“Sir, would you like some beverage?”
“ahh…what options do I have?” I said, lost and sleepy.
Making a ‘dude, really? take a coke and shut the fuck up!’ face, he said, “I have coke and juices, Orange, Apple, Tomato…”
“Tomato” I said, confidently as if I have been waiting to hear that option. He gave me a glass and a can of 100% Pure Organic Tomato juice.
Tomato??? What made me say that? Of all the juices, I chose tomato? I was genuinely exhausted. But to think of it, it was not that bad since the last couple of days had been an adventure totally uncalled for. This flight was taking me back to NYC. I was more than happy. (Thank God he didn’t say potato.)
Few days back
I entered the booking number but the machine couldn’t find my boarding pass. After 5 tries, I could have smashed the screen. A nearby customer service agent saw that. She hurried up to me and asked for my ticket. I gave her the confirmation number.
“Oops. Sir, you are late for this flight. The check-in counters have been closed”
My heart sank. No, I had to go. This couldn’t have happened.
“I have already checked in. I only have my carry bag, so if you can please give me my boarding pass, I should be good.”
She took out her walkie and had some gibberish conversation with the boarding gate staff. How do they understand each other? It goes like…Crackle!! I have a passenger kldkjavkjlghliruulsahjkfgkjlafklweyht…another crackle….fklngrleghbfhsal dahfag;oarhgoiah aklfdn;ahgor;iuhohgojhg…Crackle!
“Alright sir, I am going to print your boarding pass. But for future reference, you are late. You must report to check-in earlier”.
I want to learn that language so bad! It is pure genius I tell you.
She gave me my boarding pass and I ran to my gate but immediately had to stop. The looooong queue for security check. And security checks in USA are very different from India.
Indian security checks – keep all your stuff in the small tray (wallet, phone, keys etc). Then walk through that age old wooden metal detector doors. An extremely enthusiastic police officer will await your entry (sarcasm intended). With a poker face, he will ask you to raise your hands, he will then hit your ass with that little black thing in his hand that will beep twice. Then he would take your boarding and stamp it so hard as if he can see his wife’s or boss’s face in that boarding pass. “Suck it bitch!” BAMMMMMMM! It is a usual noise at airports actually. BAMM! BAMM! Attention Passengers BAMM! Flight S2 12 BAMM! is rea…BAMM! Please pro BAMM!…..12.
USA security checks – Take out all the liquids from the bags. Take off your belt, shoes, watch, jacket, wallet, keys, coins, phone, laptop, camera, i pod and anything that may possibly contain metal. They all most rip you off. Then walk through the X Ray machine, followed by a person who ask you to stand on a mark. No beeps, no touching. Then you may go and wait for your bag.
As I was about to take the bag, an officer pounced on it.
“Sir, I am afraid you bag has certain prohibitted or unsafe items that must be immediately identified and removed. I will request you to come with me to that table. Please do not attempt to touch me or the bag while I am in contact with the bag. Once it is clear, I will put it back in the X ray machine. If it comes out clean, then I will hand it over to you. Do you think there is any item present in the bag that might be dangerous to other passengers in any manner?” I felt like being sarcastic but then luck was not really in my favor. I chose to keep shut. I just shook my head in an obvious no.
If underwears, socks and t-shirts may kill people or if a camera can shoot bullets, then yes, I had shitload of stuff that may be dangerous. It basically depends on how skilled the person is or how much of dedication he has to kill. My bag provided plenty of killing tools to a person who really wanted to kill. Choking by socks, using underwear elastic to lodge poisonous darts into people’s neck could be some possible ways.
He took my bag to the table and checked it thoroughly. What followed was unbelievable. He took out my shaving foam, shower gel and shampoo.
“I am sorry sir. 4oz is the maximum allowed size for liquids and gels in the cabin baggage. I am afraid you cannot take these with you in the plane. What do you want me to do with these?”
How about you take a shower right now? I am sorry. He was actually very polite and was just doing his job. But I was out of patience as well as I was about miss the flight if he did not hurry up. I knew the answer to his question by experience.
“Ok sir. With your permission, I will arrange for those items to be disposed off immediately. Please come along and claim your bag.”
He removed those items and then put my bag back in the scanner which came out clean. I ran to my gate and handed my boarding pass. As I began to proceed to the plane, the lady standing at the gate, stopped me.
