Airport tea17

When I was returning from India this time, so many things went wrong. All incorrect information was on my tickets. My flight number was Air India 101. It was supposed to leave at 2:15 in the morning. From Pondicherry, my friend brought me to Madras Airport at nine o’clock — five hours before. When I showed my ticket at the Air India counter, the man told me, “Your ticket says 101. Can you not see this is flight 401? Flight 101 is a later flight.”

Many passengers had gathered for flight 401, which departed at eleven o’clock in the evening. Around 11:30 I went to the counter again. I said, “Now tell me, when will the other plane arrive?”

The man said, “It is all over. At eleven o’clock the plane left for Bombay. From here it was flight 401. The flight number changes to 101 in Bombay.”

I went and spoke to the duty manager. She maintained it was not their fault. Then she said, “Tomorrow morning there is another flight at 7:15 from Bombay to London, but you will miss it. By the time you arrive in Bombay, it will be gone. I can give you a direct flight from here to London. You have to be here tomorrow morning. It leaves at half past seven.”

O God. I had to wait another eight hours at the airport! From time to time, I would go and get tea to stay awake. The tea was very strong. By this time, my books were all finished. I said to myself, "Let me buy two or three newspapers. Since the flight is at 7:30, I should be there around 4:30.” Actually, I was already there, since I was reading and moving around right near the counter. I wanted to be first in line.

At 4:30 I was standing at the counter. Somebody else came around five o’clock. He was a friend of the ticket checker, so he went first. Then I needed to pay the airport departure tax. The man who was in charge of collecting the departure tax was fast asleep. I was knocking and knocking. Finally, he opened up his booth.

When I went to pay, I found that I did not have enough Indian currency. They needed three hundred rupees, I had only American hundred-dollar bills. The man said to me, “Are you crazy! Why do you want to give me so much money?”

I said, “I do not have enough rupees.”

I searched and searched in my bag. Then I found a fifty-dollar bill, but fifty was also too much for him. I searched again and found a twenty-dollar bill. At last he gave me change.

After paying the departure tax, I said, “Now I have to keep myself awake for God knows how long. Let me go out again to buy another tea.”

This time, however, the tea man was fast asleep! I did not want to torture him. I waited until they announced the flight and then I boarded the plane.

TCE 24. September 1995