No one likes to be stuck anywhere, especially in an airport. It is a traveler’s nightmare. Sometimes things just don’t go your way and you find yourself slapped with a long layover or stranded by airplane delays or in our case, when the cab driver is ‘extremely cautious’ about his driving and you miss the airplane.
Mostly we drive (Mr.H drives! *grins*) down to our hometown. This time we chose the air service. We were very calculative about the time (including the delay with BLR traffic) to reach the airport on time as we have our flight at 20:15. We hired an online cab from the App on time (which shows 2 mins to our place) and now this driver takes his forever by taking various diversions to reach us. Once he reached, we hurried to the cab and he asks for some water. I get him a bottle of water and gets into the cab saying ‘let’s go!’ The driver drinks, washes himself, the car, relaxes for a second or two (Seriously man! Seriously!) and gets inside and starts the cab. We stop at the ATM where I was held back by the person who just used the machine because he went on cleaning the ATM keypad with his sleeve so that I don’t rob him. I got back in to the cab with the most available currency note in the city – two thousand rupees and the driver declares he doesn’t have change for it. Mr.H said we can collect change from any petrol bunk on the way and we proceeded.
Amidst the traffic in the Outer Ring road, we found a bunk where the cashier was counting notes of hundreds and five hundreds. Our driver stopped in front of him asking for change and he graciously denied that he doesn’t have change with the same hand with money (Crazy!) We continued to the glorious journey in the BLR traffic with our driver lamenting about demonetization. Again we stopped at another bunk where the cashier was ready to give the adequate change but once he looked in to the currency he found some pen marks and the change was denied again. By the time we reached Hebbal signal it was 19:00 and I was losing my patience at the driving and I said I have sufficient balance in your App’s online-money and we can pay you through that. And I transferred the same into Mr.H’s account in the App, since the cab was booked through his account.
Once the driver overheard us saying ‘online-money’ he started crying over how their company never pays them the amount earned through the online transactions. He shows his diary to Mr.H with his pending amount to be collected from the company over two days. Meanwhile when he was explaining all the company fuss to Mr. H, we missed the green light due to an unwanted U-turn where the driver stopped the car for the signal. Until the U-turn was cleared, we were stuck and lost around 10 minutes. Once we passed the signal, I told Mr.H online payment is done for our convenience, and ask the driver to stop whining and go a little ‘fast & furious’ with his driving because we are already behind the schedule.
We reached the airport at 19:25 and we ran to the counter with baggage. The airline handling agent at the ticket counter, who happens to be a Malayali, denied us tickets because its 19:30 and we were late by 5 minutes and also the airplane has already exceeded the luggage weight. Since I am infamous with my temperament, Mr.H asks if they can get us on the next flight, to which she replies with the signature hospitality smile, “Sorry sir, the airline has cancelled all the night flights. This is the last one for the day.” And she also added, “Our next flight is at 05:30 next morning.” Mr.H says, “Thanks, we’ll inquire on that” and I go “‘FML’! I’ll kill that driver. F!” Mr.H gets tickets on the early morning flight, the ticket counter airline agent mentioned. Since there is no way we are going back and doing the same drill the next day, we decided to spend the night in Kempegowda International Airport.
I was the first one to get out of the security check and Mr.H arrives with Rs.2500 worth coupons that can be redeemed at shops and dining in the airport. I was curious to know how come you got a quite number of coupons and to this Mr.H says the security said ‘aapke paas bahut samay hai; aur hamaare liye bhi mithai khareeden’ (You have plenty of time here; you can buy us sweets too) in a witty way. Both of us went to buy sweets for our family and of course, the airport security brigade, after all it was the Ugadi weekend. The security didn’t expect us to get them sweets, well they were happy. Post the sweets distribution and merry making with security clan, we looked at each other – it’s only 20:30, we have a spectacular 9 hours ahead of us. Since we checked in so early for a next day flight, the ticket didn’t say anything about the departure gate.
Unfortunately we put the chargers, iPad and the sketch pad in the luggage that got checked in earlier. All we have is my handbag with tons of tissue papers, sanitary napkins (yeah! I carry a lot – being helpful), hand sanitizer, Kindle, notepad, pen etc. that are not at all useful for Mr.H (He often says we can get Narnia out of my bag :D) to kill his time. We roamed around the stores (we still have the coupons) and did some window shopping.
I took refuge in Relay – a book store and bought The Little Book of Word Searches by Gareth Moore; The Vegetarian by Han King and The Peacock Feather by Sunil Kapoor & Sudhir Kapoor. We found a cozy spot near the new café called Puro Gusto. We spend rest of our time in the comforts of the chairs having hourly dosage of Italian coffee and played from the ‘Word Searches’ book to keep us occupied. We had the routine good night calls from our families and we didn’t mention how we are coming over and is stuck at airport. We just wanted to give them a surprise – well, we got surprised! By 12:00 am Mr.H dozed off and I just continued playing the word searches.
10 stages you go through when you spend the night at the airport:
- Accept fate and realize that this isn’t fun.
- Walk through the entire terminal. Well, this is your home now.
- Claim the best ‘encampment’ that is close but not too close to the restroom. Since you don’t have the chargers, forget about charging your phone.
- Make alliances with the waiters (again Malayalis – we are everywhere!!!), so that they bring stuffs to you and you can completely forget about self-service. (lavish with the coupons!)
- Make goofy faces and throw random stuffs to each other with kid sitting next to you, until the guardians stare at you.
- Being a good wife and checking upon Mr.H whether he is getting his good night sleep. And take a deep sigh when he struggles with his long legs to get that comfortable position.
- Observe the remaining random strangers in the airport how they make themselves comfortable – some just being extravagant with their bed spreads, some wedge into a position to sleep and still in contact with the luggage with their leg, some busy with their laptops, some busy reading. The airport cleaning crew is live and busy with their chores.
- Become too friendly in the rest room by sharing useful information like “the middle one works!”
- If you have a journal, write down all the things that are happening around you.
- Think about Tom Hanks a lot!!! Well…he gets trapped a lot!
I was wide awake throughout the ‘terminal’ life. By 04:00 am, the airport starts to bustle with crowd, new crew members and its back to life. We approach our gate to take the flight to our hometown.
Once we settled down on our seats, I decide to sleep when the airplane takes off. Unfortunately, for me, the plane flies into the sunrise and the warm colours creeps in all around you. Forget about the sleep and the ill-fated ‘terminal’ life, you enjoy the sunrise and feels how lucky to fly above the clouds to see such a wonderful sight.
Finally, we reach Trivandrum Domestic Airport at 07:00am. We collect our luggage and goes out to get a cab. Outside the airport, it was not busy like the usual days. We looked around for a while, when a stranger approaches Mr.H and whispers (as if he had a huge stash of weed), “sir, vandi veno?”(Sir, do you need a ride?) Mr.H went all suspicious of him and said No! We spend a few minutes there to realize that’s its ‘Harthal’ in Kerala. And I go “What the hell is happening to us?” When we were about to lose hope, an aged man approached us with his old Ambassador car and said, ‘Don’t worry. I can give you a ride.’
It’s been a while that I took a ride in an Ambassador car. The ride took us back to some memories – the amazing ‘90s. Just another five minutes to our home, there is another halt for us, when an ‘Aaraat’ (procession) from nearby temple crossed us. And we stayed there for another ten minutes. After all the dramatic halts, we reached our place around 08:30am. My in-laws were in fact surprised to see us and the ambassador car. I ran inside the house saying “I love you guys and it’s so good to see you too. But your son had a good night sleep. I need some sleep. Good night.” Finally I see my bed and falls into it and takes a siesta.