I know I haven’t blogged for a long long time, and I’ve lost half my readers. But I was busy with work…honest!!
Well. Now I’m back in India…without a paisa, with torn sandals and with a lot of headweight.
A few extra pounds
The woes started even before I reached India. I was royally pissed off right from the moment I started packing for my return. After I finished packing, the new rule about the liquid/gel/aerosol came into effect. That warranted some repacking. (Not because I was carrying liquid explosives or anything 😀 ) After several grueling hours and trying all combos, I was finally able to pack some stuff. I mean, the challenge was real and tough.
1. No liquid items in Cabin baggage. Most of the high-density items (heavy but less in size) were liquids, conditioners et al.)
2. Check-in weight limit is 50 pounds.
3. Cabin baggage is too small in size.
The results were:
- My check-in bags were exactly 50 pounds, but had lot of free space.
- My cabin strolley was literally stuffed with maximum items, but still underweight. (like me :P )
- Same was the case with my backpack.
- I had to return back two packets to their owners. I said I can't deliver them to India, use FedEx!! They said, FedEx gets washed away like it did with Chuck Noland in "CastAway".
- I had to ask my colleague, who is coming next week to carry one of my own items.
Around the airport in 80 minutes
Well. If you thought that was all, here’s more.
I reached O’Hare airport and checked in (to my relief, my baggages were exactly 50 and 50.5 pounds each. I was a bit doubtful about the rusty balance which I used back in my hotel room.)
Check-in finished…Security check also went through fairly smooth, except that they asked me to remove every single item in my pocket. ( The next thing that’s gonna happen is these psychopathic jehadis making an explosive from cotton, and passengers being asked to travel naked.) I went towards the gate. Went into the lounge…(What can I say.. This was about the only thing that was good in my journey.. I travelled in First Class.)
I started recalling the check-in process. It took a moment for that blow to strike my mind. Then it struck lethally. It was horror..It was insanity. I frantically checked my passport.
The I-94 stamping…
My colleague said that I needed the I-94 stamped when I was departing from US, otherwise I would get some royal treatment from immigration department when I come back next time…
It was not there.
I went and asked the American Airlines officials near the boarding gate. They said something silly which didn’t convince me. They asked me to go to the check-in counter to be sure. I went all the way back. At the check-in counter, an official didn’t allow me into the check-in desk. He said, the immigration things are to be handled by the immigration dept and they are in terminal 5. I had to catch the Airport Transit train and go there.
I met an officer there; she was a kind lady. She said there was no process in place to get it done from them, not for Indians. She explained that this is probably taken care of during check-in.
I went back to terminal 3, and this time managed to sneak inside the check-in queue and to the desk. The lady there explained everything to me. There was no stamping required in my passport. The I-94, which was now detached from my passport and reattached to my boarding pass, would be collected at the boarding gate. There will be Home Security officials to scan my Visa at the boarding gate. I can go to the gate without an worries.
I asked the questions again and again, just to be sure. The lady kept her cool anyway.
I was relieved… so much that the entire security check process, which I had to go thru again, was not that annoying.
So I went back to the lounge. The lady at the lounge reception, Sandi Dukach, (I had told her my issue, just before running out like a crazy man) asked if everything was in place. I told her the problems I had to go through.
She said, “Better be sure than be sorry.”
Exhausted after the end of the race, I replied, “Yeah!”
I was lucky that I had checked in well ahead of time, otherwise I would not have found time for this race.
Oh..I remember the name of the receptionist because she has a striking resemblance to actress Susan Sarandon, a fact that I told her too.
Back in Delhi, I checked in at Hyatt. No woes with the customs, luckily. I was planning to check out at 4.45, since my flight was at 6.35 am. So I scheduled a wake-up call at 4 am.
In the night, I was bitten by the insomnia bug, because of jet lag. I kept waking up at regular intervals of 15 minutes or so. Then there was a huge gap, after which I woke up. I checked my watch, it was showing 4.15. So much for these junkies. They don’t even give a wake-up call properly. I took a quick shower, then I called and said I would be checking out in 15 minutes.
Then I called my taxi-wallah, and asked him to come in about 20-25 minutes. He was perplexed, “At this time? But your flight is at 6.35, right?”
I checked my watch. It was showing 4.35.. But PM, not AM. The goddamn watch was still in World Time mode and was showing the time in Chicago. Actually, it was only 3.05 am in India. I apologized to the driver for disturbing him in the middle of night. Then called the receptionist and apologized to her as well, saying I lost sense of time.
Then I killed time by watching some Spanish movie (Do I know Spanish?) in TV till 4.45, then checked out.
The Joy of Flying
In Delhi domestic airport, I encountered another problem. Jet airways allowed only 30 kgs total check-in allowance. I started arguing. I took a connecting flight and my baggage weight is as per international norms. How am I supposed to rearrange the contents during transit! This was ridiculous. I refused to pay any extra amount for my baggage. I tried to convince the lady at the check-in counter. And I was successful, thanks to my charm and ability in wooing girls. (Ahem! Ahem!) She finally said she’ll waive the excess luggage because it was me. (Oops..because I was a business class traveler)
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani
For the sake of my readers who don’t know Hindi: the title means “Still my heart is Indian”
I reached Bangalore at long last, had a good sleep. When I woke up in the evening, I was really hungry. Moreover, my “headweight” was because of 3 months of no haircuts.
I decided to go to the salon and then to a restaurant. But my sandals were torn. I had to wear shoes just to walk about 20 meters. When I reached the barbershop, I realised that I had no money. (Indian Rupee, that is) So I decided to walk towards the nearest ATM. (My car was in my friends’ house) I walked all the way only to find the ATM was out of order.
So I came back, didn’t have a haircut, didn’t go to the restaurant and thought about ways to use my credit card. I called Pizza Hut, ordered a pizza. It is a pity that they have stopped Potato Wedges. That was one of the best things there. After eating my pizza, I tried to sleep…But I couldn’t…It was 12 AM you know!!!