Today's Notables

I was supposed to have been in India....

May 2010
Hisashi Furuichi
President and C.E.O.

Before in Shinko, I have written about Dr. Gustavo Nunez, who is the president of one of our partner companies, NDT, in Panama. I received word from him that he wanted to speak with me as soon as possible, and if we were to meet in the US, I would have to plan at least 4 or 5 days. I had no choice but to open up some space in my schedule because the only 4 or 5 days open slot I had was three or four months out. I didn’t think it would be possible to meet his request in the near term because I was supposed to go to India with the Japan Food Machinery Manufacturers' Association. I have not been to India before and when I was head of the youth section of the Association, we had planned a trip to India a while ago but I can clearly remember that one Japanese person was killed in a terrorist incident at a hotel in India right as we were planning that trip and decided we had no choice but to change our plans. This was one reason I was looking forward to the trip this time but it was also the only time I could get a 4 or 5 days slot to change my plans, so I canceled my plans to go to India and set my course to New York to meet Dr. Nunez.

The direct flight from Narita to New York was the usual 14 hours and started out with no problem. But as we approached John F. Kennedy Airport for landing, the plane got caught in a rainstorm, causing a significant amount of turbulence and instantly lurched up in the air as if it were a fighter plane. The pilot came on over the speaker and I expected that he would announce that we would attempt landing again but instead he said that we could not fly into JFK. Of course, with not enough fuel to fly much longer, he announced that we would fly to Boston instead. There were sighs of resignation in the plane with few complaints from the already somber group. In a little less than hour, we were safely landed in Boston because, like an unwelcomed guest, all gates at JFK were closed to inbound flights. So there we sat on the side of the runway near a hangar. Another announcement interrupted the silence and the pilot informed the passengers that we would refuel and attempt to fly back to New York because gates at Logan were not available. Minutes later however, the pilot was on again with a further update, "all flights inbound to JFK have been cancelled due to inclement weather." We had to wait four hours on the runway for the airline to make the proper preparations. I have had this type of trouble a number of times when traveling by air and I am always interested in how the airline company responds to customers. Of course they have a lot of experience with these kinds of events but they only tell customers what is going to be done and what the next step is. The reason for this may be that giving customers a complete plan may lead to complaints by customers who do not like the plan, prompting complaints by other customers who essentially join in crowd given the power of group thinking. On the other hand, with only a little information to go on, passengers in this situation may just resign themselves to the problem instead of fighting it. The next step we heard was that since it was an international flight, we should disembark with carry-on luggage and go to such and such counter. Doing as I was told, went to the counter and found out that I would be able to get a flight the following morning to JFK. The person at the counter explained about hotel and food vouchers, which apparently varies according the price of the flight.

Compared to past experience in flying, the hotel I got was fairly nice and within walking distance probably because I had become a platinum member in a campaign by Delta and Northwest during their merger. So I checked into the hotel, used the food voucher for dinner and was able to relax but noticed that of the 80% or so Japanese passengers that were on the plane, I saw no one at that hotel. I was wondering what had become of their fate. It is times like these when people with discount tickets probably suffer the worst. It became ever more clear to me that if you buy a cheap ticket you have to assume the risk of this kind of trouble happening and be prepared for it. I naturally had to cancel my dinner arrangements in New York, so I returned to my room, looked at my schedule for the following day to see how I might make the most of the current circumstances. My ultimate destination was 320km from Boston and 160km from New York. Initially, I had made arrangements to rent a car in New York, stay in Manhattan, and go to Hyde Park, NY the following day. But after considering that I would have to wake up the next morning at 6am to get a morning flight, fly to New York, rent a car and then drive 160km, I decided it would be easier and quicker to drive the 320km from Boston instead. So I changed my plans and was able to take my time in the morning, eat breakfast and headed to the airport to rent a car.

The storm that had wrecked havoc was still in full force the following day and it was raining so hard that I could not see ahead of me and the road was naturally covered in water. Driving conditions were very poor. But with much less traffic and wide roads, it was still much easier to drive than in Japan. I was able to reach Hyde Park, my destination, without event. I figured since I would be in New York to meeting with Dr. Nunez, I thought I might as well take advantage of the Sunday before that meeting and visit my alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

I was working on a DVD introducing PRIMIX and some of my individual activities and could use this as an opportunity to take some footage of the school. So I decided to maximize the opportunity and also meet with some former teachers and current administrators at the school. After that, I left for Manhattan straight away.
I had made prior reservations for dinner both Saturday when I was originally scheduled to arrive, and on Monday. One restaurant where you could hardly get a reservation 2 or 3 years ago, was readily available—a sign of the economy I suppose. After the Lehman Bros. shock, I can recall being surprised by a rental car company in Detroit that had reduced a fleet of cars, which seemed to be lined up endlessly before, to about 1/5 of the volume of vehicles. It did not seem as though the impact was as severe in New York as I did not see such a stark contrast. After dinner, I took a walk with Dr. Nunez around Times Square and although many people were tourists in that area, for the most part, Manhattan appeared to be living up to its lively, vibrant Big Apple image.

Although the business venture with Dr. Nunez and NDT is not something I am at liberty to speak of in detail at this time, if all goes well and the plan progresses as expected, I hope to explain it in an upcoming issue of Shinko. Speaking with Dr. Nunez and learning about his vision toward the future to open new markets with a revolutionary idea is both exciting and invigorating.

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