Not long after being hospitalized for a terrible kidney infection, my fiance and I decided to fly from Tokyo to the Middle East to visit my family. We flew with a large Middle Eastern airline, which is usually wonderful; I stocked up on all my medications and supplements, and we began our trip.
About two hours into our overnight flight, I had to pee. Part of my recovery process was NOT waiting to do so; I’d had to plan my life fairly carefully around this fact for the past few months. Almost dying (as in, they found my phone in my purse at the hospital and called my mother and informed her that they didn’t think I was going to make it) makes you a little bit nervous and paranoid. But the seatbelt sign was on, so I stayed seated.
Twenty minutes later. The flight was smooth. The sign was on. I was getting nervous.
Thirty-five minutes later and I’m sweating, partially from nerves and partially from anger. I don’t like to blatantly ignore the fasten seatbelt sign, but I was dying, so I stood up to go to the toilets.
Well, if you have ever lived in Japan, you know that you can’t get away with bending the rules. The flight attendant on our side appeared and started the fake-smile-gesture-to-sign routine. My fiance, who is fluent in Japanese, tried to explain to her that it was medically necessary, but she was having none of it, actually standing dead center in the aisle to block me from going to the restrooms and still pointing to the seatbelt sign! She also did that lovely thing of completely ignoring our spoken Japanese and repeating her practiced English phrase of, “The fasten seatbelt sign is on. Please return to your seats.” (I know she had memorized this by rote and wasn’t listening to us because I worked for the company that taught English to airline attendants working for large Middle Eastern airlines!)
Finally, she stopped ignoring us and actually listened, and forty minutes or so after I had needed to, I was allowed to go pee. Hurt like hell. We later sought her out and apologized for our urgency, explaining again about the doctor’s orders, but she wasn’t interested.