Wednesday, November 28, 2012

They really moved their tail for us

An organized public transport system possibly started in the early 1800's.
Before that there were certainly transport systems in the form of river transport. And even before that I think it was Moses, who parted the sea and enabled public transport.

The reason why I decided to write on this topic is something that I will eventually come to.
I am sure we all have  happy and terrible memories in public transport systems.
I don't frankly remember my first bus ride, but I do remember my first long distance train ride. I was fascinated to see those rows of upper, lower and middle sleeping berths, and those tennis ball like ash-trays embedded into the walls.
My first flying experience is etched pretty well in my memory. However calling air travel (low cost carriers or premium ones) a public transport system was sacrilege.

My first plane ride was a largely different experience though. India had just got its low flight carrier segment and 90% of the flyers on these jets were first time flyers.

Let me tell you how the drama unfolded.
Back in those days low cost carriers had this concept of "no seat numbers" on your boarding pass. Aero-bridges were also scarce (maybe reserved for the premium carriers). So passengers had to board a bus (air-conditioned ) from the airport terminal to the aircraft. Now if you are a smart person what you would not take a seat in the bus, instead hang near the door. That way, once the bus stops near the aircraft, you get to be the first person to jump out and run towards the aircraft for a good seat. As a matter of fact, the way people rushed for a good seat was quite a  spectacle. The only comparison I can possibly draw to this, is that of my school-days. Yes we used to rush to the school bus for seats, once school got over.The person who ran most fiercely to get a seat beside the wings (guarantees zero view) would be labelled the jack-ass on board.

The ambience inside the cabin was sheer pulsating.
People with window seats had this GLEE all over their faces. Even though the plane was grounded they would keep staring out of the window like an astronaut looking down from space.
Middle seat passengers had that "Runners-up"expression. Over the years I have come to realize that this is the worst seat but back in the day it was a somewhat good seat, since you could lean over with great difficulty only to see absolute white clouds splashed all over the window. What can you do, life is hard!!
Aisle seat passengers notably had two expressions. It would start with "what would I not trade to get that window seat" and eventually graduate to "wait till the window seat prick feels the need to visit the rest room. He would have to go through me and I am absolutely not going to cooperate"

Like I said it was a low cost carrier, so obviously you would not be served food. At best you could buy them at literally sky-high prices, only to realize that they taste just like the way they taste on the ground. The drinking water was COMPLIMENTARY!!  People used to drink a lot of this free water and then make a lot of trips to that snazzy wash-room in the middle of the sky. They say that a considerable amount of airline fuel gets wasted from the flushes made in washrooms. I am not sure about the science behind this, but if it is true I think I have an explanation for the "Low cost carriers are not profitable anymore" phenomenon.

The seat-belt!! Yes you heard me right. The seat-belt (which has now attained popularity) was a mere fad those days. Why the hell should I need a seat-belt when the plane flies so smoothly. The run-way tarmac is free of pot-holes and humps, and so is the air. We are used to driving on roads which look like the surface of Mars, and if we can adjust to that kind of on-the-ground turbulence, air turbulence is a bliss!!

The plane landing was the moment of truth. Did it OR Did it not!!
There would be a lot of reassuring resounding tones of "Oh yes it has landed" coming from the aisle seat passengers, speaking from all their years of no flying experience. The middle seat passengers sit clueless, while the window seat passengers are busy assessing the situation outside. Finally when the plane does hit the ground everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

My first flight experience was on a vacation to the Andamans, which is a huge island in the Indian Ocean.
Almost everyone on the flight were first time flyers. The onward flight was such an excitement for everyone, that at the end of it when the plane actually reached the Andamans, everyone was completely spent. It was a funny realization that their vacation had actually just begun.

As for me, I was one of those smart-asses who got a window seat \m/

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