My perch in the Quiet Room at the C Concourse Red Carpet Club.
When I secured my business class seat this morning in Tokyo, I didn't realize how fortuitous that was going to be. Unlike Domestic First Class, International Business Class actually gives you access to United's Red Carpet Club (more reasons why domestic first class is just a joke).
I spent about an hour this morning in the Narita Red Carpet Club where I enjoyed automated beer, Pepsi and some snacks. My layover in Chicago turned out to be over eight scheduled hours and while I thought about renting a car and hitting some restaurants, the $85 fee Alamo was going to charge, plus the crappy Chicago weather, made my decision to pursue standing-by for a flight back to Baltimore.
That was about nine hours ago.
After hauling my overstuffed flight case, ukulele case and Narita FaSoLa Duty Free shopping bag across O'Hare, enduring the seemingly endless line of summer tourists, submitting to the Totalitarian subjugation that is airport "security" and hiking underground to Concourse C, I was told by a typically curt United Gate Agent that I had to remain with my original ticketing because I had checked baggage.
I've just flown halfway around the world, hiked across the airport in the heat, after both the International Agent and two International Phone Agents told me to go stand-by, and now I can't go??? Well, fuck you bitch.
Of course, I didn't actually say that. I just thought about saying it and that was enough. Afterall, I had just cruised across the world stretched out in the lap of luxury that is Business Class so I was feeling a bit refined, thank you very much.
United's Red Carpet Club in Concourse C is the usual mix of leather seating and tables arranged to allow small groups to mingle. Since this is United's largest hub, it's also a pretty busy and loud place to be. Happily, they have a quiet room where cell phones are verboten and where I have made camp for the day.
Sandwiched between gates C16 and C18, I've got a commanding view of the airfield, as well as the two wide-body jets sitting here at any one time. From my perch, I've seen the weather change from hazy to low-hanging black clouds to cloudy to drizzle to hard rain, and then back to beautifully sunny.
I've also watched how planes stack up here on the ground because of the weather. It's like a dance. A symphony, if you will, of aircraft and weather. I've watched the weather roll in and forcing what looked to be a complete ground stop of operations here. Which is probably the reason behind my flight back home being delayed for over an hour.
Throughout the day, I've watched the two gates do their thing. It's mostly Boeing 777s, with the occasional Boeing 747 thrown in for good measure. I'm amazed at how long it takes for the ground crew to refuel a 777. I'm fascinated with how the baggage carts follow in a near perfect arc as the driver makes a turn.
Sitting here in the lounge, one sees a slice of life. The ebb and tide of United's Hub System. Things were really hopping around here from 5pm to 7pm, then really died off after 8pm. For awhile, the main lounge was a raucous - filled with business travellers, tourists and the occasional interloper, like myself.
Now that it's nearly 9:30pm, it's quiet all around. There's still some loud women in the main lounge. C16 is getting ready to board another flight, except this time, it's a smaller jet, perhaps an A319 or B757, while the B767 at C18 looks as though its' getting powered down for the night.
I've spent an entire day sitting in this leather chair under the air conditioning vent where it's been so cold that I've had to seek out some blankets to keep myself warm. The blanket, paired with the blindfold from my business class personal kit, has been a lifesaver. I've taken at least four naps throughout the day since my body knows it's been nighttime in Tokyo.
I have to say that it's been a nice day here at the Red Carpet Club. The nine hours have gone by pretty smoothly. I've had beverages, snacks and a small meal while sitting here. I can't say I'd feel the same way if I had to fend for myself in the public gate areas...