Tag Archives: Airport

A series of unfortunate events

Thursday, 8th November – 0600 hrs
So I was taking a break from work for 11 days. Let’s just call it a vacation at my native. My agenda – Diwali on 8th, Kalpathi Ratholsavam over the next week, and a visit to Chelakkara, my mother’s native place, after about 10 years.

This has been my most expensive trip home so far. I had to take a flight to Coimbatore and my dad came about 50km to pick me up. The reason – No train or bus tickets were available as it was peak time. Forget peak time, you won’t get tickets to Kerala even on normal months. I remember seeing 93 seats available on the first day of booking (that is 60 days before the journey date), and it quickly went into wait list in 15 minutes. Traveling from Bangalore to Palakkad (or to any part of Kerala, for that matter) is a pain in the butts, mostly because you have to take a bus (because there are only a couple of direct trains) and your butts will indeed be painful by the time you reach home.

Deprived of all cheaper means of going home, I thought of taking my car. That would be a drive of 7 hours. But my mom thought that was a bad idea (Read: “Forget it! You are not taking your car alone for such a long distance.”) It almost seemed as if she sensed that I was in Diesel Mode of late. Diesel Mode is the term given by my friends to my random rushes of adrenalin wherein I drive my car like a race car driver when I find stretches of road where there is not much traffic and there is no risk of people crossing the road, for instance the Inner Ring Road or the Mysore Road. The name is derived from the role of Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious. Anyway, my mom said “No car. Period.” So I took a flight, shelling out about 2000 bucks more than what I’d spend for a train ticket.

The flight duration was 1 hour. I was wondering why it took so long, given that it is not even one third the distance between Bangalore and Delhi. I made up a theory. Coimbatore was so close that the plane would have passed Coimbatore and gone further South by the time it gained altitude. So it had to turn around to land in Coimbatore.

Mathematically speaking,
Optimum Altitude/Rate of altitude gain of the plane < Distance to Coimbatore/2*Ground speed of plane

The flight was supposed to be uneventful, but as it would always be the case with me, it was eventful. The event was that I got two free sandwiches and a coffee from Kingfisher. The “unevent” was that I got those not in the flight, but in the airport, because the flight was delayed by 2 hours, owing to the shortsightedness of the Coimbatore lads. (They said the visibility was only 600 feet and they couldn’t see farther than that. This is called shortsightedness or myopia.)

Thursday, 8th November – 1100 hrs
The 45 minute journey from Coimbatore to Palakkad was uneventful, except for the event that I immediately sensed it when we crossed the state border to Kerala as it started getting bumpy due to potholes in the National Highway. Anyway, the journey was over in a jiffy. All I did was talk. I talked to my brother, talked to my dad. Funnily enough, they didn’t talk to me much. My brother said I didn’t give them a chance to talk. One of the few things that I remember my dad saying was, “Watch out… there’s the bull temple.” There was a Shiva temple with a huge bull statue by the Highway. And my dad and mom always made it a point to say “Watch out… there’s the bull temple,” as we used to pass by. You’d usually get bored having seen it so many times in life. But not my parents. My mom may even ask to turn back to have a look, if she misses it by any chance. (I don’t know whether this has happened any time.)

Thursday, 8th November – 1230 hrs
As I reached home, I had to add something else to my agenda. Designing the system that my brother was doing for his final year project. He didn’t know what the hell a design was. He would say he has done something and I just have to refine it, while in fact he would not have done anything. He would ask me about UML. Don’t ask me what UML is, because I honestly don’t know anything about it. When I tell this to my brother, he’d just ask me to tell him whatever I know. He sounds like a Project Manager at times. I get annoyed, but he gets a backing from mom, “Help him da. Who else does he have to turn to?”
“Oh right.. Engineering is a subject like the Hindi you teach. It is so simple that a Electronics Engineer can solve the doubts of a Computer Engineer.”
“I would help him if only I knew.”
“But I don’t know either”
My brother interrupts, “Look..you just have to draw a component diagram, explain each module and their interactions. I’ll take care of the rest.”
I ask, “What else is left for you to take care of? Correcting grammatical errors?”
My brother says, “No. MS Word will take care of that!”
I roll my eyes.So I was not spared this time either. My brother was bugging me when I wanted to rest in peace. Not inside a coffin, mind you.

