Early delays

I haven’t been blogging the last 6-7 weeks. This is partly because I’ve been averaging 1 book or movie per day, but mostly because I ran out of things to say. I will start again soon. In the meantime, this is an announcement I heard when travelling on the Jubilee line. (The train had halted at North Greenwich.)

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re being held at this station for a while. This is because, you’re not going to believe this, but we’re slightly early! We’re not due at North Greenwich for another 60 seconds. Once again, I apologise for the delay, which is because we’re early.

Tube announcements

I was travelling on the Jubilee line, just pulling into Stratford (the last stop), when I heard this announcement.

“The next station is Stratford, where this train terminates. Thank you for travelling on the Jubilee line, and I hope you have a very pleasant evening.”

(pause)

“Unless, of course, you were the person who pulled the passenger alarm at Westminster, in which case I don’t care what kind of an evening you have.”

Longer than the Longest Day

I had declared 30th May 2005 as my longest day. Air India proved me wrong. My longest day was 18 Feb 2006.

I didn’t plan to fly Air India to Chennai in the first place. British Airways had more convenient timings and a similar fare. But I clicked on the wrong button, and didn’t realise until a few days before the flight that I was on the Air India, and that the flight left at 8:45am.

4:30am UK. Wake up. Brush teeth. Bathe. All items packed previous night.
5:10am UK. Taxi arrives and calls. Great timing.
6:05am UK. Arrive at Heathrow Terminal 3. Good timing.
6:10am UK. Huge queue near Emirates counter. Can’t be mine. Walk in.
6:11am UK. “Excuse me,” says elderly lady. “The queue is back there.” For my flight?
6:30am UK. Still in queue. Slow panic. I have 27 kgs of cabin baggage. 20 kgs permitted. Will they torture me with pins?
6:45am UK. Sardarji waves me in. I try a smile.
6:46am UK. Heave cabin baggage on to the ramp. 27.2 kg. Sardarji makes no comment.
6:47am UK. “I’m afraid there’s some bad news, Mr Subramanian.”
OK, this is it.
It costs 1,000 per kilo.
I’m not allowed on the flight.
I have to compensate by shedding 7 kgs on the spot.
“The flight is delayed by 4 hours.”
Whew.
“Here is your boarding card, and a complementary coupon for breakfast.”
7:00am UK. Call home and convey good news. The flight will therefore land at 7:15am at Chennai — a more decent hour than 3:15am.
8:00am UK. Bored.
8:30am UK. May as well pass security check.
8:40am UK. “Sorry sir. This boarding pass says 19th Feb. Today is the 18th.”
Huh? “But my ticket says 18th Feb.”
“You’ll have to go back to Air India and check with them, sir.”
8:45am UK. Long queue again.
9:00am UK. “Excuse me, this boarding card says 19th Feb. I’m flying today.”
Lady takes my ticket and vanishes.
9:15am UK. “Sorry sir, since the flight was delayed, the computer thought it was tomorrow already. Just take the pass, and they will accept it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Certainly sir.”
“Well, just to be on the safe side, could you call them and tell them?”
“I will, sir.”
“Right now?”
“Yes, sir.”
“In front of me, please?”
She gives me a funny look, and picks up the phone.
9:25am UK. At the security gate.
“Excuse me, I have a boarding card for tomorrow, but I’m actually flying today.”
“Hey, Mike…” (… here’s a nutcase?)
“It’s an Air India flight…”
“Oh, OK. Get in.”
9:45am UK. Clear security.
11:00am UK. Hungry. Have breakfast.
12:45pm UK. Flight should have taken off by now, but I’m still at Heathrow, waiting for a boarding announcement.
1:45pm UK. Still waiting.
2:45pm UK. Finally, a boarding announcement. So, flight is 6 hours late, at least. Call home and convey the good news.
3:00pm UK. “Fasten your seatbelt! Fasten your seatbelt!” Air hostess in stern tone.
Guy next to me mutters, “Fasten your seatbelts, please.”
5:30pm UK.“Any food?!” Same air hostess, same tone.
“Vegetarian, please.”
“Open your tray!”
6:00pm UK. Food is lousy. No movies. No books. Laptop: low battery. Can’t sleep.

