“PASSENGERS… EVACUATE EVACUATE EVACUATE!!!”
This announcement jolted me awake. I was wondering what had happened, but quickly realized it was nothing to worry about. It was NinjNinjDing giving instructions to a few passengers on when to open the emergency exit doors in the airplane.
I was returning to Bangalore after visiting Chennai for a couple of days for business reasons. I was taking the last flight of the evening. The airline which prides itself for punctuality had yet again delayed its flight by an hour. And so it was 10 PM when I boarded the flight and sank immediately into a deep slumber. Few minutes into my sleep, NinjNinjDing shrill voice woke me up. I confess that I have gotten her name wrong. But it sounded something like that…. NinjNinjDing. She was a pretty young lass who supposedly was living her dream of becoming an air-hostess. As I eerily walked into the airplane, she was standing there to welcome me and all the other passengers. She had a welcoming smile and demeanor, but was looking at something on the ceiling of the plane when she said “Good evening Sir, welcome on-board”. It was clear that she had done this routine many times now and there was something mechanical in the way she welcomed passengers. Not looking at the passengers was as bad as it could get.
Now that I was awake, and had no other preoccupations, I started observing the activities on the airplane. NinjNinjDing and her colleague gave the customary instructions to a few folks, seated near the emergency exit, on how to use the door. One crazy guy had quite a few questions during this exercise. I was not sure if he was hitting on NinjNinjDing or if he was genuinely concerned about the responsibility entrusted upon him. After this, a voice boomed from the speakers of the airplane. First the Hindi version and then then the English one “Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, welcome on board….”. The announcement was being done by one Sheetal who was the head of the crew on board the plane. She explained that between her and her four colleagues they could speak English, Hindi and Marathi. I found it funny that a flight between Chennai and Bangalore did not have anyone who could speak Tamil or Kannada. Looks like the airline hardly cared about such subtle needs. Sheetal was very quick in the giving out the welcome speech. I wondered if she bettered her personal best timing in how quickly she delivered the customary speech. The only person who could have done better, was the one who gives the disclaimer after the mutual fund advertisements on radio.
Thereafter NinjNinjDing and another colleague started demonstrating the safety instructions. Seat belts, no smoking, emergency exits, life jackets, oxygen masks, blah blah blah. Here again NinjNinjDing showed her prowess. She enacted the instructions to perfection. Only her arms moved during the two minutes of demonstration. She hardly batted an eyelid, zero expressions on her face, an ice cold stare at something imaginary at the far end of the plane, did not show any emotions when enacting the instructions and quickly walked away after her ritual. It looked like she could do this even in her sleep and even without any instructions blaring from the speakers. I would not blame her for this Robot-Like delivery of safety instructions, since the passengers hardly cared. When I looked around, I think I was the only guy observing NinjNinjDing, whereas everyone else was doing anything and everything, except looking at her. If I consider that this is what happens on all flights, I could empathize NinjNinjDing for doing something repeatedly for the safety of people who never seemed to care. Everyone knows what would happen in case of an eventuality, just scream and shout and pray at the same time. NinjNinjDing and her instructions can go to hell.
The flight duration was just about 40 minutes. Hence once the plane had reached a safe altitude, Sheetal and her crew rushed out to serve snacks to the ones who had pre-ordered it. They were four of them. They had to stove their cart up and down the alley; identify the ones who were eligible for the snacks; give water to the few who were thirsty; rush back again to collect the trash and all of it in quick time, since the plane could land any time. Changing the tires during a Formula One race was perhaps the only other demanding and time-sensitive team work, which I could think off. As soon as the staff finished all the chores and settled down into their seats, the flight captain announced that we were about to land. I looked out of the window to see Bangalore from the night sky. It looked far more at peace than the commotion inside the airplane.
In no time the flight landed and taxied its way towards it bay. This is the moment which I always wait for in every air travel. I observe the moment when the seat-belt signs are switched off. Once the sign was switched off, what followed was very predictable. First comes the cacophony of everyone unlocking their seat belts at the same time. This sounds very similar to the introduction of the famous Pink Floyd song “Time”. Then, in military fashion at least 80% of the passengers stand up in unison. The ones in the aisle seats, queue up choc-o-block in the narrow aisle of the plane. Thereafter all of them open the overhead compartments and take their luggage out. Finally all the passengers hold their luggage and wait for another five to seven minutes for the doors of the airplane to open. It does not matter which part of the world you are travelling to; which airline you are travelling in; which class of seat you have taken; which country the passengers are from; how long the travel is; nothing matters. I have seen this sequence play out in front of me in every single airplane, exactly when the seat-belt sign goes off. We humans are like this only…. everywhere and every time.
For my part, I sit patiently and watch this show. I am usually one of the last passengers to get off the plane. This time again, I never did anything different. I took my backpack and walked the aisle of what looked like an almost empty airplane. NinjNinjDing exclaimed “Thank you Sir, wish you a good evening”, and yet again she told me this as she was listening and watching her colleague, who was speaking to her. I did not want to interrupt her and so just walked past her without returning her wishes, which were colder than the Bangalore night.