Sunday, March 18, 2007

Goodbye, Bob

Vicky and I arrived safely in Seattle last night. Les is probably still on an airplane somewhere over the Pacific. He was headed from Delhi to Singapore, then to LA and home. Talk about taking the long way around...

Day 10 of training finished on Friday afternoon. I really feel good about what we accomplished in the 10 days. Both teams seemed to be really excited about getting New Tools and Peer Coaching going, and I think they'd both devised sensible and realistic plans for getting things going. We held a short "graduation" ceremony and said our farewells to everyone. Vicky and I needed to go pick up our tailor-made suits, so we planned to leave Les to talk to some of the Indian team about implementation.

Here's where Bob reenters our story. Over the last few days, we seemed to have come to an understanding with him: he shows up 10 minutes late and we learn to live with it. Friday morning, we had Kiryana (the onsite coordinator) talk to him and tell him that our plan for Friday afternoon was that Bob would pick us up at 2:30 and take Vicky and me to the DLF MegaMall to pick up our clothes, then we would go back to the Swasno Palace to get Les (AKA, Sir) and the three of us would go to the Galaxy Towers Mall to the Cottage Emporium to get Indian stuff to bring home. Bob dutifully repeated, "2:30 Megamall, here, Galaxy Towers," so we thought we had it down.

Bob picked us up close to 2:30, and we set off to the MegaMall. Bob tried to go in the parking lot exit, and the policeman told him he couldn't park, translated to us as "No Park herrra (roll the "r's" and you'll get the flavor). We convinced Bob to try the parking lot entrance, noting the presence of a number of police in the parking lot at the same time. We had been told that there was a bomb threat in three of the malls in Gurgaon, so we weren't surprised when the second policeman Bob talked to told him he couldn't park. Or, in Bob's words, "No park. Mall closed. Bomba."

We convinced him to go back to get Sir. Once we'd gotten Sir away from the Indian team, Bob headed out to the Galaxy Mall, which we knew was on the Gurgaon-Jaipur Road. Bob headed in the opposite direction. Finally, he stopped at "Handicrafts Emporium" announcing "You shop." It took us quite a long time to get him to understand that we were not where we wanted to be (insert Les' expletives here). The light finally dawned, he turned around, we retraced our route then found the right mall. Let's say that what should have taken us maybe 20 minutes from the Swasno took us over an hour and a half. Or, to quote Les, "We could have made it to Jaipur in the amount of time it took us to go to the Galaxy Mall." Slight exaggeration. As we got out of the car at the hotel, we made sure that Bob knew he needed to pick Vicky and me up at 3:30 the next morning. We crossed our fingers but checked with the concierge about a backup plan.

Trinkets were acquired and we went back to the hotel for one last meal and one final meeting with the restaurant manager, whom Les had begun calling, "Cashew." I won't bother to explain, it's a looong story. Suffice it to say that over the course of several evenings, we had learned everything we didn't need to know about Cashew. Cashew very thoughtfully requested the chef to pack us a box breakfast for the next morning, a gesture we really appreciated.

3:30AM rolls around pretty quickly when you don't finish packing until 10PM and the folks next door were having a raucous time watching India play whoever the hell they were playing. I think they actually watched the whole thing, so imagine how much beer can be consumed over the entirety of a cricket match. It's a lot.

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, Bob was on time. In the clothes he wore all day Friday and in a car that smelled like he'd slept in it. But, he was there on time. He got us to the airport, and Vicky made me give him his tip. Her reasoning was that since he did seem to like me more than her, it was only fair that I be the one to give him the tip. He did linger a bit.

Then, we stood in line. For an hour. To have our suitcases x-rayed. Then, we stood in line. Again. To check in and get seat assignments. Then, we stood in line. Again. To have our hand luggage x-rayed and to have a body search. If you can call it that. The woman doing the searches for women memorized my entire itinerary, then waved the wand-thing at my left arm. I'm not sure the thing was even on, and perhaps she chose my left arm because I'm so obviously left-handed, who knows. Either way, we finally made it on the plane, flew for a very long time and arrived at Heathrow. To stand in line. Again. To go through security. Because some terrorist ramp worker might have slipped us a thermonuclear device between one end of Terminal 4 and the other. Good Lord, there wasn't even a duty free shop between the jetway and security, so I'm not sure how they came up with the fanciful notion that we could get possession of a weapon, unless you consider British toilet paper a WMD. WAD, most assuredly. I'll leave it to you to figure out that acronym.

We're home, and glad to be. Still, it was an amazing adventure and one I will always consider myself lucky to have been on.

Until next time...

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