“I am sorry sir. You cannot take that bag in cabin. It is bigger than the allowed dimensions. I will gatecheck it. When you reach LA, you will get it back” she snatched my bag, wrapped a tag around it, and stuck a similar tag on my boarding pass which had hand written words, LAX.
All the of the above things happened within a span of 30seconds or may be less. Before I could react what happened, my bag was gone and I just had my boarding pass in my hand. She sure has some awesome measurement experience. I saw a man taking my bag towards the aircraft. I ran for it.
“Excuse me, I need to take things out from that bag.” I shouted.
“Sure sir, feel free” he stopped. He was a smiling, young kind of guy who definitely was recently hired.
I opened my bag n took out my passport folder, ipod and headphones. Something told me, I was not going to see that bag again, soon. So I found it wise to hold on to my essentials.
Sitting at my seat, the realization hit me, it was a six and half hour flight.
The last bag just crossed me, the belt was shut down and everyone around left me standing there, alone, living my nightmare. My bag was lost.
“Excuse me, I can’t seem to find my baggage which I was told I would get at LA. It was gatechecked at JFK”
“Sir, can I have the tag number?”
“Sorry sir, I can’t find that tag on the system”
“So does that mean you guys have no clue where my bag is?”
“There is a possibility that the crew didn’t scan it. So the bag might be somewhere at LA airport but is not entered in the system.”
That sounded perfect. And it is LA airport we are talking about, one of the busiest in the world. If a flight goes missing here, they might not be able to find it, sure they would find my bag.
“Well, then can you please find it? I have to have it. It has my camera and other important stuff”
“Sir, give me 15-20mins, I will get it traced personally”
I walk around the airport, anxiously waiting for the time to pass but the world suddenly was moving so slow.
9,448,223,396 years later
“No sir. I am sorry we cannot find the bag. Can I have your boarding pass again?”
I gave it him. I was scared what if he burns it and laughs at me “You shall not pass!”
“Are you flying to San Jose after this?”
“Ahh, yes I am. My flight leaves at 05:50”
“That’s my answer for you sir. Your baggage has been through checked. You will find it in San Jose”
“Are you sure? Because the tag says to claim it in LA”
“I am absolutely sure sir. Please proceed for your departure. Have a safe flight”
“Thank you” I left the counter, half believing what he just said. Something inside me told me, I would not find the bag in San Jose.
San Jose airport
And went the last bag. Yes, my bag did not reach San Jose. I was not even close to being surprised. That was a small propeller aircraft with not more than 30 passengers.
I walked into the Delta Airways office.
“I am sorry sir. Let me check it for you.”
She was very prompt. She immediately called up LA airport and then sent some instructions on her computer simultaneously.
Overhearing the conversation, I realized, they found the bag. Phew! Half relief. They found the bag shortly after I left the counter.
“Why did you guys not board it in the aircraft when you knew the passenger was going to San Jose on that flight and he did come looking for the bag?” said the lady at the desk. She seemed genuinely annoyed.
“I am very sorry sir. I have retards sitting there in LA. They found your bag, they knew you are flying here. But they still did not load it. They are planning to send it by the next flight.”
That was some relief to hear about. At least my bag was not lost.
“And when is next flight?”
“Ok, I am here for an assignment, I have my camera in that bag, my clothes, everything. There is no way I can do my assignment tomorrow without that bag. I am a photographer and I have been hired to cover an event. Without my camera, what am I gonna do tomorrow?”
I made up the story. The truth was, I just needed my clothes and stuff. The camera I was going to shoot on the next day was rented already. But then, that was the only viable option that could pressurize them to get my bag as soon as possible. Also, I so wanted to click pictures with my camera.
“I am very very sorry sir. I will try my best if they can tag it and send it by the next flight, whatever airline that is. I would say, you please head to your hotel. I will give you call. And if possible I will get it delivered to your hotel. If not, you may have to come and pick it up”
“Thank you. I really appreciate that”
I stormed out of the office. The next challenge was to get to the hotel. Unlike LA, this airport was like Lucknow. Small and deserted.
I walked out and on the other end, were the shuttle service cars. I walked to one of them.
“Yes, please sit” replied the guy in hindi, opening the car door for me.
