Sunday, January 15, 2006

Meanwhile, Harry Wainwright is laughing himself silly

It was the perfect flight. Check-in didn't take too long, security was tedious, but I made it through well in time, the flight was on schedule (well, half an hour late, but you know), I managed to get space in the overhead compartment, there were no wailing brats within earshot, the airhostesses were pretty, the food was actually edible, the jazz on the in-flight entertainment was awesome, I had a good book to read (a copy of Zadie Smith's On Beauty - a present from a friend) I managed to get some really sound sleep, the immigration lines at Newark were surprisingly short - the whole thing was too good to be true.

It was. [1] Apparently, in their diligent zeal to get all the passengers carefully seated and off on time, the Continental Airlines ground staff in Delhi forgot one minor detail - the fact that said passengers also had baggage that was supposed to take the flight with them [2]. So that when the sun rose over New Jersey this morning, it found yours truly standing meekly at the tail end of a line of some 100 irate passengers outside the baggage claims office in Terminal C. Welcome to America. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, but no one said anything about luggage.

One hour of waiting in line and several interminable waits in queue on the relevant 1-800 number later, I was informed (am informed) that all the bags left behind in Delhi are being brought to Newark tomorrow, but that there is no way of knowing whether my bag is among them, so that I'll have to wait till tomorrow afternoon before they can tell me whether I'm going to get it back or not. I have this swift mental picture of myself as one of those Confederate wives waiting anxiously for their men to come back from the war. I practise saying 'Ashley, O, Ashley' in a breathy voice. I want my Mammy. "But tomorrow is another day", I tell the woman in the call centre. I can tell she doesn't give a damn.

Why, o why, didn't I listen to those Indian Classical CDs I bought before I packed them? Ah, well, at least I was my usual paranoid self and insisted on carrying all my books in my hand baggage, so at least I still have those, even if this means not being able to straighten my aching shoulders for a week.

[1] You can talk about all the great comics of the world, but when it comes to sheer timing, no one has a thing on Fate. It's uncanny the way she always manages to hold off till that precise moment when you exhale, when you allow yourself to breathe easy, before delivering that swift and inevitable kick to the nether regions. I mean, Buster Keaton had nothing on this.

[2] I picture this as a scene from a tacky American Sitcom. A and B turn to each other with broad smiles on their faces. A says, "I think you did a great job with those passengers who were being so difficult". B smiles and replies, "Thanks. But you were pretty amazing too - I can't believe you got the luggage loaded so quickly". A's brow furrows in surprise "Luggage? What are you talking about - you're the one who put in the luggage". B: "Me, of course not, I never went near the luggage section, I was too busy with the passengers. I assumed you must have loaded it". A: "But I didn't". B: "Wait a minute, if I didn't do it, and you didn't do it, then who put the luggage on the plane". Three second pause while they stare at each other in horror. Then laugh track comes on as A and B make concerted rush off-stage. Cut scene. Open to: George, Kramer and random blonde standing at baggage claim window shouting "You did what???".

1 comment:

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