Friday, February 03, 2012

One morning at an airport

The alarm rang, I pressed the snooze button. The snooze button is my best friend in the morning, but I pulled myself away from temptation and got up. I was soon off in the taxi, the taxi ride was long, and when youre alone,iy seems even longer. Upon reaching the airport and seeing the fare, discovered that the kind faced taxi driver who usually drops and picks me up from the airport was making a substantial profit compared to what the price actually was. This discovery didn't make the kindness of his face diminish in my mind. But I did wonder if I would be inclined to call him so often.

I went to the check in counter, and when my turn came, I announced that I was early, had no baggage to check in and requested to be given a seat with lots of leg room as well as a reclining chair. I was told with a smile that actually I was late, because people these days are paranoid and get to the airport really, really early. No aisle seats were available but I still managed to get a comfortable enough seat.

As I climbed the escalator, I heard the desperate voice of a young Gujarati girl asking if anyone else was going to Ahmedabad. It turned out that she had too much luggage and the flight had already closed. Moreover she had no money on her to either pay for the excess baggage or to get herself onto another flight. I felt bad for the poor girl,but my mind was quickly distracted as I reached the end of the escalator.

I saw an oldish lady struggling to walk steadily on the slippery granite floor. As I started feeling more and more irritated with the people who had designed the interiors of the airport, I watched several others slip, or miss a step and I slid a bit myself while meandering through to the x- ray machines for security check. Honestly, what a stupid thing to do! Any sensible architect or interior designer ought to know that airports are places where people are often in a rush to catch flights and are potentially at risk for a stumble or fall. And yet someone didn't use their brains enough to figure out that granite was probably the worst choice for a floor on which people are rushing around!

Anyway, trying my hardest not to slip again myself, I reached the eternally endless women's line at security check. I've always wondered why they don't have more staff for women passengers. Is it because we are less likely to be threats to security? Or do they think lesser women travel? Do lesser women travel? Doesn't seem so. It's my turn to go through the metal detector door, which says its safe for pregnant women and people with pacemakers to go through. I wonder about that.

A beaming security lady ushers me into the cubicle, does a half hearted thirty second check, stamps my boarding pass and without looking at me, waves me out of the cubicle. It's very random. Sometimes they detect even a tiny bell from an anklet, and sometimes it seems like even if I was carrying a frying pan in my hands, they wouldn't notice. Today was somewhere in between, but leaning more towards the latter.

My backpack came through clean, but I saw the face of the man behind the computer screen contort while my handbag was inside. My heart sank. His eyebrows knitted, his head tilted to one side, his nose scrunched up. He looked puzzled and disturbed. He told the security lady to take my bag aside. I felt impatience creeping up on me. When I opened my bags, and found what had caused the man to contort his face, I giggled to myself. They were my mother's hairpins. My grandmother and mother had given them to me as a wedding present. Silver hairpins that were strung together with a chain, and each had two little bells attached to them that made that sound I loved so much!

As the security lady took the pins from me, panic struck! What if they took them away? I called out, "They are just hairpins. My grandmother's", hoping to strike a chord in their hearts. Much to my alarm, the man kept poking his palms with the pointy ends of the pins, and the women eyed the hairpins with smiles that made me just a little uncomfortable. Yes, they were beautiful pins. They kept on this act for a good few minutes, and could probably see my anxiety heightening. A bystander looked at me sympathetically and said, "Beta, you should have worn them instead of keeping them in your bag. That way they don't pay much attention to pins." Another said, "It's difficult for us, women." I mumbled, crestfallen, that I had forgotten that they were there. I'd been meaning to put them away in my cupboard. Eventually though, the security lady handed them over to me, and I nervously stuttered, "Here, I'll wear them now. I'll wear them" and scurried away.

My stomach was rumbling. Time for breakfast. I looked around and ended up buying an extraordinarily expensive breakfast and filter coffee. I sat down to eat, finished eating and saw some sparrows. I decided to leave my plate and walk away with my coffee, and watched contented, as the sparrows gathered to eat what I had left. They looked so incredibly round and cute! And happy eating!

I sat at my gate,and finished my coffee while reading The Odissi Girl, a book on dance and philosophy and love, by a friend. The writer's interpretation of the Taj as a monument of despair rather than love struck me as extremely powerful and wonderful. And his thoughts about the beautiful and ugly being the only two things that surprise humans, I found very true and intriguing. But then the line for boarding was coming to an end, and I got up to board the bus that would take me to the plane.

I entered the bus, found a seat at the far end of the bus, and sat down. A cruel blast of icy wind stunned me. WHY was this bus tuned to arctic temperatures?! The air conditioner was functioning as a freezer. Why are the airport buses always so cold? Even planes for that matter..I always feel cold on planes. And fancy hotels and restaurants. It's like they are under the spell of the White Witch from Narnia!

Thankfully, the bus ride was short. I got off the bus last, and basked in the warmth of the sun for just a few seconds before I was in front of the man who would rip my boarding pass. But suddenly, another man was ahead of me. He looked at me from the corner of his eye for just a second, betraying his knowledge that he had cut the que, but continued to do so anyway with absolutely no sense of shame or remorse. I had a violent urge to say something forceful to him, but the moment had gone. I saw him drift away nonchalantly in front of me. I just huffed and rolled my eyes, and hoped that the man ripping the boarding pass didn't think all that was directed at him!

Finally onto the plane, I found my seat. An emergency exit seat, with lots of leg room and a reclining chair as well! A cheerful air hostess sheepishly came to me and explained what I had to do in case of an emergency, but a knowing look transpired between us - we both knew that this was a formality, and we both knew that if an emergency really did arise, the chances that I'd remember the complicated instructions were pretty slim. But she smiled and explained, and I smiled back and nodded awkwardly.

Then the captain spoke. I often suspect that they are drunk only because of the manner in which they drawl! This one had a particularly slurry speech, which I have to admit, I found more than slightly disconcerting. Why can they not speak clearly? I did remember reading somewhere or hearing rumours about pilots being drunk and getting suspended for it. I got even more uneasy.

But as it turns out, the flight has been smooth so far. But looking down at the semi circular boundary of the earth's horizon is slightly depressing. Its grey and blurry, and whispers of the damage done to the esrth by human beings.