photo by ellen reitman.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

letters from the edge 5.

letters from the edge 5.

i'll end this series of postings pretty much as i began: winching and whining like a spoiled little kid. i apologize in advance if my complaining offends anyone, but i do come from a long line of pretty spoiled brats and, just like after my journey to india, i have been a little fugged up upon my return to canada.

my day of departure from kullu was a heavy rain day with thick clouds that hung low in the sky. the plane might not fly even on much better days. so i was not shocked to see the 'indian-airlines' official approaching. he offered me a hot cup of chai while informing me the flight was cancelled. i rejected the first taxi, as i sipped the sweet chai, that was brought for me. it was a tiny little vehicle. one of my best friends had died on these roads a few years ago in just such a car on just such a day on the exact same journey down the mountains. eventually, i jumped into a larger mini-van type jalopy with a driver who seemed nice enough at first glance.
anybody who has ever been in a car in india knows it ain't the most organized of procedures. and i actually had an indian license for some years, have driven all over north india. i can assure you that one faces an onslaught of all manner of transports, from bullock carts lumbering along with oversized loads of hay to mercedes busses catapulting through at beak-neck speeds, literally and figuratively, all not necessarily staying on their 'correct' side of the road. you get used to it. on this particular occasion, there was the added challenge of rain-slick and, for large stretches, chewed-up and deeply pot-holed pavement.

a few ground-rules had to be established. i respectfully asked the driver to stop using his cell-phone while driving. these guys get pretty constant calls, everything from employers arranging next assignments to wives demanding they bring milk back, and it really was dangerous conditions. also, i had to keep an eye on his speed. otherwise, he was a good driver and proved to be a nice guy. at one point, however, we had a close call when the car ahead inexplicably stopped in the middle of the busy road. as usual, the two drivers quickly got out and began to go at each other. the proverbial crowd began to gather as the jostling and yelling ramped up. i got out and inserted myself in-between the two jerks, pushed my guy back into our car and demanded he drive on. he kept on ranting about the idiocy of stopping a car like that. there was no sense in me pointing out that, while he was berating the guy, both cars were sitting in the middle of the busy road. i just commiserated.

the drive took the usual seven uncomfortable hours to chandigarh, which meant i'd been already on my way, or waiting to be on my way, for about ten hours, having left kullu for the airport at 6:00 a.m. i took a chance that i would be able to hop a plane to delhi quickly, so i asked the driver to drop me at the chandigarh airport. it would've taken another six or so treacherous hours of driving otherwise. there was a point, however, when i wondered if that wouldn't have been easier or even quicker. there was so much paperwork, the check-in was slow-as-molasses, along with waits and delays. even the taxiing into position for take-off seemed to go on for an inordinate length of time. nevertheless, i arrived in delhi at 8:00 p.m. you do the math. but, while you're at it, add on an hour that it took me to get from the airport to my hotel in stop-and-go-and-stop-again delhi traffic.

in my fancy hotel room, i was immediately faced with the task of figuring out how to use the lights. simple on/off switches are, of course, out of the question nowadays in a hotel of this calibre.  nowadays, modern technology is fully employed to make life easier and more pleasant, only it doesn't. the whole room was like an idiot test which i failed miserably. one needed an engineering degree to figure out the shower, the air-conditioning felt like the arctic vortex and there were no windows that opened. i could go on and on, but i'm concentrating on the actual traveling. once i began channeling my mother, opened that mausoleum of negativity, so to speak, i realized i had to focus on just one area of the journey or this last 'letter from the edge' would go over the edge, if it hasn't already.    

so... safety instructions on the large plane out of delhi included a video presentation describing the various procedures. in it, there were happy, perfectly good-looking passengers, along with their happy, perfectly good-looking kids, placing oxygen masks and then life-jackets on, seemingly without a care in the world, as though they were getting ready to go on a picnic rather than flail around in the frigid, shark-infested mid-atlantic, assuming they even survived the crash. also, i'm sure you know, perhaps directly, that people generally are not so perfectly good-looking as all that. i am, but most people aren't.

for example, the lady who flowed into the next seat was a morbidly obese lady who i am convinced has dedicated her adult life to watching me, ready to spring into action as soon as she finds out that i have bought an airline ticket. i'm always seated beside her, on every flight i've ever taken. i realize now that the people who pay the extra $150 dollars for 'economy plus' seating, for a bit of extra leg-room, are usually mothers with screaming kids or oversized folks. i got lucky on the way over. although there was a large indian lady with a totally outta-control kid in the next seat, she was eventually moved to where she could have a basonette. i was not so fortunate on the way back. suffice it to say, it was a long fourteen hours.

from newark to ottawa, the safety instructions included a curious suggestion. apparently, if we found ourselves falling out of the downed plane into lake champlain or the st. lawrence, in the unlikely chance that we were at all lucid, we were supposed to take the seats with us(?) i initially wondered if i had heard that correctly. apparently, we could use them as flotation devices. i would've preferred actual flotation devices, but i suppose that was just one more service eliminated in order to make the business more cost-effective. whatever might be the reason, out of curiosity i checked the empty seat beside me and it was, in fact, quite easily separated from its frame.

in the end, i'm home, and sick as a wounded banshee warrior. i have no idea what that means, but i liked the sound of it. after all, i'm sick. the good news is i'm home. at least i'm no longer home-sick.


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