Stranger in a Strange Land
Tales of a Year Abroad

Thank you India...

Well... I made it. I think I'm *mostly* caught up on my sleep... mostly. I think I'd be more caught up on my sleep if India would, you know, not dump and then shovel gravel RIGHT. OUT. SIDE. my window at 3:30 in the morning. But hey, after hell I went through to GET here, who am I to complain...


About that. 


See this?
This states my flight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad as CONFIRMED. In fact, I even double checked with the booking agency (Airfare.com) SOLELY because an agent previously called me to inform me that my original flight was canceled (permanently) and they had re-booked me on a 5 a.m. flight. 


See this? 
This is the print-out that Air India gave me after I waited for... oh, two hours in line AFTER waiting for about an hour in line to check-in.

Here's the skinny.

I get in line. Per usual, and because I have THE worst luck, I pick the wrong line. I manage to choose the line in which the check-in guy is slower than molasses on a cold day. To top that off, Indian's fail to queue properly--as in Indian's budge A LOT. So after much jostling, finger tapping, and jaw clenching, I FINALLY get to the front of the line. The guy asks me to spell my name--which is CLEARLY printed on the top of the ticket--like five times. Tappity, tappity, tap. He asks me to spell my name another three or five times. Tappity, tappity, tap. Then he tells me to step to the side so he can take care of the people behind me.

I kid you not, folks, at this juncture, that is ALL the "customer service" I received. No explanation, no "Go see this person at this counter," nothing. Nada. Zip, zilch, zero.

So I wait. Patiently at first. I figured, hey, he's Indian and his English kinda sucks so maybe he just wants to clear up the line a little bit so he can properly process me. And I've still got plenty of time--three hours of time in fact.

And then, as it becomes clear that he's doing his level best to avoid eye contact with me and he has NO intention of telling the people in line that they need to step over to the other queue, I grow impatient. I start heaving my bag about, I start tapping my foot. I clear my throat loudly. I move myself closer to the counter--well in front of the "Wait here for your turn" yellow line--so as to make myself a proper roadblock, and thus a major inconvenience to all other passengers trying to exit the queue in an orderly fashion. I figure, hey, he's GOTTA notice me at this point.

Nope. All I receive is a "Please continue to wait, madam," which serves to only piss me off.

"For how much longer, sir? I've already been here an hour," I say loudly, and somewhat angrily.

At this juncture, the gentleman motions me forward, asks me another five or six times what my name is and tappity, tappity, taps on his keyboard. I'm feeling a little better about now, kinda like it's all going to work out and this is just one of those "India things" (like monkeys in the kitchen, or families of six riding on scooters) but no. It's actually a a booking fail. As it turns out, I'm not listed on the passenger manifest.

Panic washes over me, white-hot anger on it's heels. The man at the ticket counter motions me to step aside, yet again, and I explode. I yell--no, lets be honest, I shrill--at him that he needs to help me and he needs to help me NOW. He attempts to say, "Please wait," one more time and I throw a royal hissy fit. I demand that he remove himself from behind the counter and take me to someone that can help me. Miraculously, he does.

He leads me over to Air India's last-minute ticket counter. He disappears, with my e-ticket in hand, into an office. I am feeling hopeful. In a few moments, I tell myself, I'll have a ticket and be on my way.

Oh, silly, silly Tina.

What I do have in my hand at the end of this little jaunt is a piece of paper that confirms 100% that my ticket was canceled.

I am flummoxed. Completely and totally flummoxed. And this whole process has taken two hours, leaving me only one hour to figure out if I even have a seat on a plane, go through security (no easy feat in India), and board a plane.

While I'm standing there sputtering, feeling the heat of a frustrated crying jag rushing up my neck and into my face. I am desperate to maintain some semblance of composure.

I fail miserably.

Mr. Ticket Man hands me off to a very harried woman who proceeds to tell me, repeatedly, that my ticket is canceled and a host of other things, that honestly, I don't hear because I'm in the process of losing it. Loudly. In public.

I scream at her. I demand she fix it. RIGHT. NOW. I cry.

She tells me to calm  myself, which makes me cry harder. Then, out of sheer frustration, she says "I cannot help you if you are not calm. You must go speak to Continental," and waggles her hand ambiguously in the direction of The Larger Airport.

I storm off, bawling my eyes out and muttering like a mad woman. I have no idea where the Continental ticket counter is (later, I find out it's on another floor).

Long story short: I wander back to the Air India ticket counter, and seek the help of this woman. Her English is better than Mr. Ticket Man, and she seemed authoritative. After gritting my teeth at her admonishment--"Are you calm, now? I cannot help you if you are not calm"--she takes my ticket and does her best.

I wait. And wait, and wait, and wait. I watch as the minutes tick off the clock--12:30 a.m., 12:35 a.m., 12:45 a.m.  I approach her once again, and she informs me that my ticket was NOT issued to Air India as stated on the e-ticket, but rather through Kingfisher. Her man was "on it"--it being an attempt to wrest my 1:05 a.m. ticket from Kingfisher and put me on the 1:30 a.m. Air India flight.

12:50. 12:55...

Suddenly a man rushes up to the woman and hands her a piece of paper. She motions me forward, hands the paper to another guy, and tells me THEY'RE HOLDING THE PLANE FOR ME.  The ticket is printed (it's now 1:05) and I am rushed off to security. Miraculously, they let me jump the line. I'm frisked, my carry-on is scanned, and I practically throw myself down the stairs in an effort to get to my gate.

The irony of this situation? After safely boarding the plane, our take-off is delayed for another hour and a half.
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Hodgepodge and Miscellany

The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Alladin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, whose yesterday's bear date with the modering antiquities for the rest of nations-the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.
- Mark Twain

In India, I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it, inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything, but possessed by nothing.
- Appolonius Tyanaeus

If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.
-Romain Rolland