Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rant! Rant!

Only read this is you feel like hearing me rant.

I barely made my flight to Shanghai. Despite several people at the hotel telling me I’d only need to give myself a couple of hours to check-in, I went extra early. That was the only thing that got me on the plane.

After 1 ½ hours lined up at the check-in counter, the surly Air India lady told me my luggage was twice the allowed weight. See, with Air India, they count your carry on luggage in the 20kg allotted space, which is the total you're allowed to bring. (With Air Canada, for instance, it's 23kg per checked bag, up to 2 bags.) With my camera, lenses and laptop, that really put me over. Plus I had the carpet and a bag of gifts. That meant I’d have to pay extra. Ok, I figured. How much could it be? How about nearly $400!!!

That was almost the price of my ticket. It's clearly a dirty money grab from a third-rate airline, but I was in a jam. I knew I had some books and papers that I’d collected from companies for research that I could chuck in a pinch. I didn’t think I could get rid of that much though, so I decided to bite the bullet and pay. But when I gave them my credit card, they said it wouldn’t work. I gave them my other one, and it wouldn’t work either. The only place in India where my international credit cards don’t work is the capital city’s major airport.

They still wouldn’t let me on the plane, so I had no choice but to start throwing out gifts. I might even have to discard the carpet, I thought. My plane was to begin boarding in 20 minutes.

I started dumping stuff on the floor – my travel guides, all my books and papers (except my notes), my sandals, some of my gifts, clothes. I had a growing pile on the floor when a guy came over and suggested I ship my stuff to Canada through the post office outlet nearby. They weighed it, and the cost would be about $150. Much better. So I ran over to the foreign exchange to cash travelers’ cheques. “We don’t open for another ½ hour,” they told me. Again, this is the country’s major international airport, and at 7:45 am on a busy weekday, they didn’t have a forex open. In the end, there was one branch open, at the other end of the terminal. I ran there, sweat flying everywhere, and got the required rupees.

On the way back I got my boarding pass and checked in my remaining luggage. It was still overweight, but they let it slide thankfully. The postal guy worked at a snail’s pace – “What’s the rush, don’t worry, take your time” he kept saying. My flight had started boarding 20 minutes earlier, and I hadn’t even gone through security. I almost went postal, but managed to keep my cool. The guy said he’d finish wrapping my parcels. He assured me they’d arrive in five days. We’ll see. I got on the flight seriously wondering whether I might have just handed him $150 for nothing. As it was I had to “tip” him a couple hundred rupees before leaving.

Anyway, I finally got on the plane and we sat on the tarmac for another hour. What’s the hurry?

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