4:00am India. Flight lands at Mumbai. Haven’t slept. Totally bored.
4:30am India.“All passengers are requested to leave the aircraft.”
“But I’m going to Chennai.”
“You still have to get off, sir.”
5:00am India. “Excuse me, which way for the flight to Chennai?”
“Your flight has already taken off, sir. Please collect your baggage and clear immigration.”
Right.
5:30am India. No luggage yet. Slow panic.
6:00am India. No luggage yet. Rapid panic.
6:10am India. Luggage arrives. Check tag: yes, it’s mine.
6:15am India. “Excuse me, where should Air India passengers for Chennai go to?”
“Why are you asking me? How should I know? Everybody is asking like this only!”
“But…”
“Go! Go there! Stand with everyone!”
6:30am India. Huge mob shouting at Air India staff, who have no clue what’s happening.
7:30am India. Air India staff has vanished.
8:30am India. Rumours that we’re to be put on to a Jet Airways flight.
Chennai passengers are OK, actually. Bangalore passengers only have flights in the evening.
9:00am India. “Go! Take this form and go to the other airport!”
“Is my ticket confirmed on this Jet Airways flight?”
“How do I know? Everything you ask me only. Go! Ask Jet!”
9:30am India. “Excuse me, am I confirmed on the 11:30am flight?”
“Sorry, sir. The flight is booked.”
“Look, I’ve been travelling for a whole day. I’m tired. Can you please do something?”
“I’ll see what I can do, sir.”
To her credit, and Jet Airways’, she got me on that flight.
11:30am India. Jet Airways takes off. On time.
1:30pm India. Flight arrives.
2:00pm India. No luggage. Did Air India transfer it at all?
2:15pm India. Ah, there it is. Pick up luggage from conveyer belt.
“Wait! Sorry, this is my bag.”
Middle-aged man with glasses and thick moustache.
“Um…”
“See? Here’s my yellow tag. I always place a yellow tag for identification.”
“Oh, OK. Sorry. It looked like mine.”
Just to be on the safe side, may as well verify the number…
But he’s gone.
2:30pm India. No luggage. All other bags have arrived.
“Hello sir. Waiting for luggage?”
“Yes. Are there any more bags left?”
“No sir. Only one bag left here. See, is this yours?”
I check. “No.”
“No problem sir, you talk to Jet Airways counter.”
2:40pm India. Jet Airways counter still empty.
2:45pm India. “Sir, this must be an exchange of bags. Does this bag look like yours?”
“Yes, sort of. In fact, someone picked up what looked like my bag.”
2:50pm India. “We have the number of the owner of this bag, sir. We’ll call him.”
“Let me call him as well.”
Mobile is engaged. Leave him a message.
Hi, I think our bags got exchanged. I am still at the airport. Anand.
3:00pm India. Rrring.
“Sorry, sir. I took your bag by mistake!”
“No problem. You wouldn’t have wanted a bag full of diapers anyway.”
“I got confused by the yellow tag.”
“My mother uses a yellow tag as well.”
3:15pm India. We exchange bags.
3:45pm India. Reach home, after nearly 30 hours.

My flight back to the UK was (relatively) uneventful, thanks to having tied pink, yellow and white bands to my luggage this time.

Tea at the Ritz

Had tea at the Ritz today. Initially, after reading that “Gentlemen are politely requested to keep their jackets and ties on during tea”, my reaction was rather like Calvin’s.

Calvin having tea

But the tea (Earl Grey) was outstanding. So were the scones, sandwiches and desserts. Although most people were ladies above 60, the younger ones were among the most beautiful I’ve seen in London.

Innocent in London

Innocent in London.

LONDON (Reuters): – A London underground train station was evacuated and part of a main east-west line closed in a security alert on Thursday, three weeks after suicide bombers killed 52 people on the transport network, police said. A Transport Police spokeswoman said Southwark station was closed and Jubilee Line services suspended between Waterloo and Canary Wharf in the east London business district.

