Bollywood does Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Part 8

You’ve gotten this far. This is my last chapter of this saga. I last left you as I boarded my American Airlines flight leaving from Dehli to Chicago. If you haven’t been reading this from the beginning, I suggest you do.

I slink on board and find my seat. I don’t have an aisle or a window, but I’m in the middle section and only one seat away from the aisle. I have one gentleman on my left, and about 5 others to my right. I’m just so happy to not be staying in Delhi that I wish I had a window seat just so I could give it the finger.

The guy sitting in the aisle seat beside me sits down, places his carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of him, folds his arms across his chest, puts his head down and instantly falls asleep. I mean instantly! The snoring commenced in milliseconds and the drool wasn’t far behind. This guy shutdown quicker than Lt. Data from Star Trek. I was in awe.

Once we reach cruising altitude, the flight attendants start offering drinks.

“Sir, can I get you a drink or cocktail?”

“You most certainly can. I’ll take a Heineken please.”

“That will be five dollars sir”

“Excuse me? Isn’t this a 15 hour international flight? Cathay Pacific doesn’t charge for drinks on international flights. I also blew all of my money at that shit hole airport we just left so I could make this flight. Can I give you my credit card?”

“I’m sorry sir. We only accept cash. Would you like a soda?”

“No, I’d like a beer. Here’s the deal, I’ll buy you and your entire crew on this 747 breakfast when we land in Chicago. What do you say?”

“I say, 7-Up or Pepsi?”

“Fine. Pepsi. But I want the whole frickin can, not just what this cup can hold.”

In 15 hours I will be touching down on American soil, at an American airport that understands what a connecting flight is and there will Starbuck’s and McDonald’s. Ah, when I land I am sooo having an Egg McMuffin, Hash Brown, and a Grande Vanilla Latte. This thought keeps my spirits up.

5 hours into the trip and Lt. Data hasn’t moved. I’m still in utter amazement of this guy. I know he’s not dead because I’ve heard that snore of his for the past 5 hours. I need to pee. All that Pepsi finally got to me. Lt. Data on my left is the only thing blocking me getting to the aisle. On my right, there’s a family of 5 people, many sleeping as well. I tap Lt. Data on the shoulder. Nothing. I tap a littler hard and say, “Excuse me sir, I need to get out.”

Nothing.

I try this a few more times with no luck. Alright then, I’ll just walk over him. On my Cathay flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong I had enough ass in my face, it was time for me to return the favor. Besides, this guys wasn’t going to wake up. And he didn’t.

8 hours into the flight, Lt. Data wakes up. But just as graceful as when he went to sleep. He just stopped snoring, raised his head, stood up and went to the bathroom. No grogginess, no stiff neck, he was completely fine. I follow him to the bathroom since it’s an opportunity for me get out of my seat and walk around for a bit. He exits the bathroom sits down in his seat just like he did when he boarded, and fell sound asleep again! This guy just slept for 8 hours and he instantly falls back to sleep again! I have got to know how he does this.

15 hours have passed by, I haven’t slept and we touch down in Chicago. Right on cue, Lt. Data wakes up completely refreshed. I’m staring at him and he returns my stare,

“What?”

“How do you do that? You just … switched off.”

“A very clear conscious I suppose.”

“Bullshit. After 8 hours of sleep, you get up and pee, and sleep for another 7 hours. What did you take in the bathroom?”

A large, broad smile appears.

“Benadryl, my friend. It’s the only way I’ll fly.”

Nice. I’ll pack that away in my little travel toolbox from now on. I get off the plane in the International terminal, hop on a tram and arrive in the domestic terminal in a few minutes. Ah, the modern world. I will never, ever again complain about modern airports and the system we have here in North America. Another modern marvel, I am greeting with the site of the automatic check-in kiosk. I type in my flight number, almost giddy about being back to civilization and the connected world.

“United flight XXX has been cancelled. Would you like to take the next flight, departing at 10:45am?”

Okay, it’s an hour later than my original flight, and I did this all through the kiosk. Sure, book me on the flight. Hello, America. How I missed you.

I scarf down my Egg McMuffin, Hashbrown and two Vanilla Latte’s. Hey, I couldn’t drink myself to sleep on that 15 hour flight, and I’ve been up for almost 36 hours.

I board myself onto to the 10:45am flight. The one thing I really like about United airlines, is Channel 9. You can listen in on the pilots and air traffic controllers through your headset. Being a pilot, I love this. As the luggage is being loaded up on the plane, the first officer makes an announcement that we’ll be pushing back from the gate in about 10 minutes, we’re just waiting for some USPS mail to be loaded below. What’s another 10 minutes, right? As we push back, I hear the first officer inquiring about the weight of the new USPS cargo. The response was, “standby, United XXX. We’ll get you those numbers.”

Why was the first officer needing to know the weight of the new cargo. A variety of reasons. First, she needs to know the weight of the aircraft before they can legally take off. Second, with big iron like the 767 we were flying on, they have to also put in the weight of the aircraft so they can put this value into the FMS (Flight Management System) which calculates their take-off roll distances and speeds.

This being O’Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world we were something like 51st in line before we could take off. The first officer kept asking the ground crew for those numbers. They still didn’t have them. By the time we were next in line for take-off, she told the tower we couldn’t.

“O’Hare tower, United XXX is unable to take active runway, New cargo was added just before we pushed back and we’re waiting on the final numbers from Cargo. Requesting to wait in the holding area on the opposite side of the runway until we receive these numbers.”

“United XXX, O’Hare tower. Request approved. Please inform us when you’re ready and we’ll get you airborne.”

So we waited. And waited. 45 minutes passed as we watched every other aircraft but ours take off into the blue sky. Finally, the Captain came on over the intercom and said we had to taxi back to the terminal because they had to weigh the new cargo as this wasn’t done prior to loading it onto our plane. We taxied back, they unloaded the USPS cargo, took it away for 15 minutes, brought it back and loaded it back into the belly of the plane. We taxied back on the opposite side of the runway so we didn’t have to wait in line again and got into the air fairly quickly.

The flight was pleasant and I enjoyed listening to the professionals on the radios. All airlines should have Channel 9. I’m really glad that United does this, and I hope they never take it away. As we started our descent, I started to worry about that 45 minute drive home. I was physically exhausted, mentally spent, and really not sure if I should drive. As I got off the aircraft, headed towards the luggage carousel, there waiting for me was my beautiful wife and my two very excited boys racing down the hall to give me a hug. They drove up to San Francisco to drive me home. We had to pick up the car another day, but I’ve never been so glad to see them as I was after this mess of a trip.

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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