My first rendezvous with an airport...and the next one....and the next one!

Photo of My first rendezvous with an airport...and the next one....and the next one! 1/1 by Rasika Tamhane

Although I always had wanted to write about my travel stories, I never actually thought I would get to writing ever. That's because I don't know what makes for a good write up. I think it's an art to keep people engaged through writing your experience. Anyway, I am giving it a shot, I think it's worth a try.

Moving further,my first experience of flying out with my passport in hand, was a trip after all; and all I remember is how nervous I was, wondering if I'd be able to fly out on the scheduled flight.

Honestly, the sheer size of the airport terminal overwhelms you, to a point I may call it intimidating. I have taken flights out of Pune (that's where I belong to), the domestic kinds, and the terminal seems a tiny pop now that I look back (although I had been to the airport just a couple days ago, and they seem to have expanded and made it look a lot better now) and the aircrafts are baby-sized as well. I had an enlarged image in my mind, it just was not as enlarged as it should have been. So many people rushing around completing formalities, and of course, the grandeur of the building (I am an architect by profession) was just too much to take in all at once. I felt lost standing there, wondering what happens next, it was my first international flight after all. I was hoping to follow someone who knew what to do, and pretend to show off not being a first-timer! And so I did...followed suit.

Pushing my luggage through the queue at the check in, a very friendly, chic dressed lady punched in my details and also offered me a window seat when I told her it was my first flight abroad. Right then, I thought she was the sweetest being that could ever exist on the planet. Flashing her whites (which I assumed were whitened at the dentist) she wished me a happy and safe flight and I left the counter with a wide grin thinking of my window seat. Even today, after flying many flights, I still do a small little dance in my head whenever I manage to book myself a window seat. The view is partly a concern, but the more important part is that you can find the most comfortable position to sleep in, through the flight. Put a pillow on the window side, tilt your head, bundle up your feet onto the seat, pull up a blanket and there you go...comfortable sleep for a stretch of 5 hours at the least! Same setup, with seats next to you going vacant...icing on the cake! Spread out your legs and that's comfortable sleep for a good 6 to 7 hours guaranteed. Go in for a little wine may be, and that's no turbulence for you either!

So moving on, I already could see the long, never-seeming-to-move-any-further immigration queues. What better place to observe people and kill time before you even know it! Thinking of it now, be it any country across the globe, be it any race, you wouldn't miss these people here. Type 1- the business kinds- typically with a small square cabin trolley, the black colour, dressed in a formal suit, usually on back-to-back calls on their iPhones, and checking emails whenever not on a call. Quite patient at the first glance, these business men show their impatience by constantly checking if the queue has moved any further by tilting their head a certain slight angle. Like, they would miss their flight just because of the people standing ahead for the exact same reason as them. Although, I think, these are the kind of people who actually care to arrive an extra hour earlier at the airport. God knows! Type 2- the annoying kid- worse case, twins or siblings- the ones in prams can't stop crying, or wanting something or the other which their mothers just cannot judge right while standing there. Guess airports do that to mothers! And the ones who've outgrown the pram, want to run around and play all that they can just while in that narrow barricaded lane. Siblings and/or twins think it's the perfect amount of space to pull the other's hair and try running away while the mother tries to manage the kids, the luggage and inch ahead, all at the same time. Such setups usually see no daddies around, and even if they are around, they just seem to not notice anything annoying in whatever's happening and offer no help to the mother unless prompted to do so with a weirdly sangry face and rolling eyes. Type 3- a large family seemingly on a Christmas holiday, no matter which month of the year- about 7 members at the least, with about 8-9 pieces of carry on. They seem to be so miscalculated about the number of human heads and package pieces, that half their chaos is to see if the cumulative sum has moved further along with the queue. The youngsters are ranting about their plans for when at the destination while the older generation is already half asleep after each count check on moving about 3″ ahead in the queue. When behind type 3 in the queue, I usually get excited at the thought that they would all go to the same counter for immigration. Unfortunately, type 3 never fail to disappoint me. Never mind! I am sure there are type 4 and type 5 and type 6 that you can think of, but I shall leave you to it.

Finally I am next person in the queue to get my passport stamped. A stern, straight-faced officer, without smiling once, made my entries onto some system I could not see from my side of the counter, stamped my passport with a rather loud thump for a stamp on a book, returned my stuff and let me go. In fact, staring back at me with that look that he carried on his face, he made me feel guilty to be traveling at that hour instead of any of the other 24 hours granted to me (it was some close to 2am in the morning).

Walking further down, I think to myself, 'Not again!' It was the security check queue now! Like waiting for immigration was not enough. Anyway, the queues at least split into two, but did absolutely no good to the waiting time. I had already started feeling the strain on my shoulders from carrying the rather-heavy-for-my-petite-frame backpack for the past hour and half while standing. Just as I came down to be the third person in queue, the crew from an airline, all dressed in blue, figure out that they need to rush to begin their jobs on the aircraft on time. About 10 airhostess walk right past me to make their way to the security check. Protocol is, crew go in as soon as they arrive at the check point, no wait for them. How I hate discrimination after standing for about 2 hours in queues at 2am with a rather-heavy-for-my-petite-frame backpack. Most airports now have a separate aisle for crew, and they don't push ahead of passengers. Thank god!

Finally I walk into the much cooler and airy lounge, although tired and sleepy. And there I see food! Quite a few choices to pick from. A big KFC chicken basket and a can of soda, and I settle sloppily into the chair dropping that backpack off my shoulders. Too lazy to move around, I just wait there all set to fly....

There's my boarding call. That's it for now. More when I have my feet back on land.