Sunday, 23 January 2011

HELLO, HELLO, I have landed

There are some ideal moments to observe humanity. From a sidewalk cafe in the heart of Paris on a warm summers day. From the stands at Eden Gardens, or Anfield, or Madison Square Gardens - pick your sport. Or in an Indian train. Another such classic place is when an aeroplane lands. Regular readers of this blog are aware of this blogger's fixation with air travel and this piece will come as no surprise, especially after this and this.

As soon as the wheels touch the ground, humanity inside the plane wakes up and warms up. He may have been snoring just a moment ago, but he's wide awake now and is starting to limber up. The hand goes to the pocket and out comes the mobile phone. Its discreetly switched on and is sort of kept hidden between the legs, lest the pretty stew frowns on him and tells him to switch off. However the music on start up or the various pings rather give him away - such auditory masterpieces emanating close to an unfortunate part of the anatomy is brushed aside as an occupational hazard.

It has often been said that the definition of an instant in time is the time gap between the lights turning green and the idiot behind you honking. I submit that this is an erroneous definition. The real instant in time is when the aircraft wheels come to a stop and the action starts.

The jumping jack is the first to react. Beating all world records on speed of reaction, he reaches up to open the overhead locker to retrieve his bag. Displaying rare weightlifting talent, he hefts his bag in a wild swing designed to clobber competition..

The sprinter is equally quick to react. You see, he has deposited his bag at the other end of the aircraft as he was beaten to all the space when he first boarded the plane. Determined not to be outdone again, he pushes, shoves, crunches toes, lets elbows fly to reach his desired objective. Research has indicated that there is an overwhelming gender bias in the sprinter category - the female of the species seems to be more in number in displaying this characteristic.

The yeller is next. He has switched on his mobile phone. He then yells Hello Hello in about 1200 decibels. Only to ask the party a the other end "How are you" in the same 1300 decibels. And then disclosing the absolutely vital piece of information that he has landed.

The yeller is now being rapidly replaced by the thumb twitcher. This is the lot that switches on the dreaded Blackberry and needs to reply to E Mails. Having gone cold Turkey during the 2 hour flight and not being able to read or send emails, he is in the cold sweat of the junkie who hasn't had his fix. He makes it up with furious jabs of the right thumb, thereby increasing his chances of being afflicted with the modern day affliction of arthritis of the right thumb.

You may have noticed that the yeller seems to be a species dying out. The thumb twitchers are taking over. Conservationists are encouraged to come to the defence of the former species - Medha Patkar , Arundhati Roy, et al; please note.

Most are now standing in the aisle designed only to accommodate the impossibly svelte stew ( except in Air India where the aforementioned adjective is not in the lexicon). Impossible human contortions of the human body were earlier thought to be the exclusive preserve of the peak hour Mumbai local train - we can now affirm that this is not true. For about 7 minutes the airline traveler is standing with the head at 74 deg, the torso at 14 deg, with the arms at angles not yet invented and standing on one toe.

Deplaning now starts. Travelers can begin practice the art of the rugby scrum . Our resident kiwibloke can even contribute the Haka to bring in the mood. If its a double aisle aircraft, lane switching happens furiously. Either way, the proceedings closely resemble the goings on in an Indian road. Down the steps and then into a bus.

The bus journey is equally revealing as a study of human behaviour. Our corporate hero climbs the bus and stand squarely at the entrance. Others try to practice their rugby tackling skills. The sight of a business class worthie who has been pampered by caviar and champagne and endless smiles from the svelte stew, now clinging on to dear life by the bootstraps on a jampacked airline bus is rather interesting. Especially since he is likely to be a thumb twitcher and is trying to get more of his fix at the same time.

As they all stream out of the bus and stream in to the loo, its time to reflect on the glories and wonders of man !!!


Sandhya Sriram said...

Ha ha ha... ROTFL!!

Only you can make a small event like deplaning a master piece.

But i also pity the travellers. they almost travel like bonded slaves until then, a never ending security check in queue and then, a cramped economy class seat with a recline of the previous seat specifically designed to ensure that the legs are specifically folded in a unique yogic position meant to probably set broken bones, Food eaten with half folded hands where the slightest effort to take a small stretch could result in the neighbours hot coffee all over you....
this is the only opportunity to breathe a lil bit and so why not some aerobics or say "Haka"!!

kiwibloke said...

Ha ha! why drag the hapless kiwi into this scrum?? Best of all is the blokes (and often Sheilas)that sit at the window seat and are up the moment the wheels touch down, body(of ample proportions) contorted into an inverted S, courtesy the overhead bin, probably getting a ringside view of the rugby match on the aisles. Bless the hapless sod who sits on the middle seat.

Anonymous said...

Cant agree more.
BTW are you the one business class traveller,you got trouble in jampacked airline bus?
And the last line,can't stop laughing.

Anonymous said...

Well if I had to pick one to go the way of the dodo bird, it would be the yeller. I've never given it much thought until your piece here, but yes the landing of an airplane and human behavior at that moment in time is certainly an event ripe for observation.

