“Your flight has been rescheduled,” was the text message. It was followed by a voicemail. The messages were not for me.
My phone was in silent mode. I read and heard both these the next day. It was for a person with a very long name travelling on an international carrier from a far-off land. Why did he have a Mumbai number? Probably a businessman.
A few days later, it happened again. He was flying between cities. His flight was delayed. I called up the Indian private airline. These guys talk real smartly. I told him about the error and could he please update the information so that the real person gets the message?
“Oh sure, ma’am. I will need your name.”
“Why is my name important? I am giving you details about the passenger, and you should be concerned about his information.”
“But I will need to tell the department who called.”
“Tell them Helen of Troy.”
“Huh? Sorry, I did not get you?”
“Yeah, you won’t. Just do what you have to. Here are the flight details, the gentleman’s full name. Feed it into your system.”
“See, why don’t you call the reservations department, they might be able to help.”
“I do not need help. And I do not have the time. It is your job, you do it.”
Trrring, trring…cellphone rings. An automated voice informs me about my flight delay. I want to scream.
Yet, somewhere, I am thinking about Mr Long Name. Christian from Kerala. I can imagine him working his ass off in some Gulf country, returning to India, going to different cities to sell a dream he has sleepless nights over.
He must have reached the airport early, picked up a quarrel with the check-in staff…and shrugged. He, in all likelihood, did not expect them to inform him. He does not know that the number he gave them is not his number. It is mine.
He is probably travelling well, but even in Executive Class he will be with a plastic carry bag, usually from some department store. Something will poke out. He will say, “Side pliss,” as he tries to haul it up in the overhead luggage bin after the flight attendant has told him that he cannot keep it near his seat as it is inconvenient and not advisable during emergencies. He has travelled so many times, yet he will repeat the performance, jut his tongue out to indicate his mistake, roll his large eyes, and maybe look over his reading glasses.
Then he will sit down, ask for the newspaper that is already in the seat pocket, and wipe his face, neck, arms with the wet towel. When the drinks are passed around, he will first touch the glass of juice, then the fresh lime and finally pick up the Coke. He will spread the newspaper to its full broadsheet size.
He will change channels of the in-flight entertainment till he has watched two minutes of each. He will have the full meal on board, ask for extra milk in his coffee, then recline his seat all the way back and start looking around. After a few minutes he will get up and start walking down the aisle to confirm whether he needs to visit the loo. When he is certain, he will pull up his trousers and go towards the toilet. When he is done and comes out, his hand will be on his zipper. Just like that.
Back at his seat, he will ring for the attendant. He will ask for "magsin” and pick up a serious news mag and look at the ads.
Once the flight has landed, he will switch on his mobile and start punching numbers. When the aircraft door is opened he will pull out his plastic bag and his strolley and his laptop, carry the paper and mag with him and try and rush to the exit. He will make a call saying he is late for a meeting.
He must be on that flight from Bangalore to my city. He does not know me. But for the airline staff I am him.
What a flight it has been…