Friday, 9th November – 1800 hrs
Diwali went on with some minor attractions like me showing off by lighting crackers in my bare hand and throwing them to burst them in the air. The next day I went to a concert in Kalpathi. I and my mom decided to walk the distance. By the time we reached Grandma’s house, I was really thirsty. No points for guessing the reason. I was talking all the way. You’ve heard “Walk the talk” but I apparently believed in “Talk the walk”. The concert was not very impressive, so we returned home soon.

Saturday, 10th November – 0900 hrs
The next day was a turning point in my vacation and in writing this post. I was not finished with half of my agenda. But as fate would have it, I’m forced to wind up this post midway. I don’t remember what went through my mind when I decided to take a couple of pull-ups in the bedroom loft. That I am not very heavily built, and can take only two pull-ups at most, is a fact which I forgot. (On second thought, this is what was going through my mind when I did that act which can be deemed extremely unnecessary and foolish.) I pulled myself up; when I reached the pinnacle, a piercing pain grew in my right elbow, and I immediately let go. I was literally slithering in the bed due to excruciating pain for the next 2 minutes. After the pain subsided, I noticed that it still was extremely painful whenever I twisted my arm. I was not able to eat with bare hands; I had difficulty in brushing my teeth. I was horrified. What happened to my right arm? I went to the hospital, and found out from the doctor that a cyst has developed in my elbow. It was probably there for some time, but the pain developed when the bone was exerted. I have to get it removed through surgery. I’ll get admitted soon. The doctor advised me not to type, but I wanted to publish this post, although it is incomplete. So I changed the title and am posting it now.I will update after my surgery. This is a very minor surgery, but please pray for me.

Woes Reloaded

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!!!


I don’t go looking for trouble…Trouble usually finds me

This time trouble found me at O’Hare International Airport, supposed to be the busiest airport in the world.

I could say why.. 4 domestic and 1 international terminal. About 40 boarding gates per terminal. One flight taking off or landing every 42 seconds! PHEW!

As I’m very interested in figures, I’ll add some more.

Crowd – overwhelming
Flights cancelled on Thursday evening – 63. (Did you see it right? It’s sixty-three)

I was about to go to Sacramento, CA, on Thursday. I took lots of effort to reach O’Hare airport that day.

After pushing my way through the crowd, I finally reached gate B1. I stood near B1 for another 1 hour, simply because all the seats were occupied. I went to check the flight status one last time before it was time to board. To my horror, it was shown as cancelled.

I started to panic now. What to do? I was really looking forward to meeting my aunt and cousin after a long 5 years and to watch my cousin’s dance debut. I went to the United Airlines representative near the gate. She told me to contact the Customer Service Desk. I went back. The queue for the customer service center was one gigantic snake which didn’t seem to end. Anyway, I had to stay in the queue.

I started looking for other options. I tried to find out the number of UA, but couldn’t. I called my uncle, but there was nobody at home and his cell was not reachable. There was no other option. I had to wait in the queue.

After about half an hour my uncle called back after hearing my voice message. I explained the situation and asked him if he could get their number for me. He called them instead and looked for alternatives.

No seats available for Friday also. But Saturday was too late for me. So I decided to cancel my ticket and book another one with Southwest Airlines from Midway airport. Unfortunately (yeah…right!!), UA had no tie-up with Southwest, so they couldn’t process that. The very way the UA person talked was as if they didn’t give a fart about the plight of their passengers because this was a FAA directive. So I had to cancel my journey with UA and book anew with Southwest. My uncle did an online booking with southwest.

Now it was almost 2 hours since I’d been standing in the queue, and I was not even halfway through the queue.
As I was talking to my uncle, I got another distraction from behind. The lady who was standing just behind me suddenly screamed and threw her cellphone down. I literally jumped from my place and at first thought that it was because of me. Then she told me that the f***ing phone was drained…that too when she was in the middle of a call with UA representative. She was going to Pittsburg, which was also cancelled. It is okay to get frustrated. But throwing your expensive cell phone was too much.

Anyway, my uncle was able to cancel my UA ticket online, and because I had no checked in baggage, I was able to quit the queue and go back home. I took a taxi. Reached hotel at around 12 am. Slept. Woke up at around 3 am. Drove to Midway airport. 3 hours sleep and no dinner/breakfast. That was a real bad experience.

Luckily, I had a stopover at LA airport. I had my usual veggie sandwich/French Fries/Coke at a McDonalds there.

Reached here finally. Will write about the rest in the next post.