Thursday, August 30, 2007

Man in 16 A

Sure, it’s not uncommon for most of us to rummage through the candy tray in an airline, to fish out the imli candies. Lets face it, there is something terribly appealing about those things. And it’s perhaps that, which makes you want to even carry them back home sometimes… No wonder then, if your co-passenger grabs more than one, you don’t even notice. If he grabs a can’t help but look vaguely in their direction and smirk to yourself… but the man on 16 a (thankfully the seat between my aisle and his window was vacant) seemed determined to load himself with enough to not just last him a lifetime..but maybe that put together for almost every other passenger in air at that moment. And I’m told, the stats for that are frighteningly high! As luck would have it… the plane had being taxiing the run way for nearly 20 minutes. We were behind some fat international airline that made our Boeing 737 look relatively small. The usual set of sounds in the fuselage.. Unfortunately for me though, the only sound my ears could catch was the chewing, lip smacking and constant waggle of Mr 16 A’s tounge ! They say you can tell a lot about a man with the way he eats. If that were true, by the end of this fight I’d have enough material to write volumes about this man. I reckon, the lip action was the work of a 40 something man who’s hair decided to leave him early in life (maybe because like me, it couldn’t handle the orchestra this man liked to engage in..while eating!) and whose glasses were your average bifocals. What wasn’t average about this man was his ability to hog candies. I don’t mean to judge, really, but if a kid had done the same thing…it’d be a lot less bothersome and maybe (and its safe to say I’m assuming) cute. But an overgrown man downing Imli candies one after another …was way too much to handle. If it wasn’t his churning action roaring above the sound of the engine getting ready to take off, it was the wrappers he was constantly unfolding and then rolling into a ball to shove into his seat pocket. And just when I thought he’d finished the 3 million candies he had managed to pick up (Its important I mention at this time that he only had two hands like most normal mortals although…they worked like a few hundred on even a slow rainy night) he buzzed for the airhostess. I should tell you a little about this woman. She had one of those I’ve-got-a-speech-by-heart-and-don’t-interrupt-untill-I’ve-vomited-out-what-I-want-to-say manner of talking. I have to confess, before my ears began serving a sentence for some obvious bad karma…I my eyes and ears together had noticed how she rattled the safety speech to the passenger in 15 A….who’d chosen the window seat right over the wings that has the emergency exits…the usual.. “ In case of an emergency. pull the window open. Jump off blah blah..” which I’m convinced would all be forgotten if tragedy did indeed hit this plane! Luckily, it didn’t. if she did… I was certain..the lady on that exit..was definitely not upto the task! Anyway, I love that seat. Besides the fact that you start the flight on a horrible note that makes you think about the worst that could happen…it has some good points. For starters, it has the most leg room . The seat doesn’t recline, but I’ve noticed I don’t do that with the my seat it doesn’t matter. I had infact ask the woman at checkout counter for a seat at the wings..but she must have miscalculated…and fate brought me in close contact with Mr. Busy mouth! Speaking of Busy mouth, my worthy co-passenger’s request for the moment was “some more candies please”. The airhostess answered in the usual polite “certainly sir” with a smile more fake than most socialites could manage… and returned promptly with a tray of candies. And then began the great treasure hunt to unearth perhaps the single most valuable treasure the world has ever known. “No imli candies?!” 16 A asked. “How could there be any left?! You finished them all, you bozo!” said my heart...although my lips failed to comply. Anyway, our man then settled for some ordinary ones… (and by some I mean, another handful) and the unwrapping.licking.tongue waggling.chewing.and folding-the-wrapping-paper ritual began all over again! What seemed like an eternity later, the flight took off! The noise of the engines finally managed to drown the sounds of you -know -who..and I was at peace…until the meal, that is! For some reason airline portions have never managed to satisfy me. I’ve found that 8 out of 10 times I ask for an extra veg meal..much to the delight of several passengers who always tend to follow suit. My man…was prompt to also ask for an extra soon after my request with a –oh-didn’t-know-u-could-actually-do-that kinda look! And almost immediately, I realized what I had done! My second round of Biryani became my curse… as I struggled to somehow let my ears catch other sounds…16 A chewed and chewed and chewed…like there was no tomorrow. And if sounds could kill, it was time to arrange my funeral! Was his loud chewing the worst part?! Well, it was until our well fed soldier fell into deep slumber and the new set of noises began emitting from a hairy portion a little north of his earlier source of sound! I came out of that flight believing in the power of true love…because if his wife could manage to live with this man…despite his exceptional flair for making music (and I use the word in its sarciest avatar!) while eating and sleeping…love certainly must exist! Not only have I concluded love must be blind… my thesis for the moment, is that love must certainly be deaf! How else do you explain this man’s marriage?!

