“The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“I’m so ugly – I worked in a pet shop, and people kept asking how big I’d get!” ~ Rodney Dangerfield
“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” ~ Robert Frost
“I’m SAR-re, you must out one kilogram,” the Peach Airlines Japanese counter attendant said as we tried to check in for our flight home from Kyoto.
Jody and I were prepared for this eventuality. We packed for our Far East foray together, sharing one small suitcase because we would be using so much public transportation. And bringing extra stuff like we always do, we were slightly overweight. It seems that the Japanese LCCs (Low-Cost Carriers) only allow for 20 kilograms (44 pounds) per checked bags, but will go to 21 kilos (and additional 2.2 pounds) by placing a “HEAVY” tag on the bag, but you can’t pay for any extra weight beyond that absolute cutoff.
Adjusting the bag and taking it back through x-ray, we bring it confidently back up to the counter for re-weighing, and perfect! We are at 20.6 kilograms. “Oh-kay,” the attendant says with a beaming, courteous smile like really only the Japanese can provide in a customer service setting!
She gets out a “HEAVY” tag, and on the back she writes some things. “You must sign,” she says, still with a smile.
Not knowing what I’m signing for, I pause. She must sense my confusion because she continues, “You sign only if you are ugly,” again with a smile. “So we not responsi-ber because you are ugly.”
Now both Jody and I are confused. I smile back, thinking to myself in my inner voice, “Okay, I get it: all us gaijin look the same. But did she really just tell us we were ugly?” And worse, we have to sign and acknowledge that unpleasant characterization?!?
Wait a tick!! Maybe she’s talking about our luggage! However, the bag is not that bad as to be summarily and nonchalantly dismissed as ugly, regardless of how much she may be smiling. The bag may be worn, it is certainly not handsome, and possibly it’s beyond its prime, but ugly? That’s a little extreme.
Not satisfied and not understanding what was Lost in Translation in this transaction, I ask – just to be sure – and with my own pleasant but now slightly bruised ego, “What are we signing for?”
“Sign only if you’re ugly!” came another overly cheerful response. Boy she is “real-ree” happy about me being so unattractive….
I turn and face Jody, with a grimacing smile that silently says, “Is she really saying that to us?” Jody, recognizing that all three of us were due for some much-needed clarification, turned to the attendant and asked, “Do you mean ‘HEAVY?’!”
“YES-YES!” came the hurriedly excited reply matched with exaggerated head-nodding.
Whew. What a relief. Jody and I aren’t ugly after all. And neither is our luggage. Now we’re just…“heavy.” That’s a lot better than being ugly; nothing a diet can’t take care of….
A LCC (Low-Cost Carrier, aka no-frills, discount or budget carrier or airline, or better yet, plain’ole cheap bastards) is an airline that generally has lower fares but offers fewer amenities. To make up for revenue lost in decreased ticket prices, the airline often will charge for extras. They are not to be confused with smaller, regional airlines; LCCs in fact quite often offer wide domestic and limited international services.
In 2012, three new budget airlines entered the Japanese market serving Okinawa (where we live), creating increased competition and thankfully much lower fares on several domestic and international routes. Interesting enough, while competing directly with the established JAL and ANA Japanese full-service airlines, almost 40% of Peach is held by ANA, a direct competitor.
The fares offered by Peach were truly unbeatable. In fact, since they were about 30% (or less) of what ANA or JAL would charge, we actually made inquiries as to their safety, performance, and validity at our on-base Japanese travel agency, who quickly vowed on all three points. While Peach doesn’t use the standard passenger terminals, which for the Okinawan hub means a bare-bones operations involving plastic lawn furniture and a warehouse like environment, their services, aircraft, and performance were impeccable. Actually, being in their own terminal building, while necessitating an extra shuttle ride, makes check-in and security quite easy and simplistic: there were no lines anywhere and we never had to wait for service. We boarded on-time with seat assignments situated together, and their departure and arrival times were as advertised. And, they were flying new Airbus aircraft, an industry standard by any means. The service is so good actually that there is really no need to ever fly with the “heavies” at three times the cost.
In a truly humorous note, the LCC sharing the hangar with Peach is called Vanilla, probably the perfect name for a budget airline!
But be careful when you are “ugly.” These cheap bastards are not afraid of calling you out and making you answer for such transgressions!