.

For those of you who have never flown internationally, returning to the US (citizen or not) can be a rather obnoxious process. Even if you have a connecting flight, you must pick up all checked luggage and take it with you through customs and then "re-check" it through to your final destination. Couple that with the rediculous number of opportunities you now have to buy duty-free goods and the US requirements on no more than 3 ounce sized liquids in your carry on, and this all becomes a mess of juggling too much luggage, repacking it to include large bottles of alcohol, perfume, beverages and the risk of being picked out to go through a thorough exam by an official from the Department of Homeland Security.

If the process wasn't odd enough, imagine explaining it to a Japanese citizen...who barely speaks English...who is departing from Germany...and he barely speaks German...oh, and he bought a TON of Duty Free goods on the plane. Well, it wasn't easy and it wasn't fun. But I watched as our very VERY patient flight attendent took the time (about 30 minutes) to use kindness, English and German to explain how to get into the US (and through our initial US destination) all the way to LA without losing a single bag or purchase.

I must admit, at first, the whole exchange was just funny, and I rolled my eyes more than a few times. But then I looked at it differently. The amount of information this woman had to know to explain what was going on is rather impressive. Languages, security processes, duty free guidelines and airport/ airplane security all had to 100% understood with all their nuances to be able for our flight attendant to try and make it as easy (and safe!) as possible for this Japanese traveller.

I watched after we landed, and it turned out that our flight attendant succeeded. He made it through customs, managed to pack his Duty Free goods up so they weren't confiscated and, I assume he made it to LA safely. To those who ensure our comfort, safety and understanding across cultures, legal systems and geographic locations like our flight attendant on Sunday, I say "THANK YOU!"

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