Sunday, July 31, 2016

India Journey: Part 1

Namaste. Meera naam Amanda hai. 

I've been working on my Hindi since leaving Kansas City 24 hours ago. I only remember that and thank I don't I forgot that one. Dangit. 
Anyway, in that 24 hours I've only made it to New Jersey.

I had a window seat leaving KC and I was so happy. Myself and the children on the plane were the only ones fixated to the plastic window. I just can't think that watching the world from that high up could ever get tiring!

I arrived at Newark airport with a 7 hour layover so I was prepared to kill that much time messing around on my phone, reading and watching Netflix. Unfortunately for me, this airport does not offer free wifi so I am quite limited on what I can actually do on my phone. That includes updating my friends and family, which was unexpected and frustrating. And let's be real, I KNOW there's good Pokéstops here and I can't even access them or hatch any Poké eggs with all this walking. 

Time creeps on and on and it's raining and dreary here in New Jersey. At least 2 flights ended up cancelled so there were hundreds of misplaced people scrambling for a way out of here. Poor suckers. 

This airport, I told Palmer, is like a mall that happens to have airplanes come by. (update, the more I traveled the more I found that is actually normal. I had only really seen MCI over the years and I see now how sad it is compared to the other "fancy" airports around the world!) Fancy restaurants and high end looking shops are up and down every corridor. 

Fancy places like this:

Selling stuff like this:

That is a LOT of booze.

I spent time in the book store writing down titles of books I planned to see if I could get via e-reader or Audiobook, had a beer and just wandered. Eventually I had 2 hours left and nothing else to do but read. Reading made me sleepy and I couldn't sleep in the airport well so I tried to keep getting things on my phone to work. An Indian family was waiting next to me. I noticed the little boy playing Pokémon Go and opened it up to see if mine would work. It barely did and I was jealous that this boy had 100 times better wifi than me. Who does he think he is. And he doesn't even know how good he has it. I did get it to work and I excitedly leaned over to him. "Did you get the Tauros?!"

"Yeah! With a regular Pokéball!"

"What?! I had to use a raspberry and a super Pokéball! Good job!"

Then I talked to his parents for a while about Pokemon and traveling. They were taking their two kids to India to see their grandparents who they hadn't seen in 5 years. They're from San Francisco. The little boy kept interjecting comments about Pokemon and scolding his dad for talking too loud and messing up his Pokéball toss (which is not a thing, little boy, calm down). 
I told them where I was going and what I was doing. Each time I tell people they are so kind about it. I still feel like what I'm doing is selfish in some ways. I can't explain it, I guess I know I'm doing this for me and that feels selfish. But people are always encouraging and complimentary which is really nice. 
In explaining what I'm doing I also realize each time that I really don't know what I'm doing. I like that and that really makes no sense. It's what makes me know I'm in it for the experience, I suppose. 

We can finally board, an hour and a half later than expected because of weather. I'm seated next to a man in the exit row. I welcomed the leg room but also kind of panicked because we were asked twice whether we could handle the responsibility of opening the emergency exit door in case of an unlikely event. Can I?! I don't know! When sh*ts going down can I be trusted? Yeah because I want this legroom. 

It takes a long time to get going. We begin the safety video which, my word, was awful. It was bad actors reenacting something combining The Hunger Games and the Olympics. 

"Make sure you put your carry on under the seat!" as a soccer player rolls his ball under the seat.

"Put your oxygen mask on and then help your neighbor!" as one basketball player helps himself and then helps his teammate who is too busy spinning basketballs on his fingers Globetrotter style to save his own life.

Track runners take off running and a hand drawn cloud of dust is left. "*Cough* *cough* *smile* Smoking is not permitted! And don't tamper with the smoke detectors in the bathrooms!"

It was ridiculous guys. And we were forced to watch it. 

Almost an hour later 4 people come scrambling onto the plane. The director of the plane's intercom (I forgot his actual title but that's literally all he did) came on and said something like, "You may have noticed some extra passengers joining us. Due to federal regulations it's required all passengers watch the safety video so we have to play that again."

....he wasn't joking. And also, how embarrassing to be those guys. 

An hour goes by and the director of the intercom comes on telling us there is a problem with the fuel sensor and they've been unable to fix it. Maintenance is coming out to take a look.