This Reuters story was written while the police were detaining me in Southwark tube station and the bomb squad was checking my rucksack. When they were through, the two explosive specialists walked out of the tube station smiling and commenting nice laptop. The officers offered apologies on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. Then they arrested me.

ALL MEN ARE SUSPECT. BUT SOME MEN ARE MORE SUSPECT THAN OTHERS. (with apologies to George Orwell)

The British no

I need to get used to the British way of responding with “No” when they really agree with you. For example, in response to “The weather’s not looking good,” I would say “Yeah.” The British say “No.” (No, it isn’t.) It’s a bit jarring — feels like they’re disagreeing. For instance,

“London isn’t expensive.”
“No.” (what? you’re saying it’s expensive?)

“I don’t have a ticket.”
“No.” (what? you’re telling me I have a ticket?)

“There’s not enough room.”
“No.”

etc. Quite disorienting. I guess it’s also a little more hard work. You have to keep track of when to say “Yes” and when to say “No”.

Seatbelts in the UK

I got on to a taxi at the station. As usual, I sat in the front. When the engine was turned on, it started making loud siren noises.

“Oh, you have to put your seatbelts on, you see,” the driver said. So, I did.

“It’s really annoying,” he continued. “You’d think it’d shout a few times and then shut up, but no, it just goes on and on.”

“Well, good isn’t it,” I countered, “if it’s the law to have your seatbelts on if you’re sitting in the front?”

“Actually, you’ve got to have seatbelts on even if you’re in the back. But funny, they haven’t got any sirens if you don’t put your seatbelts on in the back!”

“Pity,” I said.

“Yeah. It was driving me mad. I had to buy a second-hand seatbelt and plug it in to my clasp, to stop the sound.”

I noticed, at that point, that he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. I didn’t notice if any other taxi drivers wore them. So after considerable deliberation, I ventured.

“You don’t have your seatbelt on.”

“Yeah. That’s right.”

He said it with confidence. I didn’t want to debate it with him, but I was curious.

“Why?”

“Well, because you might assualt me!”

A beat.

This was after the London bomb blasts. And I do look Asian. But surely!

“I mean, it’s tough enough having to drive, without having to worry about passenger assault.”

He proceeded to explain the seatbelt laws to me. “I don’t need to wear a seatbelt when I’m with a passenger, you see. When I’m not, I need to — except mostly people don’t do that if it’s short trips. And if I’m going outside my area, even if I’m with a passenger, I need to. Of course, I’d like to anyway, because it’s safer. But lorry drivers, for example, don’t need a seatbelt. That’s downright unsafe, with their low steering…”

Which is all very fine, but I wonder why he thought I would assault him.

GMT

I cross the prime meridien almost every day. I live 0 degrees 5 minutes east of the prime meridien. I travel to Liverpool Street usually, which is 0 degrees 5 minutes west of the prime meridien. The station closest to the meridien, on my route, is Stratford, which stretches from 7 seconds to 17 seconds west of the meridien.

Of course, crossing the prime meridien has no time-zone related significance like the international date line. But it does mean that I travel to the western hemisphere and back every day.

There is a place near Stratford station called Meridien Square. Should visit it some time.

Harry Potter 6

I went to Waterstones at Oxford Street to see the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. There was a party the previous night, with all the fanfare associated with a previous night. But things seemed fairly quiet when I was there. The usual crowd at Oxford Street, and the usual crowd at Waterstones.

I already knew who dies in the sixth book. I couldn’t help spotting it as I was reading some blog. Since the suspense was already spoilt, I opened to the last few pages, and ended up learning who the Half-Blood Prince was.

London Marketing Soiree

I met Leonard Payne, The Priest, Andrea Casalotti and Scott Caplan at the London Marketing Soiree. Quite a diverse bunch of people. Leonard quoted Seth Godin on something neither he nor I will never forget.

They say, if a website is well designed, people will find what they want. That’s not true. Think of the visitors as monkeys, wearing a ‘Big Red Fez’, going itchy on the keyboard. What’s the one thing on the monkey’s mind?

Where’s the banana!?