Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.

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faults in the clouds of delusion

Friday, May 09, 2008

Small world

They breezed in, they breezed out. They fought and bickered and squabbled endearingly. They passed a wide range of politically incorrect comments. Perhaps that was forgivable considering one of them was over seventy and the other nearly so. They'd missed their connecting flight at Newark. The next flight was at 5 pm. They'd landed at 6 am. The 16 hour trudge from Bombay hadn't served them so well. He'd had to keep getting up to go to the restroom; on one such occasion he'd left his windcheater on his seat and the guy next to him ("one useless fellow he was") had lifted the armrest and lain down across the two seats, adding insult to injury by borrowing his windcheater unasked and balling it up into a pillow. On another occasion that he'd gotten up the same gent had placed a half-empty glass of water (no, not half full) on his seat, so when he returned to his seat he unknowingly sat on the glass wetting himself "everywhere 1 2 3 4" as he put it, making gestures in all directions. The flight attendants hadn't been the best, and the ground staff at Newark had been downright bullies. "All of them black and one fatter than the other," said she, comfortable in her own not unsubstantial skin. They hadn't been convenienced by the security check either, "making me take off my shoes socks shirt banian even", and figuring out how to make a pay phone work had been a nightmare. For one, they didn't have coins, and no one would give them any change. Until the Good Samaritan they met after 45 minutes of their hunt, the man who passed them two quarters so that they could call their son to tell him of the delay. The son who let his sister know. The sister who called her friend my sister-in-law at 10 am, four full hours into their nightmare, imploring her to drive the half hour into Newark and bring them home for lunch before they embarked on their cross-country connection. And so they sat in the living room as my sis-in-law rustled up some upma, bombarding a politely sympathetic me with the tales of their recent plight, apologizing for "inconveniencing" me by making me show them the way to the bathroom.

Slowly they settled and caught their breath, she embarked on tales of her grandchildren. And suddenly realized that she couldn't find her pocket diary. The one with all the phone numbers in it. Which she'd taken out to call her son. Which she now realized she had probably forgotten at the airport.

She made as if to go back to Newark to look for it.

We dissuaded her.

It took some doing.

Then she remembered that she had written her son's credit card information right across the front page of that diary.

My sis-in-law called her friend to get the son's number. The friend called back with the number. The son was called; a message was left. The son called back and was informed. He said he'd cancel the card. He hung up, then called back. He berated his mother. Her face fell further. Then she blamed her husband, for "reminding me so often you always make me nervous". H edefended himself by saying that if he didn't remind her she'd forget. Then he asked, "are you sure the passports and boarding passes are safely in your bag?" She rolled her eyes and took them out. "You cold have left them outside last time I asked you to check," he justified. And started telling me all about how he used to make coffee in his 1950s British coffeemaker. A fifteen minute narrative, crowned by the passing phrase,"It has rollers, you see, for rolling. They roll."

Then he explained to me why she shouldn't have taken her phone diary out to make the call. "You should always write numbers in big letters in sets of three. On pieces of paper where you can find them." He fished a couple of loose scraps of paper from out of the bulging breast pocket of his shirt to demonstrate.

Then he unpacked and packed his shoulder bag. It was missing one side strap, and the shoulder strap seemed as if it didn't belong to the bag. "Yes, yes, one strap had broken. But I have many at home. When I go home I will fix it." He'd just come from home for a year's visit. "This shoulder strap was also breaking and I was at my tailor's shop so I asked him for a belt."

She observed his performance and commented to me: "Yiver uncle iss livving in the 19th century."

They had their lunch, drank some tea, and then left to get driven back to the airport. All the while they talked, bickered, squabbled, and passed the occasional politically incorrect remark. On their way out she discovered he'd left his windcheater hanging across the back of a dining chair. Her eyes lit up - she said she wouldn't remind him until he stepped out of the house. They stepped out of the house. She'd forgotten to remind him. I reminded her, saying, "Jacket". Her face fell. So did his. I fetched the jacket. They said their fond goodbyes to the stranger they'd met just a few hours previously.

Somewhere in the relentless conversation we'd learned that they're related to the new wife of my old cubicle-mate and friend.

15 Comments:

OpenID lekhni said...

I feel so sad for them. Travelling across the world is not easy on anyone, and certainly not for seniors.

That said, what kind of guy uses someone's else's jacket as a pillow, or leaves a glass of water in a seat? That looks like it was done on purpose.

5/09/2008 8:01 PM  
Blogger km said...

You almost make them sound like Alvy Singer's parents.

//Why can't airlines at least provide a free phone service to senior passengers coming in from overseas?

5/09/2008 10:51 PM  
OpenID lekhni said...

km: Forget free, even paid calls are not easy. At Brussels airport, I found it very simple to call the US using a credit card, but there is no way to call India on those payphones. Or call any other place except US/Canada and Europe. Weird.

5/09/2008 11:50 PM  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

"The son who let his sister know. The sister who called her friend my sister-in-law at 10 am, four full hours into their nightmare, imploring her to drive the half hour into Newark and bring them home for lunch before they embarked on their cross-country connection."

At least the guy who used the jacket for a pillow was a stranger...an uncouth, rude sod but a stranger nevertheless.

5/10/2008 1:54 PM  
Blogger gaddeswarup said...

