I almost feel like the Presidential election didn’t happen.
You see, for the entire second half of Election Day, from almost noon until after midnight, Eastern time, I was aboard a Continental flight to Tokyo. We had video-on-demand systems but not live satellite television, so as we arced over Canada, Alaska, and the northern reaches of the Pacific Ocean, we flew in ignorance. As Jeremy Keith put it regarding his own flight to Japan, we were aboard Schrödinger‘s Airplane.
For me, the wave collapsed as we began the initial descent toward Narita. One of the flight attendants, having announced that they were starting the initial-descent procedures and would like us to check around our seats for any personal items we might like to start stowing, added: “And for those of you interested in the results of the election, we have a new President: Barack Obama.”
There was a burst of applause from the economy section of the plane. In business class, there was silence.
Well, not quite. I was myself sitting in business class, thanks to a great big pile of reward miles and some lucky timing in calling the airline. As I heard her say Obama’s name, I let out an involuntary “Wow“. Because until that moment, deep down I had believed, truly believed, that Mr. Obama would not win the Presidency. That was not the outcome I desired, but it was the outcome I expected.
I am in many ways ashamed of my doubts and fears, because I had thought less of my fellow Americans than they deserved.
Since then, from here in Tokyo, I’ve felt weirdly disconnected from what’s happened. In time zone terms, I’m fourteen hours in my home’s future, half a day ahead of everyone back home. But because I received word after it was all over and soon after slept through America’s Wednesday daylight hours, I feel like I’m a day behind. Time and distance combine to create a feeling of disconnectedness from the end result, as though I’m getting word of election results in Germany or India or Australia: interesting, but something seen at a remove.
It’s odd. I’m used to being an observer, but this is something else entirely. I think it’s pure astonishment.