Bollywood does Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Part 1

I like traveling. My job requires me to travel enough to still make it fun. If you travel too much, it’s a drag. If you don’t travel at all, it seems so glamorous. I’m nestled right there in the middle.

NVIDIA recently purchased a company in Pune, India. As part of this purchase I acquired some employees and was booked on a flight to India to meet the newest members of my team. I can’t say India is high on my list of places for a family vacation, so this trip seemed pretty exciting.

My travel plans to India were:

  • San Francisco to Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong to Delhi
  • Delhi to Pune

My flight was scheduled to depart from San Francisco 10 minutes after midnight Saturday morning (really Friday night to me). It’s a 15 hour flight and I can’t sleep on airplanes so all week I’ve been staying up late and getting less than 5 hours of sleep so I wouldn’t have a choice but to sleep on the plane.

However, my drama started before I even arrived at the airport. San Jose is about 45 minutes south of San Francisco so I kissed my family goodbye and was on the road at 9pm. My Mini Cooper and I were making excellent time. Somehow I managed to be on pace to make it there in 35 minutes. Not bad. I pass the final exit before the airport off-ramp when I see a flood of brake lights start to illuminate in front of me on Highway 101. As all lanes come to a complete standstill, I see one CHP cruiser go by on the shoulder with his lights on. Then another. Then two more. A few ambulances are shortly behind them. A total of 8 CHP cruisers and 3 ambulances. This can’t be good.

Traffic doesn’t move for 45 minutes. At 10:15 traffic starts to herd over to the the right-hand shoulder. Of course, I am in the far left-hand lane. As I drive past the flares the CHP have used to close off all the lanes, I see various car parts scattered about. Ouch, this isn’t going to be pretty. Almost half a mile up the road I see a Dodge Viper upside down on what used to be it’s roof. And by “used to be”, I mean there is no longer a roof at all. The car is sitting on the top of the hood and the trunk. Obviously, no survivors there. Godspeed, friends.

The Mini Cooper and I adeptly work our way through traffic and we eventually make it to SFO’s long-term parking. Bonus! I score a parking spot just two bus stops away from the exit. Even better, I can see the bus coming so I don’t have to wait in the rain. I hop on the bus, store my luggage, and crank up the iPod. I’m running late, but still have some time before I miss my plane. I hope.

I sit fairly close to the front of the bus with a great view out the front windshield. The bus driver starts to pull away when this Asian lady with a super bright white fur coat and hat jumps in front of the bus which promptly slams on the brakes to avoid flattening her. She is thrilled to be on the bus. Our bus driver … not so much. She’s an older black woman, who I am guessing was born and raised in Oakland. Why do I think this. Read on. She weighs in around 220 pounds. Now our 105 pound Asian lady is about to be schooled on why it’s not cool to run in front of a bus here in America. The bus driver doesn’t leave her seat. She decides that yelling at the Asian lady from her throne and giving her the stare of death through the over-sized rear-view mirror should be enough to ensure a public humiliation and remaining bus ride an unpleasant one.

And a perfect plan it would have been if the recipient spoke any English. The bus driver shakes her head in disbelief after almost 3 minutes of this one-way conversation. She finally puts it in drive and continues to the final bus stop. Great, I’m glad that’s over with because I have a plane to catch.

Not so fast Blanchard. I can see the bus driver fidgeting, burning up about the lack of response, or apology, or some sort of reaction from the lady who ran in front of her bus. Much like seeing the 3rd or 4th CHP cruiser go by on the shoulder, I know this isn’t over yet and it’s going to cost me more time. Sure enough at the final stop, our bus driver throws the bus into park, and starts walking toward the back of the bus.

“You don’t go running in front of my bus, you hear me? I ain’t hit nobody in 23 years and I don’t plan on starting now. Oh no, girl. Mmm, umm. Now why you gotta go messing up my night? There’s a another bus 5 minutes behind this one, girl. Don’t go throwing yourself under my bus!”

I can’t take it anymore, I need to get to the terminal. Finally, our bus driver feels satisfied. She resumes her driving duties and takes us to the terminal.

For a 747, which can carry over 400 passengers, the check-in line is surprisingly short and I’m checked in rather quickly. It’s 11:30 and I’ve still got security to go though. It’s going to be close, but the Cathay Pacific agents weren’t worried, so either was I. Okay, I was a little worried.

I am amazed at how lazy, stupid, or inefficient some people can be. While myself and the other people are waiting to go through security, SFO security agents (TSA) literally announcing to people that they need to take off their shoes, empty their pockets, remove belts, take your laptops out of their bags, etc. I observe people for a living, and less than 15% of them actually do this. Instead, they wait until they’re called to walk through the sensors, and that’s when they begin to search their pockets and ask dumb-ass questions like,

“Do I need to take my belt off?”

“Yes, sir you do. Just place it in the bin beside your pea-size brain.”

The 747 to Hong Kong boards on time and I’m sitting in an aisle seat, 44G. There are 69 rows in this 747, and I’m sitting in the middle of the plane. As fewer passengers seem to be boarding the plane, it looks like I won’t have anyone sitting beside me. Nice. Room to stretch out and sleep.

Tap, tap

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Yes”, I reply to the man tapping my shoulder. He’s holding his seat ticket in his hand.

“Would you mind trading seats with me? My wife and I are not sitting together and we have a 4 month-old baby. She is sitting, right behind you.”

“Where is your seat?”, I ask

“Oh, it’s an aisle seat too.” he says as he hesitantly looks toward the back of the plane.

“How far back is it?”

“It’s uh, it’s close to the restroom too!” he cheerfully proclaims.

“You say that like it’s a good thing. It’s a 15 hour flight, dude. People like to get up and walk around. 400 people also need to pee a few times in 15 hours too so I’ll have people leaning on my seat and sitting on my arm rest while they wait in line. And I’ll be one of, if not the last one, off the plane.”

Being a parent I know what it’s like to travel with kids. A 15 hour flight with a 4 month-old seems like punishment. So I offer to trade him even though I am clearly getting the crappy end of the deal here. I exchange my 44G seat for his 69C seat. Good karma should come my way, right?

Read Part II in my next posting to find out what I think about karma.

About the author

Terry Blanchard

I'm the Vice President of Engineering at Readdle, ex-Apple, design evangelist, drummer, and gadget junkie extraordinaire.

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