Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Insignia goes to America

This post is lengthy. Hope its not a drag and leave you people yawning and bored. I wanted to mention what all I experienced. Read it at your own risk!

If you folks remember, I was comfortably and cozily seated by the window in Singapore airlines bound to Changi International Airport from 'Namma Bengaluru'(meaning "Our Bangalore" phrased in the local language lovingly)

Amidst the hustle and bustle, air hostess shoving in cabin baggage in the overhead compartment, preparing for the flight, people trying to settle down, I was in awe, nervous and scared. Now, as I said, this was my first time inside an airplane. Maybe I should have sailed to USA. I was at least familiar with the ship. My dad once took us to Chennai port and gave us a tour of a passenger ship. Anyways, I need to learn, and fast. So here I was, observing people around me, trying to understand what were all the procedures.

People were wearing seat belts. Let me confess, that thing called seat belt and that buckle was the most intriguing thing I ever saw. It was so complicated! After several futile attempts, I thought I managed to buckle up, alas! No! It was just a slide. At one point, I thought if I would just knot it away :-S Yeah, meanwhile, few people took out in-flight magazines and started reading, few ripped open the blanket and covered themselves. I was not sure of any of these things, what if I would be asked to pay for the blanket if I use it? Well, few folks went one step ahead and even used the socks that was neatly packed and placed it in their magazine holders. Prompted me to explore what all I had in my holder. There were socks and magazines. Soft pillow and blanket on my seat. Hmmmmmm.....

Meanwhile, my neighbor. I need to tell about her. She was an old lady, expressionless, confused soul. The moment I saw her, I knew how my long journey is going to be. This was it, I thought, this was it.

There was this video about flight safety instructions and precautions. Yups!! I figured out how to buckle the seat belt. The captain spoke the usual stuff and the flight took off. The take-off was the most scary moments of my life(until the landing, which I thought was more scarier!!). It was well past night, when I am supposed to be sleeping peacefully on my cozy bed and here I was, snugged in, realized the window seat was more of an utter inconvenience than pleasure. Where are those scenes I visualized? Not even fluffy clouds...

When my manager; about 3 months back, called me for a 1-1, it was then she told me that I would be required to 'travel'. I did not understand then, was a fresher just out of college; a mere 3 months into the organization and was required to 'travel'. I travel(read commute) everyday!! So whats this new stuff? She told it would be to the USA. The question that followed later was a bonkers.

'How far have you traveled alone? '

My mind was racing fast calculating the distance between my home to school, home to college and home to office. So which among the three was farthest? These were the only places where I travel alone.

I managed to swallow hard and said in a feeble voice 'Chennai' and looked away as fast as I can. I am a very poor liar.

'Oh, that's just next door!!'

:-S (Yeah right!!!)

Yeah, I was fiddling with the remote control cum phone, trying to figure out how they work. I checked the button controls beside my seat. Meal was served, I was prudent this time. I had opted for Asian Veg. But eating at such an unearthly hour was awkward.

I could feel the pressure build up in my ears. I had no idea if this was common, all I was concerned was if I developed some kind of sickness and that if these things were happening only with me. I asked a steward, a tall Singaporean, for ear buds. He went deaf ears, after much persistence, gave me ear plugs. Those things didn't help much. At 6:30 AM Singapore time, the flight landed. The landing was still more scarier than the take-off.

I was feeling really sleepy, dash of fresh air welcomed me once we disembarked from the flight. I had 2 hours for my flight to SFO from here. Thankfully, the gate was somewhere in the same terminal. I was overwhelmed at its size and the number of gates one terminal had. I was just thinking about the Bangalore airport, it was a dwarf.

There were signs all over, I safely managed to reach the gate. My mentor had wished me "Get lost!" before leaving from Bangalore. He told that I would never even reach SF, for I might get lost in Singapore itself. But thank heavens, unfortunately for him, I didn't get lost!!

I rechecked with the attendants there that I would not be needing a boarding pass, the one given to me at Bangalore was good enough till SFO. Once I made sure I was at the right gate, then did I think of even reliving and refreshing myself. Phew!!!

Rest of the flight journey was almost uneventful, now that I got a hang on flight fundoos - frozen meal, cream less coffee, pungent odour, wearing seat belt, zombie neighbor, air pressure, turbulence, dingy economy class window seat.............And the long 18 hour journey ahead........

There was just one amusing thing that deserves a mention here. At the transit in Seoul, we were asked to fill in the immigration form. Whoooaaa, few of the questions flustered me!! I in fact had a second thought to end my journey right there and return back. Questions like "Have you in possession of seeds, plants and such" or "Are you holding any items that you intend to sell in the United States" I did not understand why were these questions. One such disconcerting question was something like this - "Are you in possession of any living organisms, parasites" I don't remember the exact question. But it was something like it.

Oh my God!! An elderly couple too were bewildered and the lady's husband muttered - "We need to be careful. Look at these questions". Another elderly lady travelling alone wanted to use the restroom, she was using a walking stick and was in no position to carry her baggage with her. She approached this couple to look after her luggage and this man rudely rejected because these questions made everyone suspicious of each other!

I did take a lady's help in answering a couple of queries. But possessing parasites and such - I started thinking if any louse has been using my head as its abode without disturbing me. What would I do if I in deed harbored a louse?? Would they scan my hair at the port of entry and send me back?? Would they put me in jail?