Of weird journalists, strange pilots and a disprin!

I’d made peace with the fact that my co-passenger was a noisy eater! and I’d made peace with the fact that I’d managed to miss the party I was to attend on reaching Bombay. The flight had taken off late…and going by what I know of Bombay traffic…I obviously wasn't going to make it! 

 For this Delhi –bombay flight, jet had decided to give us the privilege of being flow by a captain who should have ideally been hired with a translator to make flight deck announcements. And his first words shortly after take off…had me smirking to myself..thinking.. “right! like anyone understood that!” And then, just when we’d have thought we were nearing landing.. another announcement (what I’d have thought would’ve been the “thank you for choosing us and helping us empty your wallet into ours” speech) told us in the same bizarre tough-to-follow accent, something that sounded like a diversion and a word that sounded suspiciously like Ahmedabad

Little or no reaction from anyone ofcourse. My lack of disbelief came from the fact that the word diversion was said in what can only be described as a largely unceremonious tone. I mean if you’re going to take me to a whole new city by accident…I’d like to be fussed over slightly, at the very least! Anyway, My eyes met those of a passenger in a row behind me. And I could tell he was party to my battle of deciphering our pilot’s accent. And just when I was about to hit the call button for an airhostess, the cabin crew marched in with their announcement about our landing in Ahmedabad because of “congestion at the Bombay airport”. 

It was already past mid night by this time. I realized my loud chewing neighbor was also quite a loud mouth when he yelled at the airhostess for no apparent reason! And I noticed a pattern with him…each time someone told him to fasten a seat belt or close the tray table..or straighten the seat back.he grumbled ..obeyed and promptly ordered for a bottle of water. “His way of maintaining authority” I thought… anyway, he of course was the most inconsequential part. And I think our man realized how out of line he was…when other passengers who had connecting international flight chose polite words with the cabin crew to make their enquiries. He got the hint… turns out subtlety isn’t dead!

 If it wasn’t cabin announcements, it was something else. Now came a slightly fat man with a beard. “Ladies and gentlemen. I’m a journalist and if you have comments about what has happened, I’d like to get your reactions”. It amazed me how this man was set for a scoop at this hour! My fellow journalist was trying to start a mass movement against the airline. Lets just say, he was met with much lesser response than he’d have liked. His offer to give out the email address for the aviation minister was met only by someone asking the airhostess for a Disprin. He was the second under five minutes to take a hint. We didn’t hear from our worthy journalist for the remaining forty minutes of the ahmedabadbombay leg. I'm not complaining.

From then on, this flight seemed largely uneventful. The man sittin to my right …in the other row tried to figure how he was going to manage to get to south Africa considering the plane he was to be on…had left almost three hours ago. A woman enquired about what jet would do to get her to Brussels…and my noisy neighbor retired. only to groan occasionally as the plane hit turbulence. All this, only to be followed by the voice of my triumphant pilot and his funny accent…announcing what I assumed, hinted at a possible landing. Then again, I wouldn’t know… I aint that fluent in gibberish!