That was such a relief. Though it didn’t do anything but the very thought that I have someone who speaks my language was a relief.
He dropped me at the hotel and left me his number for any traveling needs anytime. Typical Indian I must say.
“Hello sir, I am speaking from Delta Airlines regarding your baggage. I am afraid I don’t have a good news”
“And that would be?” I said, annoyed at the dramatics, half expecting her to say “somebody accidentally opened the baggage cabin mid-air so all the bags flew off. Did your bag fall in your hotel? If it did not, I am afraid we lost your bag”
“We could not arrange for your bag to be shipped tonight. It will surely be coming tomorrow morning. I deeply regret the inconvenience caused”
Something started to grow across my body. A strange sensation. My clothes felt like they were made of steel. And full of dirt. I wanted to take a shower and change to fresh clothes. The feeling slowly settled in, that I didn’t have my brush, clothes, my slippers, anything.
It had been an amazingly long day for me.
I woke up at 8am to catch up breakfast. We reached the location, few miles away from the hotel, around noon. And we began shooting some left over interior scenes from day 1. Followed by a lot of stuff till late evening. Then I had to light up a bonfire scene (my favorite stuff). The lighting up itself took 3hours.
By the time it was dark, we were ready. That scene took the longest to shoot. We wrapped at 1am. (Now July 14. I know it is obvious but you would realize why I am emphasizing it).
The plan was to drive back to NY at night. Even though, everyone was tired, and sleepy, this had to be done. I decided to be Camille’s navigator who was driving the equipment van, which was a commercial vehicle. That meant, we could not take the expressways adding another hour and a half to the journey time.
Our phone and laptop batteries were dying. Which meant, no GPS and no communication channel. Camille’s phone had fallen in the lake, so it wasn’t much helpful anyways (also, iPhones suck!).
This by itself is another blog entry. So I would not give away much details here. A lot of detours, asking around, guesswork, breaks and screaming, we finally made to NY by 05:00am. Dead tired and extremely sleepy, I reached my apartment by 06:00am.
I opened my laptop to find my ticket to San Jose. Wow! I found out the flight was 01:10pm. To reach JFK at 12:10, I needed to be out of my house by 10 which meant I had to get up by 9am. Oh perfect. It was already 7am by the time I arranged everything. I had a lot of pending stuff to do since I was away from any internet and mobile phone connectivity for last 3days.
I tried to sleep. But by the time time I actually fell asleep, my alarm went out. I ran to my bathroom with a severe headache.
I reached Penn Station from where I had to take a train to Jamaica to get to JFK. I couldn’t find the entry for the platforms. I went roundabout the station 3 times (as if expecting that each time I go around the CIRCULAR penn station, it would be different). I missed the train I was supposed to catch in order to reach on time. In my desperate attempt to exit the station, I took the elevator going down (why? I don’t know. I specifically remembered walking down to the station, so the world was definitely upstairs.) I was in a state of trance.
As I reached down, Bang! The entrance to the trains. I realized I passed those escalators 3times but never noticed they actually lead to the trains to Long Island, what I was looking for.
I had to wait for 20mins for next train.
Back to reality
In flight I could hardly sleep, I wasted my time talking to the guy sitting next to me or watching stuff on the stupid entertainment system. Luckily, I had eaten at LA airport so I was not hungry at all. I had actually gobbled a veggie burger at Ruby’s diner (which was so delicious, I highly recommend it to all) along with fries and a thick, super awesome chocolate shake. I got to eat after 24hours, so I almost licked the plate clean. The last meal was the lunch at shoot. (Yeah I know. it sounds fucked up. Yes, it indeed was!) To add to my misery, I gained 3hours of time while traveling to LA, making my day longer.
I must buy toothbrush, soap and a t-shirt at least. The idea suddenly struck me. I ran out of the hotel, my fellow cameraman, Aaron, following me. He was staying with me and was to shoot the same event with me.
We reached Walgreens, which was nearby. The clock said 10:01pm. I tried to walk inside. The doors were locked. The customer service representative gestured “we are closed”. I missed it by 1min.
I looked around. Everything was closed. Except for a food store.
I understood, it was not going to be a pleasant night. It was already 36hours without any sleep for me and the adventure had just begun. I walked to the food mart.
To be continued…