I kept waiting for you to describe the group I find myself in, but clearly you've already departed the plane before noticing us. The Stragglers. Content to sit in their chairs for an extra 10 minutes and avoid the scrum. The Straggler will often pass the time browsing the airline's magazine that he/she avoided looking at during the flight. She/he may also just decide to spectate the melee going on all around, like an ancient Roman in the Colosseum.

I can't say I am entirely proud of belonging to this group. Usually when all the sprinters, yellers, and texters have deplaned, I stand up along with all my fellow stragglers and am greeted with a sea of elderly female faces. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against an elderly female, but its certainly not a resounding endorsement of one's virality. Sigh.

LG said...

LOL..LOL.. great one. I could clearly visualize each of the moments - its 100% true. Incidently, it happened to me to travel 2 times in a week CBJ-MAS-CBJ; was wondering why can't they wait..oh geee.. Thanks for this Ramesh.

Deepa said...

hehehe... you have perfectly penned (figuratively), what so many of us have thought of, every time we are in that moment. I always wonder, whats the point in even standing up when even the doors are not opened. And yes, after flying Delta a couple of times I have almost become a pro-Air-India-hostesses activist! Delta air-hostesses will beat the AI ones by far in shape, size, demeanor and hostility (and not hospitality).

J said...

This one is classic! I laughed heartily right thru the way you do when the joke is on someone else till I read hopfrog's hilarious comment :( OMG what does that make me...

gils said...

neenga sonna athanaiyum naanum paniruken :D :D so can understand ur pheelingsu :)

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Oh Yes. After the indignities heaped enroute the flight, I suppose some poetic licence can be granted !

@kiwi- the antic of the window seater can fill a post as well. Fun to drag you in !!

@ambulisamma - I am neither a corporate nor a hero these days !!!

@Hopfrog - Oh yes the stragglers. I shall watch out for you next time :):):)

@LG - Oh no ; waiting is a cardinal sin !

@Deepa - I am rather intimidated by Delta stews; so will refrain from commenting else they sue !

@J _ Somehow I can't ever picture you as middle aged !!!!! Maybe like Hopfrog, you are the exception.

@Gils - I am dying to met you on a flight ..... :):)

Connecter said...

You have echoed the feelings of many air travelers. Behavior pattern remains the same whether the person is on board a flight or honking the horn when the green light turns on in a signal. Senseless educated guys are the ones who portray such behavior wherever they are.... It's sad such instance is on the rise...

RamMmm said...

Ha Ha Ha, you do have a fixation with those subjects of yours. :-)

Mobile hidden between legs and booting up, that definition of 'instant in time', the jumping jack, sprinter and the thumber, the additional zero in decibels for effect (since decibels is a logarithmic scale, it is fun trying to think of how loud could 1300 dB be), the jab at AI, the contortionist, poor stew (you cooked off their 'ards and ardesses'!!! :-)), the great leveller bus. ROTFL.

You can write a book on air travel and their quirks. It will be a masterpiece. :_)

Ramesh said...

@Connecter - All in jest. If there aren't all sorts of people in the world, it will be a boring place indeed.

@RamMmm - :):)Of such useless experience is corporate life made of :):)

kiwibloke said...

to all my known/unknown friends on Ramesh's blog. I shall call you on Thursday evening from LCY airport when I make my touch down in the 100th airport through all my traveling salesman job! Hello, I've landed!

Vishal said...

Awesome Ramesh! I can so closely follow each and every word of yours.

For the delight of yellers and thumb twitchers, some airlines have now allowed use of mobiles/ BBs immediately upon landing. Hence, they now openly and legally yell and move thumbs in despair.

I scratch my head in wonder after seeing all the actions you mentioned :-) Btw baggage claim scenes also produce some glorious moments. :)

Anonymous said...

As I find myself sitting yet again at Adelaide airport on my way to NanHai with time to catch up on your Blog, I read yet another 'Ramesh Gem' - I actually find the 'airport world' quite peaceful..... its a 'no-where' place - not having left, not having arrived - time to just ponder..... then the jam on and off the airplane and then your blog, so true so perfect..... looking forward to experiencing it all again !!!!! - Happy New Year Ramesh.
Trevor downunder

Striver said...

haha..LOL!! Great one! No better way to describe the scenario.
And now, I'm gonna be more watchful before I rush to the front after landing or give in to my twitching thumbs !

Preeti Shenoy said...

:-) Good one Ramesh.
Will write a post sometime --from the perspective of the airline staff :-)
And also on one 'very interesting' air-traveller who was 'seated' behind me on the flight from London to Mumbai and who had really interesting 'data' to reveal :D

Ramesh said...

@kiwi - Hail the master of the skies !

@Vishal - Oh yes - the scrum at the conveyor belt for baggage is another story by itself !

@Trevor - I know what exactly you mean about the "peace" at the airport. Especially at Australian airports - in Adelaide you could very well be lulled into peaceful calm. Very happy new year to you too Trevor

@Hema - No No - you are hardly n example of the jumping jack or the Thumb Twitcher. How can you be when you can patiently sit through a 3 hour delay on the plane !

@Preeti - Please do Please do. It would make wonderful reading. The few books written by airline staff make me marvel at the things humans can do !

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