Tuesday, February 17, 2009

aerotravelphobia - Fear of flight travel

When I was in India I had predominately been a train guy. I loved the train, esp. the ones with a cafeteria compartment.
Last week I had to cancel my trip to California. So I had all the time in the world to recollect some of my flight experiences. Believe it or not, every single one of them has been bad. I couldn't believe myself. So I reiterated all my flight travel experience and I was right. All bad. So I decided to re-live these experiences with you guys. After reading my story you will end up with one of these reactions .. "ayo pavam" or in English "Poor guy..." or you'll go "Idiot!" or "This is ridiculous" or just have a good laugh. Here goes.

Destination: Mumbai
Travelling alone: Yes
Was scared: Ofcourse

One evening madhavan calls "Machan... there seems to be a Bharath Petroleum scholarship for students who are going to study oversees. Apply soon". I obviously went "Super...". I ended up applying and also got the interview call. I read the interview call letter and sighed "Oh Shit!". The interview was in Mumbai and in like two weeks time. There was no train tickets left. That's when it all started. I was flying for the first time in my life to the Financial capital of India.
I was at the Coimbatore airport ready to board the flight and I thought to myself "Wow! This is not as bad as I thought." They had TV screens that clearly provided details of flight departures, announced warnings regarding flight timings. I arrived at Mumbai airport without any hassle. I stayed in a hotel for the night and next morning I went to the venue where the interview was conducted. As usual the interview didn't go that well. Apparently people are not convinced when you tell them " I want to be technically sound and be able to design and build good,reliable software" as your short term goal. Anyway, they asked us to stay for lunch. I thought "Lets get it over with". I also thought it might be a good idea to call and confirm if my return flight was on time.
Well, you guessed it, the flight was canceled. My heart started beating faster. The options given by support person "You can either reschedule the flight for tomorrow or you can get a refund". Doesn't sound bad does it? Here was my situation: It was Sunday and I had around Rs.50 left in my account. I had around Rs. 200 with me. I had no money to afford another night stay. I was basically doomed. I immediately took a taxi to the airport. Current situation: Rs. 50 left in my pocket. I was in the wrong terminal. So I was walking to the correct terminal, when an auto rickshaw stopped and asked me "Terminal B?" I replied "Yes". He asked me to get in. I got in and reached Terminal B. I said "Thank you" to the auto rickshaw guy and started walking towards Go Air ticket counter. I actually thought he was giving me a lift for free :) . The auto rickshaw fellow shouted "Whow whow...". I was startled. He said "pachas rupaya". Fifty Rupees. He was about to charge towards me and I lacked impromptu public negotiation skills. So I gave him fifty rupees. Realizing now, How dumb was I? Current situation: Rs. 0 left in my pocket. I started arguing with the Go Air ticket agent for a refund. She said "The refund will go the ticket agency through which you booked". I told her "If I don't get the refund right now, I want you guys to book a hotel so I can stay. She immediately contacted her boss and decided to refund the money and told me that there is a Jet airways flight leaving in half an hour. I rushed to Terminal A, got the ticket and had Rs. 20 left. I called my parents with that money and boarded the flight and was in Coimbatore three hours later. "Phew!"

