Tuesday, August 09, 2005

4 Flights and a Blog

Initially the plan was to write something or anything I can from each of the airport I visit. But then you must have heard what happened to the girl who went to shop and did not take her pet chimpanzee along with. (Of course you haven't heard of her and there is no connection whatsoever between these two incidents.)

So first I am on the way to the Bangalore airport. I am in good mood too, because I am very much ahead of schedule (my flight is at 1700 and my cell phone shows time 1430). Though I cannot deny that I am somewhat anxious thinking of what lines would best describe my current feelings. Save some taunting from my eternally sarcastic friend Dis, that those feelings being more about my latest crush (she's not my crush ok!) than the flight I am about to take, I am on top of the world. I am dragged to the reality when I am informed that my Indian Airlines flight is cancelled and I am being put in the next flight to Mumbai at 2015 or something. Of course it is a bad news and it puts anything related to blogging out of my mind. The travel consultant from my office calls me saying he has blocked a ticket on some other airlines which leaves at 1800. It is more bad news because that would mean that I wouldn't have much time in Mumbai to meet everyone who is coming despite of rains and weak health to see me off. But as they say, I don't have much of choice. After I get my boarding pass, I think to jot down something on my notebook so that I can copy paste that stuff at next airport, but my pen is out of ink and my notepad is "checked in".

At Mumbai airport the scenes aren't much better. We have reached the international airport at about 2025. My parents, uncles and few friends are waiting for me outside the airport. I told them to wait till I check in my stuff and come back. I am sure it won't take much time. And sure enough when I complete the procedures for check in and get the boarding pass from the beautiful Thai Airways attendant, the big information screen is showing time 2100. Now I am informed that I cannot go out of the airport building when I have completed check in. I have almost started to curse them, when I see my family coming up at the visitor's lounge. So for next half an hour or so I am with them, discussing my itinerary and my possible reaching time. When it is almost 2130, I leave them for immigration and customs clearance. I complete that and search for any machine remotely resembling computer with internet access. There is no trace of it. Now, did I really expect one to find there?

The clock near the transfer counter at the Bangkok international airport reads close to 0500. It tells me that I have almost 2 hours before my next flight. But now I am in a different country and the procedures at the check-in take longer and longer. Sir, can I have your passport please? To which country are you traveling? Have you traveled before this? Do you want window seat or aisle? This is the only question she does not ask and offers seats 64B and 30B for my next two flights. I am not in any mood to argue and get the window seats at this hour of the day. I ask the lady about possibility of checking emails at the terminal. Yes sir. We do have computers with internet facilities. Do you have .... Some words pass me without any recognition. That might have been because I was bit sleepy I think. So keeping a blank face, I ask: Can you please repeat that? Thailand Currency Sir, do you have it? I obviously don't have it. Before telling anything, she says but it will accept only Thailand Currencies. I say, great. Now I need to find some money exchange counter over this very long terminal and I have to catch the flight too. "Forget about blogging now", my realistic mind tells my overtly romantic one. "You are not going to forget about this experience very soon. You can write your blog in the next country." "Yes Sir. Done."

I am very much tired now. The initial curiosity about long distance flights is wearing off. And the inevitable jadedness is coming into me. But I am reminded on my task. This is the last but one stop, I tell myself. South pole or bust. So I approach the pretty lady at the information desk at Tokyo's Narita Airport with some sense of determination. But as I do so, I realize that the time there is almost 1600. So back in India it would have been 1230. So instead of asking her about the internet kiosk, I ask her about placing an international call. As per her suggestion, I decide to purchase a calling card which would possibly help me calling up a few more numbers. (and no Dis, it ain't her number.) The lady declares that in any case the nearby shops would not accept any currency other than Yen and if I have to purchase in USD, I will have to walk to Terminal 2 where all the duty free shops are located. "It's just 10 min walk, Sir." By now sleep has receded off my eyes and I feel suddenly fresh. I start the journey towards Terminal 2. After some 1.5 km walk, I find the money exchange counter. I purchase Yens for $5 and go to the calling card vending machine. The machine has only 3 calling cards varieties, with minimum being ¥1000. Now with ¥544, purchasing calling card is out of question. And I am too tired to go back all the way to money exchange counter. So I decide to call up using payphone. I can only talk for 2 min for ¥500. But nevertheless I feel happy to have at least spoken with them. In that state of hysteria, I forget all about internet enabled computer. It is when I reach the gate 33 to board my flight, I see a computer. I still have some time before 1710, so I decide to give it a shot. But unfortunately, I only have ¥44 left and the computer is asking me for at least ¥250 for 10 min. It is not your fate to write a blog today, I tell myself in rather resigned mood. But there is one more city left, and you can do it there. Thanks for reminding, I say, and board the flight.

After finishing the breakfast at about 1010 in the flight, the pilot declares our arrival at Tacoma airport of Seattle. I am already ready with all the things I can do for the immigration interview. I have read and re-read all the information I have filled in I-94, I check and re-check my passport, visa and things like that. I keep checking stuff for about 3 min. The actual interview takes less time than that. The officer, surprisingly, does not ask me anything of much importance. Just a few casual questions and I am off for customs. Now UA876 is a Boing 777 flight and there are lot of people on it. Multiply it by two and you have number of luggage bags that are rolling on the conveyor belt before me. This is my first long term trip outside India (come to think of it, first trip outside India), so good thing is that I have all new bags purchased specifically for it. But bad thing is that I am not very much accustomed to those yet. I have also not placed my name and address on any of them because I am told they will not last for these many hours the way the airlines crew handle the bags. So while I keep recollecting the color of the bags and their makes, they pass me twice. Finally when there are only a few people left at the luggage claim, I get those bags and proceed to the customs. It doesn't take more time than immigration either and I enter the United States of America.


Hey, wait wait wait. What happened to the blog you were supposed to write? You could have easily done it at the Tacoma airport! You had American currency, you had all the time you could spend, and what not!

Yes sire. This is the same blog I started writing at the Tacoma airport. But because I was not feeling energetic there, I just logged on to my blogger account, created new blog, logged off and left for Federal Way. It is only now when I could complete and clear it for release. Thanks for reading!

signing off,

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