The man next to me and I begin chatting about where we're going, why, where we're from and so on. 
He's from the mountains of North Carolina and he teaches people how to write patents. He flies out to India pretty often and knows the ropes. Before I can really talk to him more about what to expect, a flight attendant came huffing back to the backwards facing seat reserved for attendants and plopped down. He looks at us and says, "Well, airport security is going to have to arrest somebody." He mumbles and grumbles and says something about someone smoking in the bathroom. Then he pulls out his phone and shows us a picture of charred paper towels in the airplane's trash can. 
"Oh my gosh, that could have been a fire!"

"I'm surprised you didn't smell it."

"No I'm thankful I don't. Which bathroom was it?"

He points to the bathroom caddy corner from me, 4 seats away. I'm surprised I didn't notice but I had been listening to Anna Faris interview Chelsea Handler on very, very little sleep so I wasn't paying a lot of attention to anything. 

"Will she just be escorted off or arrested?" I ask the man next to me. He tells me she'll probably be arrested because it's a federal offense. He told me about a plane that crashed in Indiana in the early 80's because someone was smoking and caused a fire. It makes me glad they take that seriously because I don't have time to die today. 

Very shortly after that the director of the intercom says unfortunately they cannot fix the problem and the flight is officially cancelled. He also says to stay in our seats because law enforcement are coming on board to arrest someone.

Oh snap. Glad it's not me because I also don't have time to go to jail today.

So we all begrudgingly pack up our things and file off the plane. We are directed to customer service where I stand in this line for ANOTHER HOUR so I can get a new boarding pass and meal vouchers. (Remember those poor suckers I referenced earlier? Karma.)

The waiting line to Hell.

 We discover that:
 1) we've been automatically rebooked for the next flight. Which is at 5:40PM THE NEXT DAY (technically that day). That's 14 hours later, folks. 
2) They will not pay for a hotel because 
3) there ARE NO hotels. None that are open or close.
4) They WILL pay up to $200 for a taxi which would get you to New York but you have to pay for your trip back. 
5) They will provide a meal voucher but only for $30 (I was initially told $60 by another passenger so $30 pissed me off). 

I was relieved when I heard they were providing those though because it was $30 for a sandwich and a beer. I was not about to eat another meal there. I had chocolate popcorn for sustenance.

$30 and it was just okay. 

I get through the line and wander around looking for a place to sleep. I propped myself into a chair with my neck pillow and a complimentary paper blanket (it's not that bad but not good either) and tried to fall asleep. There was a television blaring CNN news above me and my legs were going to sleep from the angle they had to rest at. I put my earplugs in. CNN started talking about babies born with Zika and I snapped out of the chair and beelined my way somewhere else. 

I found a couple who had moved rows of chairs to create a barricade and decided those seats might be better because my feet could reach the opposite seats. 
Wrong. My legs either locked or my lower back was unsupported so  sleep wasn't happening. I plopped my backpack on the floor as a pillow and laid on the floor. It smelled like pee and it was cold but I just didn't care anymore. 

I woke up and was so pleased I killed some time. It had only been an hour and a half! I was a zombie and saw new people around me so I packed up and with eyes glazed over wandered to a new spot. 

I was back at the gate where I had spent hours and hours earlier and under the telephone booth was clean and had a shaded spot where my eyes would be covered from the light. I power walked back to customer service where they were giving out blankets and pillows (I had opted out earlier because I took a blanket from the plane). The plastic wrapping that held all of the bedding was all that was left. However, there were extra disposable pillow cases. I walked past everyone in line, grabbed those, noticed everyone looking at me peculiarly and just wanted to flip them off because I was so exhausted. 
"No offense, but *middle finger*. Happy travels."
I didn't say that. I power walked back to my chosen spot, laid the pillow cases down, put in ear plugs to drown out the electronic reminder to not accept bags from strangers and tried to sleep. 

Sweet dreams.

I slept on and off for 4 hours. I woke up to strangers sitting in chairs like normal people and I picked up my trash bed and wandered aimlessly trying to find coffee and a bathroom. I found a place to use 2/3 of my voucher and the food wasn't good but I had access to a charger so I called and talked to Palmer. 

So far, I haven't left the country yet and my trip is quite adventurous. I'm functioning on roughly 7 hours of sleep over the past almost 48, but I'm really not complaining about that. I'm truly happy to be here. And also I have a 13 hour flight I can sleep on. Hopefully. 

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