I took a thorough look around the La Hacienda Shopping Center. I could definitely find toothbrush, paste and soap but I was sure not gonna find t-shirts. Not even any promotional ones. At that point, I could have promoted any goddamn brand on this earth if it provided me clothes.
I picked up the items, took another optimistic round of the place looking for t-shirts, it did not have any. I was walking towards the check out when I heard two guys loudly talking in hindi. The voices came closer and finally I saw them stand in the next row to check out.
Something got on to me. I immediately changed rows. They noticed it but remained glued to their conversation about some common person they were bitching about.
“Do you guys live around here?” I asked them in hindi (a very calculated move).
One of them was taller and bulkier than the other. He felt a little hesitant in answering my question and he looked at the other one with a look ‘Dude, you deal with him. He looks like trouble!’
“Yes, I stay here. What happened?” said the shorter, thinner guy in a very calm, warm and welcoming tone.
“Do you know anywhere I can get t-shirts right now? My baggage was misplaced by the airline and I am here for an event tomorrow. I need to buy something to change to” I said, trying my best to sound as calm and composed as possible, without scaring the hell out of them.
The face of the tall guy turned red. As if what he was thinking, was exactly what I turned out. A begger or a theif or a gangster who would first ask for help, then will slaughter them and run away with their money. (To be honest, at that point, I would have just ran away with the clothes!)
“I already did. They are closed”
“Ahh…well, the clothing stores must all be closed. Try those 24hour type stuff like CVS etc.” he said as he moved out after paying for his stuff.
“Thank you” I replied with a smile.
I had only one option- to start walking on El Camino Real since I was more likely to find some store open at 10:30pm on this street than any other street in Sunnyvale. My feet and back now started to hurt.
I walked out of the store and looked around.
This part of the country is amazingly beautiful. Wide clean roads, lots of trees and greenery, a refreshing weather and so much peace. It is everything what New York city is not. On a normal day, I would have loved this relief from the dense jungle of concrete with 1000 kinds of smells and noises, helicopters, police sirens, ambulances, fire engines all going on at the same time, rains and wet streets. If it is not raining, then it is stuffy, hot weather. And above all, people! New York is stuffed with people.
You cannot walk without people bumping into you with their “Excuse me” that sound like “Once upon a time, when the Almighty was writing the destiny for us humans, he wrote that on this day, at this very hour, minute and second I shall cross the street. You have the audacity to question the destiny? How dare you walk ahead of me, in the same direction? Move away you wretched creature. I cannot walk slower or faster than this speed. I cannot walk a step to my right or to my left, however wide this street may be or however much space do I have to walk ahead of you from your side without disturbing you. I will walk as I am destined to. So EXCUSE ME!”
Not to forget their heads would be buried in their iPhones, ears would be stuffed with earphones playing music so loud that you can tell which song is playing while standing 5feet away from the person. I swear one day I would just turn around and lodge at least 10 tight slaps on the face the next time they go “Excuse me” that rudely when they can see I have moved and made way. “Oh, you moved before me saying excuse me? Well, let me be sure, just in case! EXCUSE ME!” If only Excuse Me! could physically slash a person, there would be blood shed everywhere in New York!
A bunch of retard hipsters. Feel like taking up Ra’s al Ghul’s philosophy sometimes.
Right now, though, the whole idea of so much space was not comforting. What I could find in NY within one block of walking, here it might take 2 miles to find.
I took a deep breath and started walking towards the street crossing the parking area.
I turned around to find the two indian guys standing there.
“Where?” I genuinely asked.
“To buy you t-shirt. Hop in, I can drive you to the nearest place that may be open.”
“No it’s fine. I will walk. I don’t want to bother you so much”
“Come one dude. Just sit. It won’t be a problem at all” he said with a tone of finality that now he had made up his mind that he would buy me t-shirt so he would. Nobody must come in his way now. Destiny!
I sat in his Honda Civic.
“Friend, you will have to adjust as my friend has just come to Sunnyvale and all his luggage is in there” he politely requested me turning on the engine.
“I can sit on the roof or in the boot if needed at this point.” I genuinely meant that statement.
Then began the search for t-shirts. One by one, each store was crossing by, closed. We were having the basic conversation about how airlines fuck it up at times, he was talking about some other places he has stayed and was wondering what all stores could be open at this hour. They asked me, what did I do and why had I come here.
After driving around for around 20mins, they finally spotted something.
“There we go. CVS Pharmacy, 24hour store”
He drove in and parked by the entrance. More than happiness, I felt a sudden fear inside me. I sure was at CVS but how I got there, I had no clue. In the whole driving around, I lost track of the route. Also, considering 20mins of driving around, this was not walkable distance to the hotel. My phone battery was about to die. No GPS. Wow! It sounded just a perfect trap I fell into.
