Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Air Turbulence (Part II of my journey home)

The second leg of my flight from Phoenix to Hyderabad on board British Airways was from London to Hyderabad. Going by the first leg's boarding calls I knew leech uncle and I would be called at different times again. Also, looking at the number of Indians crowding at the boarding entrance(unlike the last flight, this flight was almost entirely Indians so it was the natural thing for everyone to crowd at the boarding line) I was more hopeful that all the seats would be full. So I had a less anxious wait for boarding. In fact, once leech uncle was called for boarding and disappeared down the passageway, I just stepped back and sat on the benches seeing how terribly anxious everyone else was to board. I hate the notion of standing in a line to board a flight when I have a reserved and confirmed seat. So I usually tend to wait for the line to clear out before boarding. So that meant I was the very last passenger to get on board.

When I climbed on board the aircraft and went to take my seat(window), I found that some uncle was already sitting there! I said it was my seat to which he replied that he was with family(the usual!) and wanted to be with them. He did have his wife and mum/mum-in-law beside him. But I insisted that I wanted my seat. At this point, he continued to sit and asked his wife to get up and go take their 'actual' seat which was the middle seat in the row in front of where they were presently sitting. At this point, the old grandmum on the aisle seat started to make an effort to get up. Just seeing that effort I realised it would be a nightmare for both her and me if I wanted to go to the loo! So I said I would take their seat in stead. Two unfortunate things happened as a consequence of this change of seat: 1) I had requested vegetarian meals on the BA website beforehand and he ended up taking one of them. (I had informed him of this but for some reason he just dug into the food in stead of passing it on to me). 2) The reading light on his seat wasn't working! This was painful. I was actually reading furiously in the US-London leg and wished desperately to continue. In stead, I ended up watching some shitty movie (rab ne bana di jodi). Anyway, while the aircraft was still at the aerobridge waiting for the check in baggage to finish loading, there was an old grandma who started clamouring urgently for headphones the moment she sat on her seat, while the stewards and stewardesses were still assisting other passengers and tucking in the carry on baggage. She made fuss in spite of each stewardess taking the trouble to explain "The headphones haven't arrived yet!" I think she was under the impression the headphones were for radio communication and that she was the pilot! :| Then a lady immediately beside her opened up some pudina biryani or similar variant and the entire flight was now smelling like Hyderabad House(the famous Biryani store). With most of the Indians failing to understand the proper british accent, every steward/stewardess had to repeat each request 10 times. When the lady beside me was asked 'tea or coffee?' She nodded her head in approval. And when I went to the loo I discovered the entire rear half of the aircraft was smelling like a Sulabh complex. So much so that when the stewardess was going in to the aircraft's rear kitchen, I actually overheard her tell her colleague 'Oh god! It stinks SO BAD in there!' Then there was one uncle(very well-dressed) who got up when the captain had the seat belt sign on when there was perceptible turbulence! A steward had to come rushing in from where he was seated and warned the uncle to sit down. The uncle shows his little finger(the Indian male's notation for wanting to urinate) to the steward. The steward says, "Sir, please sit down now!!" and the uncle still lingers around. Then the steward says, "Sir, you are going to sit down right now! We cannot permit you to risk your life and so I am going to have to force you to sit down if you don't!!" And then he sits down! :| And, in general, when the seat belt sign was not on, people were just ambling about and socialising like they were at some get-together! I noticed one uncle pair standing in the aisle and conversing for a whole half-hour!! And as if all this wasn't enough, during landing there were two young couples with infants who happily fastened themselves to their seatbelts while the kids were on their highly protective torsos! :| When the steward came by checking if everyone had fastened their belts he requested both couples to fasten their infants also under the belt. While returning from the inspection he found they still hadn't done it. This time he gave them an annoyed warning. Then when he came by for a final collection of trash, he found they still hadn't fastened the infant to the belt! By the time the steward gave his third warning, he was just nodding his head in disbelief and disgust at our whole race I think. He was just constantly nodding with this "I can't believe you people!" expression because the poor fellow said multiple times, "Sir, this is for your own safety and the safety of your child. In case of a rough landing your child's life is in severe risk. Please try to understand!" I saw him nodding vehemently in incredulity as he forcibly strapped the child and dad onto the seat! What had me nodding in horror was that the dad removed the child from under the belt as soon as the steward left.

Most people on the flight were either people taking the second leg after a flight in from US or people who were in UK! That nothing can seem to civilise us is so heart-breaking. Almost all of them were educated too! That grandma clamouring for headphones was speaking English the whole time! The best part was, one stewardess had such a good humour in spite of all this. When she got the headphones to the clamouring grandma, she said, "Here you go my love, we haven't forgotten your headphones!! :)" She was the same one who complained about the stink. But she tried to keep up her spirits. When she was serving water and orange juice. Some lady looked at the glass of water and said, "Is this water?" to which she took on the exact same accent that the lady had for 'wat' in water and said "This is wat-ka!" It was fun to see the lady's eyes bulge up in horror. Then she immediately corrected and said, "I was joking. This is water sweetheart!" :)

Acknowledgement: Encouragement courtesy Silverine.


silverine said...

That stewardess warms the cockles of my heart! :)

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

Yes, what a lovely woman :)

mathew said...

hehe..ur are probably suffering from trauma by now!! ;-D

I could almost feel the desperation you had to go through!!

I have experienced such ruckus once in a flight from Dubai to Tvm...otherwise most of the flights I have taken have been really peaceful..and yeah i usually try to be comfy with my book or the flight entertainment system!!

scorpiogenius said...

Its true that there are a good few fellow countrymen who embarrass me everytime I travel. This could be seen especially in the Middle East- Kerala flights where people get drunk, and behave as if they're in a local bar.

Saying that, the Westerners aren't too great either. One whole bunch of Irish were banned from travelling on a Trans-Atlantic flight because of their misbehavior after drinks in the onward flight. It made big headlines here and we could see more embarrassing incidents if we watch the 'Airport' Heathrow episode on Sky TV.. heheheee these guys could be as bad! :))

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

@Mathew: Yes, a book is my best companion on flight! :)

@Scorpiogenius: Interesting to know the other side. I have always seen the white men most well-behaved though :)