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The Flying Folks

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Ashish-Jagtiani

Ashish Jagtiani is the name he was born with, though that is a bit of an urban legend. He goes by the name of Jaggu, a very popular name across the airwaves. Dry, dark and lucid would describe him aptly, where one can only hope that one is not on the receiving end of that unholy trio.

Travelling always has some entertainment attached to it. The pleasure doesn’t come from travelling fancy class, which I don’t, simply because paying rent and flying fancy is an either-or option for me.

It comes from the samples of humanity that one comes across on the trip, it is entertaining enough that I know I have broadly visited this subject before, but clearly, I am not done. First stop is the check in counter, where there are two types of people, both unfailingly polite. The difference being the grim smile or the wide smile when they greet you. Beware of the grim smile, one kilo overweight and you will pay the price, literally. Any questions out of the ordinary and the smile will turn into a frown. Ask for an upgrade and you will get a scowl in response. The wide smile fellows will also generally say no to any request or question, but they do it in a way that lets you believe they feel genuinely bad to not be able to help. With the wide smilers, you may walk away a little disappointed, but knowing they mean well. With the grim smilers, you walk away wondering if you should swim to your destination instead.

Then comes security check and immigration, lets gloss over that quickly. Nothing good ever came out of messing with anybody handling those areas.

The only time I had fun at immigration was when I had a handlebar moustache but my passport picture had me clean shaven. I noticed the immigration officer looking at me suspiciously so I explained to him the moustache was a new acquisition but would probably go soon anyway because the wife did not approve. He seemed genuinely troubled with that, he even offered to convince her otherwise, if she came past his counter. He acknowledged that he felt my pain and we both had a good laugh. Most entertaining time I’ve ever had at immigration. Though not a moment I expect to see repeated anytime soon.

At duty free, the travelling compatriots begin to emerge. Shopping styles vary, there are the ones who will look at everything and probably buy nothing. It’s almost like the final tourist attraction before they leave the country. There are those that must contemplate the entire selection before they purchase that one thing, much like they are buying a car. Others, who know exactly what they want, make a bee line for that item, knocking past other shoppers in their single minded quest. The most fun ones are those that are clearly late for their flight but they must, absolutely must, buy something. They are visibly stressed through the whole process, but run victoriously towards the boarding gate after their purchase, holding it like they just won a medal. Their smile dissipates once they’ve boarded the flight and get angry stares from other passengers for holding up the flight.

Once we’ve settled down and taken off, true colours begin to emerge. It is important to note that these people are only entertaining if you don’t have to personally deal with them, otherwise it goes from entertainment to annoyance rather quickly.

There are the ones who think of the flight crew as personal assistants. At various times during the flight they need a blanket, pillow, many glasses of water, plenty of intoxicating beverages, food that’s not on the menu and maybe even a massage or two. Basically, a flight attendant’s nightmare.

The bathroom visitors, who will usually have the window seat, who will need to use the facilities every hour on the hour and who will want make at least one visit when tray tables are open or when you’ve just nodded off. Maybe its karmic payback for you having annoyed some else at some point.

A few oozers will probably be there on every flight. These are large travellers, seated in uncomfortably small seats, who have no option but to shift weight and a portion of body parts onto their neighbour’s seat. A level beyond are the ones sized rightly to be seated comfortably enough, but who manage over the course of the trip to have their elbow way over the socially acceptable space on the shared armrest. Then there are those lucky people who can drop off into a deep slumber as soon as the flight takes off, soon after they will have the unconscious need to use their neighbours shoulder as a pillow, if you’re unlucky, there might even be a trickle of drool.

My personal pet peeve are the ones who stand in the aisle as soon as the flight lands, often even before it is safe to do so. Then comes the interminable wait for the doors to open, in which time they have unloaded their overhead bags, slung over their laptops and probably a baby or two. There they stand, in a two foot wide aisle, occupying four feet of space. This Archimedes-like feat being achieved by resting their bag on the head of the person sitting on one side and their elbow, hip and thigh on the fellow on the other side.

One of the most entertaining, however, is the guy who dashes off the plane, practically charges down the long trek to immigration, almost pushing people aside, single minded in his approach to exit the airport first, and then at baggage claim has his bags come in last.

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