I got out of the car and was about to thank them for this ride when the guys walked out too
“We don’t have much to do this evening. Let’s help you find your stuff”
I was amazed. Really? They want to help me find t-shirt in CVS pharmacy?
“What’s your name? I am Gaurav and he is Harish” said the thin guy. He was doing all the talking. The other guy was definitely not happy with all this helping a fellow Indian business. ( I am assuming Gaurav, read on)
“Himanshu. where are you guys from?”
“We are both from Mumbai”
Ahaa….that explains it. Only Mumbai people know how to help others. I can safely say this because I have stayed there for 4years and in Delhi for 2 years. If it was Delhi and I said yes to get into a car, well, let us just say, it wouldn’t have been quite comfortable to sit.
It took us 15mins of going through aisles and aisles of stuff before one of the guys shouted “Himanshu, come here! I found them”.
I ran to him. And there it was, a round rack of t-shirts. I thought it was glowing in golden light. I swept through them and picked two t-shirts, one grey and one black. Took another look and realized, I picked the best ones. The others were surely recycled clothes made from rags of waste cloth.
I picked up a pack of underwear too. It was like a dream come true. Finally, I could shower and feel like a human.
They sat in the car while I stood by the driver’s seat.
“Guys…I don’t know how to…” I began, thinking hard of a nice thank you speech.
“Get in the car. Don’t you have to go back to your hotel?”
“You can’t walk back my friend. It is too far.”
I quietly obeyed and took my seat. Phew!
“So where is your hotel?”
“You can drop me to the same shop where we met. I can walk from there”
“Buddy, don’t hesitate. We have to go back anyways. If you hotel is nearby, we can drop you there”
“Hotel Wild Palms. It is on the corner of Wolfe and Fremont av.”
“Perfect. We will anyways take Wolfe to get back home. We can drop you on the other side of the street. Hope that is ok with you?”
They were talking as if they owed it to me.
“Thank you so much. That would be fine.”
On the way back, I realized, the hotel was far from that place. I would have walked for almost for 45mins before I could have reached the hotel. They stopped the car next to Wendy’s which was right in front of my hotel.
“Alright man. Wish you all the very best for your event tomorrow. Take care. Have fun.”
“I don’t know how to thank you guys. Thank you so so so so much. You saved my life.”
“It is absolutely fine dude. Don’t worry at all.” he said with a genuine, big smile.
I looked for my business card but couldn’t find it. I remembered I gave the last one I had in my wallet, to the guy next to me in flight. Dumb me! Grrrr
I picked up my phone. It was dead already.
“It’s fine dude. Relax” he said seeing me struggle.
I got out of the car and they sped up. On my way back to the hotel, the whole incident started to go over again.
“They were like two angels who met me, helped me and disappeared. Harish and…..what the…I forgot the name of the first guy. I can always…wait…I never took their number. But I could have given my…so now I had lost them forever. May be…that was how it was supposed to be…they were meant to help me…at a point when I needed help…I was stupid…I didn’t even offer my number for the very sake of helping them when they come to NY sometime. I was just too exhausted and overwhelmed. Well, they know my name and New York Film Academy. I am sure, if they want to, they can always look up. But why would they? What if they have forgotten my name by now?”
Lost in these thoughts and feeling so relieved, I reached my hotel room. Kept my dead phone and turned around to look for a charger. Whoa! My charger was in the bag. So now my phone’s dead. And I don’t have a charger. And guess what? I have Nokia E72. No way on earth, anybody would have a nokia charger in that hotel.
“Hello, this is Valerie. How may I help you”
She was this beautiful, charming receptionist at the hotel front desk. At 01:00am, she was so happy, fresh and welcoming.
“By any chance, would have a charger for this Nokia phone?”
She looked at the pin.
“Let me have a look sir. We have a bunch of chargers, this will take some trial and error”
She took my phone and went in. For next 15mins, I heard a lot of rustle and boxes. Then she came out with two chargers. I tried both of them. None got even close to fitting.
“I am sorry sir. That’s all that we have that comes close to fitting in that pin”
So that was it. I was going to be without a phone till my bag comes back. That is, if my bag comes back. Of all the things I cared about was my camera. It would be last thing I would want to lose. I could buy everything else in the bag, 3 times again but not the camera. I was regretting leaving it in there.
“Thank you so much for your help” I turned around, and dropped my phone which opened into its pieces (how nokia phones fall). While gathering it together, I saw something that held my attention. I looked at the data cable port which was a micro USB. I remembered my Samsung phone had a similar charger pin. If I could find that, I may well be able to charge my phone.
