There are a couple of things which is worth sharing here before I actually set foot on US of A
First, I was really really really in awe of one particular thing in Changi. :-D Guess what??
The loo!! Yeah you guys read it right. The loo. It was so clean, not a corpuscle of dirt. I was feeling bad to be stepping into them for it might leave a dirt mark, it was so speck less clean
The next thing was unfortunately for me, prior to my flight for over a month; I had been watching NatGeo's Air crash Investigations. Each episode re-built the case, the crash and its aftermath. Hehehehehe, what a nice way to be preparing for your maiden air journey!
Co-incidentally, I was seated by the wings. Whenever the flight landed, I could see the flap of the wings raise up to allow air to pass through. A couple of times, it was dreadful as I thought the flight developed a technical snag and we are going to crash!!. :-S
Can you imagine my nervousness? Yeah right!! You all can laugh out loud now.
With all such drama, I landed at SFO at 12:30 PM, that would be 12 AM in India, my sleep time. I was tired, very sleepy. Immigration took about 20-30 minutes. The officer at the immigration was very gracious, full of smiles, inviting, with a "Enjoy your stay". I just got reminded of the immigration farewell I got back in Bangalore. This episode was uneventful, I grabbed my luggage and set out. I was to take a cab to my hotel which was in a different city. I had no idea where that city was, how far it was and how long the journey would be. I was supposed to go to Sunnyvale, and I also was aware of San Jose - both are different cities, I was of the opinion that both are one and the same - such was my knowledge.
Anyways, as I walked out, I was in the same condition as an alien would be on earth!! I did not know where to hail a cab. I thought, just keep walking on the road, hire an empty running taxi, as we do in India :-D. I cant stop laughing as I remember all those thoughts that were popping up at that time. OK, the thing was, there was not even one generous soul who had already travelled outside India to countries such as these to be educating about certain much needed stuff as these.
I took my baggage cart and was loitering. An attendant asked me what I was looking for. I said I was looking for a cab. She told me that there were airport shuttles available. I said it was OK and that I was looking for a taxi. She then smiled and asked if my company would take care of the expenses. I smiled back and said yes. I later realised why she recommended me a shuttle service. She showed me where I could hire a cab. I walked just across the road, oblivious to the rules. A security guard just came on time, told me I cant walk on the road like that :-), he helped me with my cart and asked me to wait while he would find me a cab. So there I was, waiting in queue for taxi, got one after 5 minutes and started to Sunnyvale.
I found quite early that the cabbie did not know where he was supposed to drop me!!! What the heck! I got so nervous. Everything was happening so fast. I was taking in the new country that I have just entered, the wide and clean roads, flyovers criss-crossing like snakes, queer thing called as ramp, people following traffic rules, no men and women loitering on the road, no crowd, no bus stops, no dogs and cows on the roads, no litter, no trash....Oh..you name it and you wont find it!!
I was sleepy, nervous, excited and overwhelmed. I wanted to laugh, but more than that I wanted to cry at the situation I was in. Yeah, coming back, I figured out that the cabbie did not relate to the address I had with me. All I had was my hotel reservation mail, which had an address and along with it,route map. Aah, a route map. So I struck a deal with the cabbie. I told him that I would give him the directions and he has to follow it to reach my destination. I would call this as the most foolish guts I could have ever had - being a navigator on my first ever journey in an alien land!! How much more sarcastic can this get?
I have still preserved that sheet with me, the hotel reservation and the route map. Souvenir you see! Thought of scanning it and uploading them here :-D
Hmm, so I was reading from that piece of paper, the directions to my never-seen destination. I wont even know if I have reached the right place!! Yup, so it was a dull voice muttering as if woken from a deep slumber - Take US-101 S towards San Jose, go along for 28 miles, take the Lawrence Expressway Exit for 0.3 miles, right on E Duane and left on Stewart. This is what I literally read. The driver followed it religiously and I was relieved bit by bit as I was reading these names on the sign board.
But I don't know what US-101 is, what freeway is, what an expressway is, what an exit is, and how long is a mile!! The one straight US-101 freeway was scary because I thought we were going on and on and on.
Just as we touched Stewart and I saw the sign of my hotel which was familiar, as I had seen a photo; was I, what to say, came back to life. The cabbie was a friendly African-American and he incidentally was in Delhi sometime back, he was all blah-blah about it which I didn't pay any heed to. I paid him without battling an eyelid 105$, though I quickly converted to INR and almost managed a faint.
The cabbie left my baggage at the reception and I informed the receptionist that I had a reservation. When she asked for my name and searched for it under reservations, she said "Oh, we don't have a reservation in your name!!" Oh would this ordeal have any end at all? Then whether she found it or she just gave me a room - I didn't bother to know. I got my room. Once I went in, I searched for instructions to make a local call. I called up my team lead's desk at office. He was already there; travelled before me about 2 months earlier, but he didn't come to receive me :-( Sob...sob....
Luckily for me, this time it was right, he was at his desk and he told that he would come to meet me in an hour's time. He was put up in the same hotel as me. He came by and took me to an Indian restaurant. Left hand drive, wearing seat belt, automatic cars was all new, very new to me and yes, the clear parking slots and people using the pedestrian walk button at the signal to cross the road, cars waiting well behind the yellow line to let people cross the road, people yielding to others going on the main road, no tail-gating, cars neatly driven one behind the other, no overtakes, no honks whatsoever, no kids and elders stretching out their hands outside the window, no bus with people standing on the foot board, no auto rickshaws, no huge trucks with overweight goods, no petty grocery shops, no street side vendors, no street hawkers selling at signals, no beggars on the roads :-D, not 'a thing' that I was accustomed to seeing.
At the restaurant, it was Dosa for me; for 5$. My currency converter started working and again I rolled my eyes. When would I stop converting? Its OK, its too early. I could not eat because it was around 3 PM which was devil's time in India, sleep time. I wasted the food and I could have died in guilt for wasting around 240 Rs worth of Dosa!! :-
Phew!! I just realised my post has got lengthier again. I am stopping it right away!!
My last portion would be regarding a couple of incidents that taught me life's lessons.