11.21.2006

An anecdote in a 1000 words!!!

There is an interesting anecdote (I wouldn't call it one since its developed into a short story as you will see shortly), that I want to narrate. This is not for the weak-minded. It’s quite big. Yeah it takes a lot of words to get the confusion, fury, embarassment and exhaustion of that experience all out of my system. I have written it as it happened and no fancy shmancy stuff in this post (not that you really expected it but am just telling you ;)..)

This was on my first trip abroad. Destination SFO. Well, that was on my onward flight. On my way back to India I had to change planes in Chicago. And that is how I landed in one of the busiest airports of the world O'Hare International Airport. There were two things that I learnt as soon as I got to a particular airline (don't want to name them) counter.
1) That one can't do a through check-in of baggage between flights which don't land and take off on the same day.
2) Most Indian travelers are perceived as travel-illiterate (unless you put a show of nonchalance, if you appear even a wee bit concerned it kills the impression you are making).

So there I was at the baggage section trying to spot my huuuge green samsonite and a small green VIP suitcase among the umpteen baggages piled up there. I could find the small one but the huge one was absconding. I reported this to the airline personnel who assured me that they would find it for me before I left and gave me a lot of fundas about how somehow baggages mysteriously pile up inside their office sometimes. And since they gave me nice smiles and also helped me with an overnight accommodation at the Radisson I was gleaned to accept their assurances and went on to the hotel where I slept peacefully through the night.
My flight the next day was at 1:30 PM. Good sense made me reach the airport by 9 AM. I reached the counters with all the radiance of the sun shining outside on Chicago. There I was told on enquiry that they had failed to trace my bag. But I was told that they would look. After waiting for an hour in the line-of-sight of the ground staff, I started asking them again.
It dint help my case that there was another Indian grandma checking in for the same flight with two bags that weighed twice more than maximum. Her son who was trying to send a whole lot of stuff to India was abusing the staff for their rude attitude. So the air was generally on fire. When even after repeated enquiry I couldn't solicit any concrete response from them as to where the bag went, I went ahead and wrote down the name of the lady who was talking to me. I told her that I would have to inform the airline authorities about her for not even trying to find out where my bag went with the pretext that there were "a lot of passengers traveling everyday who carry lot of bags and airline personnel can't personally track each of them". At this point her boss became a little apprehensive and started taking personal interest in the matter.
By this time it was 12:15 and I was getting panicky about missing my flight. Chicago is a huge airport. And there are sky trams which connect between terminals. That was another first for me. I needed at least 20 minutes to get to the departure terminal of my flight. The boss lady got busy firing away instructions to her junior. They all trooped inside the office and god knows what they did but finally they emerged triumphant only to tell me that instead of through checking-in to MAA(Madras, India) my bag was checked-in to MAD(Madrid, Spain) and that’s where it was headed! I was assured (yet again) that I would be united with it in London which was my stopover. I had no choice but to accept this piece of information and head over to the sky tram place because I could only think of that way to get to my terminal.
The place where i needed to get in was out of a science fiction movie for me. Doors kept opening and closing on either side of the enclosure and capsules would keep zipping by. I looked around to see for any mention of the terminal I was supposed to go to. I saw one board on the right which said Terminal X and had the downward pointing arrow mark beside it. For the high-tech-travel-illiterate me this dint make any sense. What is the downward arrow supposed to mean? Should I enter the right door or the left? I stood there and thought about it for a full five minutes. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone there but mustered up courage and asked this to a uniformed lady "Terminal X please?". In reply she just nodded her pointed vaguely and slowly said "Yeah...". And of course I did not understand that! So what I did next was the most hilarious thing. Since the board was hanging on the right side I decided to go into the right door. I arrived at Terminal Y and was left with a question mark. And then I saw another board which said "Terminal X" and the arrow beside it was pointing to the left side! I thanked the Lord for small mercies. Got into the left door and in a couple of minutes found myself exactly where I had first boarded the tram!! I had not realized that I was in Terminal X all the time I was frantically searching for it!!
Well then I ran from there till I found my gate. I was one of the last passengers to board the flight. I spent a tense ten hours to London in despair about my missing luggage. In London, upon enquiry I found that my luggage was indeed redirected and it would board the flight with me. My insistence that I wanted to physically see my bag before boarding feel on deaf ears. I spent another eight hours to Chennai wondering if I would really see my bag. Upon landing, after immigration I ran all the way to the baggage belt and lo behold there it was, my precious huge Green Samsonite bag!
Post a Comment

LinkWithin