Airports are no longer the glamorous places they used to be. Back in the days, air travel was the stuff of luxury and airports were elegant places. Well now, not so much.
I blame the movies. Watching James Bond movies have hyped up my expectations for airplane journeys. It’s funny how despite the number of trips I’ve made, I still have expectations of smooth trips, cool lounges and the slick almost bad-ass feeling that engulfs you as you roll your luggage behind you, put your sunglasses on and stroll out with business-like strides, like in the movies.
And me for one, who travels and moves around so much that airports might as well be my second home, I can assure you this expectation is not only completely baseless but downright ridiculous.
Let me give you a picture of the way things really are.
You trudge into airports hours ahead of time. And if you belong to an Indian family you’re probably been at the airport for days before already. You stand in lines that are long enough to twist and turn three times around the world.
And then you finally reach the dreaded check-in area. There’s a dramatic face-off between you and the flight attendant as you gingerly place your luggage. You know that it’s ridiculously overweight, but does that stop you from arguing? Hell no!
‘Ma’am its five kilos overweight’.
‘That’s 300 dollars extra’ pouts the flight attendant.
‘300?! No, no I bet your machines are faulty. I checked it at home, it was perfectly fine’ you argue, incredulously. Deep inside you’re elated that it’s only five kgs over.
‘No ma’am, you cannot take this baggage, it’s overweight’.
You proceed to argue for some time then you give up. And if you’re from outer mars, you cave in and pay the cash. Otherwise, like us normal folk, you proceed to remove your luggage and wear it instead.
No joke, I’ve been at airports wearing my jeans, two t-shirts, and a dress on top with a jacket on me and one draped over my waist. Now that you resemble a multi-colored panda, you move on.
As you pass through the metal detectors, for sure you’ll have the slowest most confused people ahead of you. You take a few deep breathes, count till 10, eat a chocolate digestive and drink some water to calm down.
Water? What a joke. Prepare to empty your water bottles and leave your bottles behind. So now you’re dressed like a panda, dehydrated and lost all your patience. Is this torture over yet, you cry? Hold your heart, my dear friend.
Now that the nonsense is over, Get set GO and DO- absolutely nothing.
You wait, wait and wait some more. Delays, security checks, rescheduling- you better get used to it. It’s a bit of a bummer when you’ve paid a rather expensive fare, but there’s nothing you can do. In fact, if you have a connecting flight; my prayers are with you. Pray to all the Gods you know, because you’re going to need all those blessings to make your flight on time.
So twenty announcements later, you are seated upon your flight. You hear the announcement and hope you hear some decent person who’s gonna land you safely. In all reality, there’s a science to having trustworthy names. If you are Susan Smith flying my plane, I’m all good. But if your name is Lil’ Jo or something along the lines, I would be a tad more nervous.
So all done with the obligatory announcement that you’ve heard a million times. Your plane takes off and you sit back.
Now is the moment you’re glad for your thirty layers because the temperature in the airplane is on par with Antarctica. You wait for the seatbelt sign to turn off and throw your belt open. You pop a chewing gum into your mouth, try and ignore the fuzzy feeling in your ear and get ready to completely relax.
After two thousand and two attempts resulting in failure, you’ve given up.
The TV in front of you has only two movies-Both are horrible and in all actuality, the subtitles are more interesting than what’s happening. The food that you’ve managed to chew and swallow was okay at its best. The temperature is steadily dropping and you’re shivering. The ‘ample’ leg space you paid for, wouldn’t even accommodate a Chihuahua. But what can you do? You have another four hours to go and you think that catching up on some REM sleep is in your best interests.
Sounds like a good idea? Wrong. Unless you’re a person who can sleep while sitting completely straight up in an uncomfortable chair, or a master contortionist who is able to turn their body into elaborate origami, sleep is a hard option.
So now that you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, you wait it out. And after the child two seats behind is done crying, you find something close to peace. Finally, the exhaustion gets to you and you fall asleep.
You wake up and you’ve landed. You ignore your disheveled hair and pungent breath. You try to look less like a beggar and drag yourself to the luggage center. You collect your stuff and thank the lucky stars that you have all your bags and head out to compensate on some serious head to toe hygiene, sleep, food and serious back pain.
Congratulations! You’ve made it out!
While this may show the very worst side of airplane journeys, this is probably something most of us have experienced countless times.
But as I prepare to fly soon, I take a deep breath in, send a few prayers to the heavens and get ready. I envision myself staring out at the wondrous sky and can almost feel myself striding out with my luggage trailing behind. I smile. Maybe it’s not so bad, right?