Thursday, December 03, 2009

Killing Time, Part I

This travel sickness stuff is awful. I've had a fever and a flogging case of the dizzies. I'm nauseous. I want to sleep but can't because the body temperature vacillates between scorching and sleeting. More times than twice I've wished that I never would have gone to India in the first place.

Yes. It's that bad. My Indian adventure sentiment has been demoted to regret by globe-trotting induced trots and the 42-hour trip home.

Speaking of that 42-hour trip home, let's delve into that deeper, shall we?

Pune to Mumbai
On Monday, November 30 at 3:30pm India time, Spouse and I packed it up and traveled all of 20 minutes to the airport. That was nice. Nothing exciting happened. Excitement is not good when airplanes are involved. But as luck would have it, there was a snag. India is full of scary security guys dressed in ostentatious outfits. The airport is no exception. It's 10 times scarier.

In this new day of the E-Ticket, no one really issues printed plane ride tickets anymore. Naturally, we didn't have a ticket. To fly on a plane these days, you show up, present your passport and they issue a boarding pass. Not in India. The guards will not let you in the door to the airport until they are able to see a written piece of paper with a name, the flight number and the correct date.

The guard at the door of the Pune airport asked to see our papers. No problem! I said, then presented the guard with a printed copy of the itinerary. After a carefully long inspection of the 12-page itinerary (10 different airplane rides were required for this adventure), the guard still wouldn't let us in. The reason? My name wasn't on it. Spouse's name was printed, but mine was not.

Does this make sense? Anyone with a word processor could look up some flight numbers and corresponding times on the internet, type it into a document with the matching name and voila! Be in.

Secure, right? Absolutely! This is hour one of our 42 hour trip.

Luckily, Spouse had printed another itinerary with my name on it. I'm calling this part of the trip Divine Intervention. Fer reals. Strangely, Spouse reached into his backpack and pulled out a sheet of paper with my name on it. He had printed it by accident.

We checked the luggage and proceeded through security. At this point I'm already tired of being treated like a criminal. But there's a new catch. Indian airport security requires that everything you carry on the plane has a tag that has been stamped "secure" by security.

Here are the procedures: Guard one looks at bag. Guard two attaches tag. Guard three feeds bag through x-ray. Guard four looks at bag on x-ray monitor. Guard five pulls bag out of x-ray and hands to guard six. Guard six stamps the tag as "secure".

While this is going on, passengers (us) go through the mental (not metal, mental) detector and proceed to the pat-down area. That's right, you get the pat-down. The ladies, however are taken into a curtained area for the pat-down by a female officer. It's a serious pat-down too. EVERYTHING is groped. Or touched. Whatever.

Again, tired of being treated like a criminal.

Then the waiting began. While waiting, we read the itinerary and noticed that the flight from Pune to Mumbai is only 78 miles. 78 miles! Who goes through the hassle of flying for only 78 miles? We do. Because that same trip by car would take close to 3 hours. Not kidding. On the way in, I didn't believe it. However, we managed a road trip through the neighboring mountains during our stay in Pune. Driving 90k took around four hours.

We boarded the plane and flew to Mumbai without incident. Since we are flying international, the airline will not transfer the luggage to the next airline. We were instructed to claim our bags from the carousel and recheck them at the international terminal.

No problem right? Seems better this way, right? Our luggage will not get lost because we will be transferring the luggage to the right plane. Except our luggage never made it onto the carousel. One 17 minute flight and it appeared as though our luggage was already lost.


After an hour, we were able to track down the luggage and recheck it. Our layover in Mumbai was seven hours. Killing an hour looking for the luggage wasn't so bad for it killed an hour. We got really good at killing hours on this trip. Perhaps with all that killing, we are criminals after all? Perhaps.

Once the baggage was checked, we were instructed to check in with the international shuttle services. And so we did. We walked up to the international shuttle desk and a lovely young girl with purple eye-shadow asked us for our itineraries again. There's that printed paper thing again. I wanted to scream at her shiny violet eye-lid frosting. YOU HAVE A COMPUTER. HERE'S MY PASSPORT. LOOK IT UP ON YOUR COMPUTER. THAT'S THE WAY THE REST OF THE WORLD DOES IT. HERE IN THE 21st CENTURY.

Yes. Scream. In capital letters even.

Periwinkle eyes gave us a ticket with a number, similar to that found at the Baskin and Robins. She told us to kindly take a seat and wait for our numbers to be called. Okay good. I'll go visit the loo. In the loo, which SURPRISE had no toilet paper (none of the public toilets in that country have toilet paper), there was a queue of people waiting. Fine I say. I'll wait my turn. However, waiting your turn in a bathroom isn't the norm. Basically, once a door to a toilet opens everyone bullies their way in. It was a full-on bathroom brawl. In general, I try to be courteous. But after eight people had butted their way in front of me to relieve their butts, I had had it. Started to bully too.

After the bathroom fiasco, the international purple eyeshadow girl called our numbers and we climbed aboard the bus. The bus takes us over to the international terminal and we find our gate only to find SUPRISE! another guard asking to see our papers. This guard, however, was nice. See, they don't let you hang around in the Mumbai airport. Normally they won't let you in until around two hours before your flight is scheduled to leave. At this point we had around five hours before our plane was set to leave. This would mean we'd be sitting on the streets for three hours. With the Mumbai Masses. Let me write that again. THREE HOURS ON THE STREETS WITH THE MUMBAI MASSES.