TR,
This episode and "He'd had to keep getting up to go to the restroom" reminded me a recent trip of mine inside India. I wanted to travel from Hyderabad to Vijayawada by bus; it was a trip that I used to make about twice year when I lived in Bombay enjoying Andhra pachadis along the way. I booked at a local RTC outlet and was told that it was a nice air-conditioned bus and would take only six and half hours with a couple of stops. My cousin in Vijayawada told me that after the main stop in Vijayawada, it would travel along Eluru road and if I requested, they would stop at a place ten minutes from his house. I should be there by 6:30 PM and he would be waiting at the bus stop.
When I got in to the bus in Hyderabad, they said it would be more like seven and half to eight hours. The bus stopped at several places in Hyderabad to take passengers and took two hours to get out of the city. I was already feeling the ned to visit a restroom (not unusual when one is nearly 67) but the next regular stop came after 2-3 hours. When I got down there was no regular restroom I could see and many including some women were using the open space with a few bushes. I could not see myself holding my own in that surroundings and tried a squatting position which I had not used for several years. The bones must have got stiff because of old age and I kept falling back. Finally with the help of one hand on the ground behind me, I finished the job and got back to the bus. At that stop or next stop we were delayed for half an hour because some passenger went for a drink and came late staggering. Finally when we reached the outskirts of Vijaayawada, there were traffic jams. We were told that there was a big bandh and they would try to get us to the main bus stop some how or other. It was time to enquire about my cousin's bus stop but the driver told me that he was from Telangana and did not know the local stops. After another hour so, the driver said that we wold not be able to reach the main bus stop that day and would leave us at the City Bus stop. By this time it was about 9 PM. I decided to stay in a hotel for the night and was told that the hotels were full because of the bandh. I was resigning myself to staying in the bus stop for the night (which had restrooms). Luckily an auto driver said that even though he could not drive me to my cousin's place because of the bandh crowd, he could take me around in the neighbourhood to look for a hotel room. Finally I found a hotel room by about 10 PM and phoned my cousin on my first borrowed cell phone and found that he was still waiting at his bus stop. Thanks to another cell phone, his wife sent him the message and I met him the next morning. I came back to Hyderabad by train but that is another story

5/11/2008 8:12 PM  
Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Jhumpa L should take tips from you.

J.A.P.

5/12/2008 8:13 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

lekhni:
i know -- a nightmare indeed.

km:
seriously.

ghost:
true.

swarup-garu:
you know, i often get the feeling that the main positive consequence of my blogging is that it coaxes these stories out of you. a very useful metric of the quality of my posts is the length of your response :-)

jap:
no way, man. have you read her latest? she's the boss.

5/13/2008 10:51 AM  
Blogger gaddeswarup said...

TR,
You are too kind. I am just an old man who never grew up and obsessed with some thing or other. Now, it seems to be about development and despite a blog which I use as a home work book, I am not making much progress. Off and an, you come up with these pieces with a touch of (perhaps) Salinger and I react. Happy blogging.

5/13/2008 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moving!

Please at least tell us, in code, or whatever else, WHICH airline this was. With relatively aged parents of self, it is always nice to know which airlines to avoid when subjecting the old eggs to 16 hour torture chambers.

My experience with airlines is this. You get what you can ask for. Once, I was stranded at Heathrow after Branson's airline failed to make the connecting flight to NY. "The flights from S. America aren't coming in...." or something like that was the excuse. I would only get a seat the next morning, after a good 20 hours. They told me to sit it out at the airport. Many passengers grudgingly accepted and went mumbling curses, looking for comfortable spots to spread their coats and doze.

"PARDON!" I yelled! "You freaks expect MOI to slug it out on an airport floor when it's YOUR FAULT that I have no toothbrush in a city where everything costs an arm and a leg!" I huffed and I puffed and assumed my most aggro-Delhiite stance I could possibly muster.

And lo and behold, I was shipped to a very nice hotel, all paid, three meals, and a small allowance for necessities (said toothbrush). Of course, that I called some 10 friends and had a gala evening in London is another story!

So, pray tell, which airline!?!

- PM

5/13/2008 11:53 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

pm:
continental.
do your parents know you refer to them as old eggs? what would you say if the youngun turned around and did that to you?

5/14/2008 10:14 PM  
Blogger Revealed said...

Isn't it just? The guy I'm dating (complete gora, doesn't know anything, useless fellow) went to NYC, met a couple of Indians and started telling them all about our history and how we're planning to move in together. I wait hourly for a phone call from my mum going my aunt's sister-in-law's friend's uncle says you've moved in with your boyfriend, what is happening.

5/14/2008 10:33 PM  
Blogger Revealed said...

By isn't it just, I was referring to the title of the post. Sigh. I'm out of touch with leaving bloggy comments, baba. They all come out sounding random (pliss to show self restraint and not make the obvious comment).

5/14/2008 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TR, indeed they know that I refer to them as old eggs. A term of absolute endearment that I coined when we all went to the Taj Mahal (Agra, not hotel) while I was on a random rural stint in the boondocks of U.P.; and they tried to sit on one of the parapets to get an aesthetic photo taken against the marble backdrop. They looked like quite the eggs trying to climb up on the parapet and perching as precariously as they dared. So from that day, they became my old eggs. A term they have grown to "love" over the years.

As far as the young gun calling me an old egg is concerned, I am bracing myself for much worse! Afterall, the child will be brought up in tough city streets!

I loved Continental. Shatter goes my heart.

-PM

5/15/2008 12:48 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

flaffy:
datinggg?! oooh!
blog all!
(was that the obvious comment?)

pm:
what to say, old er omelet, continental's the best there is in the us!

5/15/2008 5:48 AM  
Blogger Revealed said...

No, no. Obvious comment: Your comments *always* sounded random.

5/16/2008 6:28 AM  

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