“Hey, would you have a charger for this pin?” I showed her the USB port.
She looked around and found a Nook charger that fit perfectly.
My eyes gleamed with joy. I ran to room (figuratively). Plugged it in.
It didn’t turn on. I waited for few minutes. Usually Nokia phones take a while after being discharged.
Nothing happened. I picked up the charger and crawled back to the reception.
“It doesn’t work. Is anything else that I may try? any Samsung charger?”
“Well, let me see. I must have something else.”
She went back again and the same, boxes and rustle. She came out with a blackberry charger with similar pin. I again turned around to run back when I thought – what if it didn’t work too? How about I check it here? And I saved myself from being a total moron again. I plugged it in in a nearby outlet and there, my phone sprung up to life, immediately.
A relief settled inside me. I thanked her and came back to my room. Looked at the watch. it was 02:00am. By the time I was done with shower, changed and went to bed, it was 02:35am.
As I lay in the bed, this fatigue took over me, as if I was sedated. After running around for 52hours straight, I finally got to sleep in peace. Well not really so much peace since my bag was still lost somewhere but it was an end to a physically draining day. I had to get up at 7am again because my event started at 9 and I was supposed to report there at 08:30am. It was around 10miles from my hotel.
The bed felt so cozy and warm. I blinked. It was 06:40am. Aaron was already up. I thought if I didn’t get up at this point, another small doze of sleep might get me late. So I got out of bed. I only know how much of resistance my body exerted on me. But with a conviction, I finally was out of bed.
The breakfast at the hotel was amazing. It took away my grumpiness of lack of sleep. Awesome pancakes with fried eggs. Reached the venue, shot a crazy football event for the whole day without taking any breaks at all. All that we had there to drink was Pepsi Maxx which was the sponsor for the event. And it tastes like sugar syrup even though they say it has zero calories. I tried drinking one but couldn’t finish it.
Around midday my phone rang.
“Hello sir, I am calling from Delta Airways. I am afraid I don’t have a good news for you.”
Damn these people. Who trained them? What was it now? “Sir. The flight in which your luggage was coming lost its way and is now in China. Poor little kids want to take your camera. Being America’s biggest and most responsible airlines, we have to take your permission before we can donate the stuff to them since the flight is not coming back. It is much hassle on our part to bring it back. It is better we dispose it off”
“Sir. The flight by which your luggage was supposed to come….one second sir”
She put me on hold to talk to another person, at the worst possible moment in that sentence. I could have taken a cab and reached the airport at that moment, out of sheer rage.
“Sorry about that. Sir, the flight is delayed by 4hours. So we will be able to deliver your luggage only by 5pm.”
“That’s fine. I am anyways out till that time. Thanks.”
Why would they do that? What have I done to Delta? Why? WHY? – were some questions raging in my head as I resumed shooting.
At 03:45pm my event manager gestured that it is a wrap. He was biting through a chicken leg piece. I and Aaron looked at each other. We were dying of hunger. We decided we must exit this place before he thinks of some more shots.
The had given us black t-shirts which I had to wear above the t-shirt I was wearing. If I had known I would be provided t-shirts at the venue, I wouldn’t have gone hunting for it. Never mind. I was boiled inside those two layers of clothing. Shooting the event in direct sun of California, I was more than well cooked.
At 4:45pm I reached my hotel lobby. A guy entered with me and stopped at the reception. I crossed the desk heading to my room when suddenly it struck me. I took two steps back and looked at the bag the guy was holding.
IT WAS MY BAG!!
I ran to him almost knocking him down and snatched the bag from him.
Totally puzzled at what just happened, he said in the most confused tone “And…that I assume…would be your baggage…May I know your name….sir?”
“Himanshu Dubey” I said, not even looking at him. I was busy opening the bag and checking its contents. Everything was in place. Well, not exactly in place but in the bag. It seemed they played soccer with my bag. But the good part was, it had my camera in it. I switched it on. It was working fine.
“Then…please sign here”
I scribbled my name and disappeared. He must have thought what a douche I was.
My room was at the extreme back side of the hotel. I ran to my room with my bag, Aaron behind me. Quite close to my room, I head loud screams of a girl. Chinese girl to be honest. How I knew that? I don’t know. But it was obvious it was a Chinese girl. That was some lovemaking I must say.
Red light. I tapped again. Red Light. Again. Red light. My room won’t open. Aaron tried his card, same.
I took a deep breath. I knew what could have gone wrong. I walked back to the reception trying not to pay attention to the screams.
“Sir, I am sorry but there is no credit card associated with that room. That is why we have revoked your access. We need a credit card in order to let you in”
Amazing. Just what I was waiting to hear. American Logic at its best.
