Thursday, April 10, 2008

Urgent Business

I had told the same lie so many times in the last two hours I was starting to believe it.

"I have urgent business in Bombay," I said, looking at my watch with aggressive annoyance. "And this delay is unacceptable."

"Now," I continued, poking my finger in the chest of Go Air's backpedaling customer service representative, "when will my plane take off?"

Of course, there was no "urgent business" -- other than meeting Aliyah in Bombay sooner rather than later. And for some reason, no one seemed to question exactly what sort of professional business the gora with a ratty t-shirt and too much red hair poking out from his backwards baseball cap might actually have that was so pressing.

Still, as my Delhi-Bombay flight was delayed, delayed, and then delayed some more, I found my "I'm a busy businessman" story giving me a lot of leverage, and I used it.

Eventually the Go Air customer service rep went into hiding, and the waiting passengers in Delhi's lousy domestic terminal became increasingly restless. Feet tapped. Eyes rolled. Foreheads tightened. Our plane was two hours late -- with no satisfying explanation from Go Air -- and we were mad.

Nearly an hour after the customer service rep had disappeared, I noticed a flash of neon green out of the corner of my eye -- the customer service rep's shirt. I bounced out of my seat and charged forward.

"This is outrageous!" I nearly yelled, shaking my fist above my head. "Where is our plane?"

"I'm sorry, sir. It was an unavoidable delay."

"When will I get to Bombay? I have urgent business!" I said, and actually believed myself.

"Well, if the plane arrives soon, and if we board you all quickly--"

"If!" I scoffed meanly. "I don't care about if! I have urgent business in Bombay! When will you get me there?"

As the customer service rep stumbled over his nervous answer -- and as I silently contemplated how the necessity of pushy persistence to get almost anything done in India had turned me into a real jerk -- I looked behind me and almost fell over. There was a crowd of nearly twenty Indian males -- teens, middle-aged father types, seniors, and more! -- gathered around and behind me. Their faces were angry and self-righteous, and seemed to delight in seeing the customer service rep squirm. They were the closest thing to a mob that I've been a part of in India. And apparently I was their leader.

A young man with a big smile made up of irregularly shaped quadrilaterals with too much space between them stepped up next to me and spat at the customer service rep: "We have urgent business in Bombay!"

"Yeah!" several men chimed in. At least one more added an emphatic "Urgent business!"

"The plane had technical problems," the customer service rep nearly begged. "Technical problems!"

"Technical problems my foot!" said my weird-toothed sidekick, elbowing me in search of chummy approval.

Considering for the first time the possibility that I didn't want them to rush through fixing a technical problem on a plane I was about to board in India, and also realizing that I'm nicer than this, I smiled uncomfortably and figured it was time for this gora to resign as protest leader and just sit down and wait patiently for my flight in a way that wouldn't embarrass my mother.


Kris said...

When I first read the title of this post I immediately thought you were trapped somewhere without a hope of finding a bathroom.

Leslie said...

OMG, I'm sooooo embarrassed.

And, I can hear you now, had I made such a fuss at the counter!

But then, maybe you inherited that skill from me.

the mom

Sami said...

unfortunately, the plane delays in india are probably an improvement from those in the states these days.

jason said...

sounds a bit like Restaurant Jay!