Well, with these and many such crazy thoughts, I landed in the US of A!!

PS : Next coming up "Insignia in America"


  1. Nice account. Have you noticed how everything about a flight is so mechanical? From the cabin smell, Babies crying, those worthless meals.. It just doesn't seem like a realistic environment. Atleast that's what i've observed:)

  2. Excellent post. Reading now is very humarous. But when this was actually happening I could imagine your state of mind.

    PS: I am glad you did not take the Chennai to Singapore flight. Many hostesses do not want this flight because of too much demand for (free) alcohol by the passengers and unruly behaviour.

  3. Hey Kish,

    Oh yeah, I thought of mentioning the wailing kids. But refrained, poor things, what could they do.
    Its a pathetic experience that we have to take if we need to travel far far away

  4. Hi SG,

    Thank you for the comments. Oh yeah, such things are best taken in a humorous way.

    There were few 'entities' who were waiting to drown themselves in free alcohol in this flight too and if I recall, I regret to say that those folks were from Tamil Nadu.

  5. Hehe very very realistic and interesting description!!

    I am seriously looking forward for U in U s oF A

  6. Wow! Loved the post yaar. So funny... Was imagining you freaking out! Wow!! I never knew so many things could go through a person's mind! Phew! I am amazed...

  7. Hi Abhi,

    Glad you liked it. I was really apprehensive because the post was lenghty and if people would actually read it all.

    Thank you for your comments. Yeah, I am looking forward to me in US of A :-P

  8. Heyiya Gautam,

    How would you ever know unless you think about these things. You are such a carefree guy, that these things would just go as normal for you :-)

    Thank you for the comments :-)

  9. Didn't think it was long at all.
    It was a pretty funny take. I was required to travel from Mumbai to Chennai for my first job and I was travelling by train. The train reached at 4.30 in the morning and I was supposed to reach the guest house on my own.
    with no knowledge of Tamil whatsoever, that was really scary. I think you did pretty well girl.
    Sorry, got a little carried away, hence the long comment.
    Looking forward to your America post.

  10. hiii

    heheh! it was such an interesting read yaar! enjoyed reading .. enjoyed every bit :D

    eagerly waiting for the next part :)

  11. LOL! Was a fun read...enjoyed every bit of it.
    Did they make you take off your shoes and brush the sole with a weird brush before letting you through?
    International flights are a drag...I've sleep through most of them, who can sit in one place for fourteen hours and not get bored! :P

    On the up-side, free alcohol rocks! :D

  12. nice post
    you made it very interesting

  13. Hey, the post was not at all boring. It was so fast paced and I am sure no one would have found it a drag. Come on yaar. Waiting for your next post dear.

  14. Hi Aparna,

    Welcome back after a long time :-)

    Thank you for those comments and for sharing your bit. Yeah, language, that's one tough part. My mom always said 'If you know one common language, you can travel around the world. I can imagine how tough it would have been for you without knowing Tamil.

    Glad you didnt find the post lenghty :-) More funny takes to come :-)

  15. Heiyya sista...

    :-) Thank you, glad you liked 'em. More coming up!!

  16. Hi Shaunak,

    Thank you.
    Well, they did that in SFO. They also put me in a small area and introduced a blast of air around me.

    And yeah, it was weird during my second trip. It was via Frankfurt. And they had US security check at Frankfurt itself!!!

    Its not over, more coming up!

  17. Hi sm,

    Thank you for the comments. Glad you liked it. :-)

  18. Hey Gautam,

    I make sure my posts dont cross a certain length. This crossed as I didnt want to compromise and wanted to put in all details. Anyways good as long as it wasnt a drag and yeah, more coming up.

    Just wait on dearie!!

  19. wow yet another vivid description...could not read it properly, i will read this again later and comment again later...

  20. Hey Gayathri,

    Sure take your time :-) Its a bit lengthy :-)

  21. yes indeed , you are a simpleton. You are also brave enough to be so frank..keep it up.

  22. One more item. They bring the special meals (vegetarian food) first. First time flyers, who did not order special meals, wonder if these passengers are some sort of VIPs. Also, a number of first time flyers who are vegetarians fail to order AVML or IVML.

  23. Hi SG,

    Yes true. Thanks for this trivia

  24. Hi The abstract scientist,

    Thanks for your comments and welcome to B Log.
    Keep visiting!

  25. first time here...very hilarious post...reminded me of my first air travel experience...especially the seat belt mystery...

    I really liked the way u put across simple things in a humorous manner...keep it up :)

  26. Hi Neha,

    Welcome to B Log :-) Thank you for the comments.
    Glad you liked my funny experiences. Yeah? The seat belt...Hahahaha...I am still scared of it

  27. I do believe that the immigration process is the scariest as if we are going to war.I guess the foreigners are asked the same question when they land here .Maybe these questions have to do something with security

  28. Hi Shilpa,

    Thanks for your comments. It gets really scary when its the first time and you have no slightest idea what to expect!!

    Though those questions would make sense for the sake of national security, they seem to be funny and irrelevant to common people, esp the first timers.

    Keep visiting!!

  29. Those are some really wierd questions.. i swear...

    u carrying some parasites????

    Make website india

  30. Hi workhard,

    Yeah, weird questions for a layman like us. But guess it makes sense to homeland security for the fear of this biological wars and other things :-)


I'd love to know what you thought :-) Please shoot!