Destination: USA
Travelling alone: Yes
Was scared: Yes

I could probably dedicate one full blog for all the stupid things I did during this flight. But for now, I going to start from Frankfurt. Current Situation: I am in Frankfurt waiting for my flight to Philadelphia and from there to my final destination, Syracuse. I reached Phili without any issues. But there was one problem. My next flight was departing in half an hour from Terminal F. I was in Terminal A. I had to pick two huge check-in suitcases, dragged them through security clearance and threw them in some random conveyor belt and started running. You might be thinking "Why he is running. He can always get on the next flight to syracuse." Well, I was not aware of this fact. I thought if I missed the flight, I had to buy new tickets. "Ignorance is bliss". This time I lost a few kilos because of that. Anyway, I am still running and finally found out that I had to take a bus to reach Terminal F. I was now certain that I was going to miss the flight. Fortunately, the flight was delayed by half an hour and I was able to board the flight and reached Syracuse safely. But in two hours a mysterious dark toned voice in my head would warn me "This is just the beginning".
My future roommates arrived in the next flight. We all waited for two hours for my check-in baggages. It never arrived. Remember the voice. Two days later, I went to Syracuse airport with another friend of mine to pick up his friend. I checked in the baggage lost area and found one of my baggage. I asked the person in charge "What happened to my other luggage?" She replied "We don't know. That is why we didn't deliver this to your address". I was sitting, disappointed. Thats when the strangest thing happened. I saw someone dragging my other suitcase in front of me. I was shocked. I told my friend "Machi... my other suitcase". He said "Alright.. alright.. lets follow him". We started following him. We cautiously maintained our distance. But the person was heading straight to the Baggage lost area to return my suitcase. I asked him "How come you have my suitcase?". He replied "My sister took it without noticing it. Sorry about that". I was so overwhelmed with joy. This time a voice in "tears of joy" tone spoke in my head "Dude... do you know what is in that bag? 4 kilos of Adayar Ananda Bhavan stuff, 5 kilos of Grand Sweets stuff, 10 kilos of home made stuff. What is your sister trying to do? Kill me!". Well, I didn't repeat that to him. I just replied "No problem". The end.

Destination: NYC.
Travelling alone: No
Was scared: Nah...

This time I was travelling to NYC for my internship interview. Everything went fine.
Time: 1 PM.
I asked "Dude... How did your interview go."
My friend replied "Not so good... The interviewer was a desi guy. He ripped me apart with all sorts of questions".
I replied "Don't worry dude... you will get it." I continued "Someone called me during the interview man. I was shit scared". Another friend replied "Oh.. you got the call too. Its from Delta Airlines. Our flight is delayed by 2 hours. Its departing at 9 PM."
I was surprised. "So what do you guys want to do. We have lot of time."
Someone replied "We can go to Grand Central. There is a samosa place in the station". There was a unanimous "Okay" and we started. Everything went according to plan, the flight too. Sense the tone?.
Time: 7:30 PM Location: JFK Airport
Flight attendant looked skeptic and said "This flight already departed to Syracuse at 7 PM". I replied in shock "Can you please say that again?". The mysterious dark toned voice was about to kick in. I asked my friend "Dude... who called you regarding the delay?". My friend replied "It was an automated voice". I obviously went "wtf?".
We told the Delta airline guys and they were ready to give us a place to stay for the night and we can reschedule for a flight leaving tomorrow. But some people had to attend an important class next day. The next day was Saturday. Who attends classes on Saturdays. "Dude.. you have a class on Saturday?". My friend just nods his head in sadness. That's when the "Street smart" guy enters. FYI, he was one among us who had come to NYC for the same interview. When I say "street smart" I don't mean the phrase. He was actually street smart. He knew his ways through NY city.
His plan:
To take the air train from JFK to train station. From there go to the city (34th Street). Take a Greyhound bus to Syracuse. Reach syracuse at 6 AM next day.
Actually, his plan worked. We were able to board the last bus to syracuse at 12 AM and reached at around 7 AM. After I got all settled in and was having a cup of coffee, the MDT voice kicked in again "You are cursed".

That's it fellows. I think my air travel experience is still cursed and during early last year I developed symptoms of aerotravelphobia which include:
1. Excessive naming on Suitcases.
2. Completely avoiding check-in luggage if possible
3. Reaching airport 3 hours before departure (even for domestic flights)
4. Checking the status of the flight every 5 mins on the day of travel

So people who are travelling, have a safe, painless flight. For people who are not..good for you.

PS: aerotravelphobia is not a real word. I just made that up :)


  1. good one vatsa!
    And here is a piece of serious advice.
    Chuck GS - start writing a novel!!!


  2. good read...except that I know these stories by heart :) ur flight thruvilayadals each need a separate blog...

  3. machan like naladamayanti, did u ask for kakuse?? :P