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I had a few humorous incidents while traveling, along with some that were not all that funny, but just an enjoyable experience.

Once of the funniest things that ever happened to me was at Tokyo's Haneda airport. This is Tokyo's domestic airport and it is quite busy. Since it is used mostly for flights within Japan, you don't see too many non-Japanese people. As a 6 foot 5 America, I stick out almost anywhere in Japan.

About a month or two before the 1998 Winter Olympic Games that were to be held in Nagano, Japan, I was traveling through Haneda. I was coming off a flight from northern Japan and making a connection to flight to Osaka. As soon as I got off the plane, I Japanese police officer approach me.

“Can I see your passport?”, the officer asked. I thought this was kind of strange to be asked at a domestic airport, but it's pretty obvious that I'm not from around here, so I handed him my passport.

Next the officer asked, “Where are you from?”. I answered back politely. He then inquired where I was heading to, how long I've been in Japan, along with several other normal security type questions.

Then, the officer asked, “What is your favorite baseball team?” I thought to myself, this is really odd, but I let it slide and answered the question. “Who is your favorite movie star?” the officer continued.

At this point I knew something really strange was going on. I finally asked the officer why he was asking me all of these questions. He looked up, apologized (in Japanese) and told me that he was practicing his English, for the upcoming Olympics. He spotted my getting off a domestic flight, so he figured I was a good person to practice his English with.

After laughing for a few moments, I told the officer that I had to catch a flight to Osaka, but he was more than welcome to practice his English with me as we walked. I had plenty of time, so it was a rather casual walk. I was able to practice a little of my Japanese and I helped him with some of his English.

As we were walking, another co-worker saw him escorting me and figured something was wrong. He came up to us and asked the officer is there was a problem (in Japanese). My new friend said in English, “No, I'm just practicing my English”. The second officer smiled and asked if he could practice as well. I answered that I would be more than happy to help him as well. As we walked, I was joined by a third and forth police officer. All of us were having an enjoyable time in conversation.

We finally arrived at the gate, the group of four officers and I talked for about another 30 minutes. It was a great conversation and I got to ask a lot of questions as well. We talked about everything from baseball to Sumo wrestling. We also talked about my company, what kind of work I do, and all sorts of other subjects. I was so lost in the conversations that I didn't realize what this looked like to the rest of the people waiting at the gate

Just as they are about to call the flight for boarding, the gate agent comes up and pulls one of the officers aside and starts speaking to him in Japanese. I can't understand the conversation, put I hear her apologize profusely in Japanese. The police officer returns to the groups and says something really quick in Japanese and they all start laughing. He then tells me in English, “The clerk thought you might be a really BAD criminal, since you required four police officers” I started laughing as well, but I also realized that it probably looked suspicious to see someone arrive at the gate with for police officers. The officer then told me, “I informed her about your job as a computer engineer for a large company in the US and that there was no criminal problems with you.”

Finally the plane was called for boarding. I said my fond fairwells to my police escort and headed onto the plane. As I boarded the plane, I noticed many people had a look of panic. After I took my seat, several people paged the flight attendant, asking questions. I sort of figured it was about me, because of the police at the gate area.

After a few moments, an announcement was made in Japanese. I specifically heard my name mentioned and then everyone applauded. I figured maybe they were appaluding because they were just happy not to have a convicted felon on the flight.

Well, that was not the exactly the case. As I found out from the person sitting next to me, I was introduced as the director of a major computer firm in the US. The gate agent had thought that the police were escorting me because I was some sort of VIP and that information was relayed to the crew. I had gone from convicted felon to internet millionare if a few moments.

So, for 55 minutes I was a multi millionaire, head of a major computer firm in the US, flying between Tokyo and Osaska, Japan.

All of this for helping with a few folks with thier English.


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