“So you are trying to tell me? The room I checked in yesterday, stayed one night, had breakfast in the morning, where all my stuff is kept in, I can’t get back there? How did you let me in yesterday?”
“I don’t know sir. I was not at desk at that time. Your event manager spoke to Valerie and she arranged everything. I am just doing my duty. If there is no credit card authorization associated with a room, we cannot grant access to it”
I called up my event coordinator, Nisha and she spoke to the receptionist. A couple of minutes later, the receptionist gives me back the phone.
“I won’t talk to her, she is screaming at me”
Deep breath. Deep breath.
“Nisha, I will call you in a while. Let me sort this out” I disconnected the call gathering all the patience I could.
“So, let us sort this. First, help me out here. Can you explain me the situation? Why was I granted access and now why can’t I get it?”
“Sir. Your stay has been fully paid for using a third party website. We do not get the credit card information from that website when we get a booking. But we need a credit card for incidental records. Only then we can give a room to a person. That’s the law. We were told that a credit card authorization form and picture would be sent to us by fax/e-mail but as per our records, we have not received any of it.”
“So all you need is a credit card?”
“Yes. It will not be charged sir”
I pushed my card across the table.
“I have a debit card. I think that should be fine?”
“Absolutely sir. There you go”
She scanned my card and flipped two new access cards across the table in a fraction of a second.
I walked back to my room. The girl was still screaming. But it seemed the position was different this time. Totally ignoring, I entered my room.
Aaron, who was waiting at the room, asked me “What happened?”
“Nothing. Just a slight confusion. Don’t worry”
I took a shower, shaved and changed into my clothes. Heaven. I had planned to meet one of my Indian friends who was in Santa Clara. It turned out he was very close to my hotel. The plan was to meet him and chill for a while. I got ready, took my camera and rushed out. The girl was still screaming. That is some stamina (at least for screaming!).
I met him after a long time. And in conversation he got to know that I had not eaten anything since morning. He had some left over rice and curry (rasam). I have to admit this. I am not a fan of rasam or sambhar. Not that I hate it. But I would never order those things. But, that day, it tasted like the best thing I had ever had. It took me a minute to lick the plate clean. Not that it was not well made (it was indeed delicious!), but hunger has this tendency to make things taste better than they are.
Sitting in his peaceful home, with golden evening light coming through the windows, sound of kids playing nearby, it was so serene. It was like a bliss to me after so much of rough time I had had so far. I was in my own world just breathing.
After hanging out with him for sometime, I came back to hotel, and as I was crossing that room, a huge, tall, fat typical american nerd type guy (glasses, long hair and disgusting look on his face) came out followed by a pretty Chinese girl. Damn! I was right. It was a Chinese girl. Looking at the guy, nobody could have made out they had been having sex for over 4hours now. Or even more. But looking at his physical dimensions, the screams were probably because of his weight than anything else.
My flight was at 11am the next morning.
“Mr. Singh. Pick me up at 9am from the hotel. My flight is at 11”
“Don’t worry sir. I will be there” the typical Indian assurance.
So my taxi was booked. I slept early that night to make up for my lack of sleep and rest. I was genuinely glad that this adventure was over. I couldn’t sleep too well. I would wake up every now and then to realize, there was still time to sleep.
I got up early and enjoyed the amazing breakfast, in peace. Nowhere to rush, nothing to do. Then I locked my room and came to the lobby to wait for my cab.
At around 09:30, I called up this guy
“Sorry sir. I am stuck in traffic. I will take another 30mins to reach your hotel.” The typical Indian timing.
“I am sorry but I will have to take another cab and go. I won’t be able to wait for that long”
I asked the hotel guys to get me a cab. In 5mins there was a cab at the hotel entrance. I looked at the hotel, the surrounding roads, El Camino Real and the Wendy’s. I couldn’t help but smile how last 48hours had been for me. The drive to the airport was something I don’t even remember. It just passed by like a flash.
I wanted to thank the lady at the Delta Airlines counter for getting my bag to me. But I reached airport barely in time, thanks to Mr. Singh, to make it to my flight. I was finally going back. back to NYC.
“I will come back. I will come back very soon. I like this place” I said to myself as I handed my boarding pass to the security personnel. I had checked in my baggage this time. Interestingly they asked me to pay $25 for this. I didn’t care.
Sitting in the flight, I felt the exertion of all the not eating and sleeping. I felt tired. There were so many things that awaited my attention in NYC, I felt a time bomb ticking as I came closer and closer to my reality, New York City.
“Sir, would you like some beverage?”
“ahh…what options do I have?” I said, lost and sleepy.
The End. (Phew!)