For some reason, the guard looked us up and down and let us in. He said, "you go in and never come back." Not to worry dude. I'm not coming back. I'm tired of being treated like a criminal.

In the which we proceeded to kill four hours at the Mumbai airport by going through security again (see above), having dinner and watching a movie on the mePod. During this four hour time period the gate to our plane changed three times. We were able to kill even more time walking from gate to gate.

Finally the people announced boarding for our flight. They said something like, "Attention passengers of flight get-us-out-of-here, we'd like to begin boarding for those carrying small children." And look what happened:

Look at all those small children.

Spouse and I waited in our seats until the line was smaller. Once in line, here's how the process goes: Guard one reads boarding pass, guard two reads passport, guard three checks carry-ons for "secure" stamp. And wouldn't you know, one of my bags wasn't stamped "secure." I know it was x-rayed. I watched it come out. But the stamp wasn't there. Guard six from security check number two didn't do his job. "Go back to security and get the stamp," he says. You're kidding, right? Tell me you're kidding. YOU'RE A SECURITY GUARD. OPEN THE DANG BAG AND SEARCH IT YOURSELF. No. Would not do. Sent me back to security. So I haul buns to security, tell them to give me the damn stamp and run back. I show the guard the stamp and they let me in.

Here's the kicker. After I was let into the gate, I discovered that we get to go through security all over again! Yes, that's right. They x-ray the bags, again. They perform the pat-down, again. They do it all, again. He sent me back for a stamp only to have the same process repeated, again.

I said some really bad words several times. Something about getting me out of this something-or-other country.

I found my seat and cried for an hour. Which was good. It killed an hour of that nine hour flight.

Ten hours down, 32 to go.


Jessica said...

Reading this made me angry and anxious and agitated. Etc.

Incidentally, it takes about 3 hours to drive 78 miles in LA. It's almost like I live in another country, huh?

Sparks said...

Sorry, but I'm laughing. It should console you that I'm not laughing at you but rather laughing at how hopeless the whole situation seems. I'm so glad you're home.

rookie cookie said...

Jessica is right. It does take that long in LA. Especially on a Friday around 5pm.

Reading this made me think "God bless America". Seriously.

Lars said...

All I could think about when reading this was thank goodness I am not the only one who gets groped by security in airports. Can we form a club? I think we should. I will brainstorm some genius theme that uses alliteration and all.

Ryan said...

humor in misery. love it.

funny they arrange a hotel on the way in but you're on your own on the way out -- sounds like the mall where all the incoming cars have the right of way...or the moving sidewalk going into caesar's palace.

"I said some really bad words several times. Something about getting me out of this something-or-other country."

you're going to hell.

fortunately, you'll already be familiar with the transportation system.

rabidrunner said...

We tried to find it funny. We laughed a bunch up until the security stamp thing. That flipped my lid.

It's an anxious situation. I'd say that making people anxious is part of their plan to weed out the "real" criminals but I don't believe their system is that psychologically advanced.

God really has blessed America. There is no question about that. It's good that I know just how much. My hope is to spread that message.

Lars, you're a hot one. You get groped because you're hot. I get groped because I look like a criminal. Even though our causes are different, the effect is the same. We should form a club.

It's quite amazing how nothing gets past Ryan. You clued into the fact that we had no hotel. I guess Spouse's employer figured we'd be used to the madness of it all by then and wouldn't need one.

Had this happened on the way out, I would have cried for two hours instead of one. See how adjusted I was for round two? Adjusted.

We had booked a hotel to go to for this layover going home and Spouse had planned to expense it. But hotels in India are EXPENSIVE. They have a price for Indians and a price for the people like us. We felt bad about plunking down 12,000 INR for three hours in a hotel while children in India are starving. 12,000 INR is $259.74.

Rachel said...

Holy CRAP! And I thought going through security at the Salt Lake airport was stressful!

dug said...

what kind of name is "pune" anyway?

rabidrunner said...

Seriously. Poo-nay. They named it that because there's poo everywhere. Not kidding. Even stepped in it. To this day, we don't know what kind of creature produced it. (Dog, cat, cow, human...)

rabidrunner said...

Hi Rachel. Next time you go through security at the Salt Lake note that it's like a trip to a day spa in comparison.

Ryan said...

fair enough. no doubt spouse's employer will donate the 12,000 inr to the country's starving children when they hear he won't be expensing the hotel room.

as for unknown feces, they must grow their cows small and/or their cats huge in order for the two to remain indistinguishable.

rabidrunner said...

Hah! True the Employer will not donate our hotel cash for starving children. But we're principled people. Waste is waste is waste.

In regards to the indistinguishability of feces, YOU HAVE NO IDEA dude. NO IDEA.

I need to lay off the all caps. Don't you think?

Ryan said...

yes, you may need to lay off a touch. when you write "IDEA" in all caps i only read "IKEA" which despite its faults does not deserve to share a sentence with indistinguishable feces. oops, sorry ikea.

Lars said...

Hey she was a criminal as well:

you are hot Rabid, stop denying your hot factor. Look at those saucy calves. They just wanted to feel those muscles up and down.