Saturday, March 3, 2007

What does it mean when the pilot says "Hopefully?"

We're here! We made it halfway around the world (over 8,000 miles to be almost exact). Vicky and I left Seattle at 6:30 PM Friday and arrived at 5:30 AM Saturday, Delhi time.

The first leg from Seattle to London was uneventful. We spent a couple of hours wandering around Heathrow because neither of us wanted to sit down. We'd just done 8-1/2 hours on a jammed 747 and knew we faced another 8-9 hours on another jammed 747.

As far as we can tell, the only boarding announcements at Heathrow must be made in the terminals your flight is not departing from. We knew we were at the right gate (the sign said so) and we knew 298 others thought they were at the right gate. We all knew we were 15 minutes late boarding and there had been no annoucement. Suddenly, people just started walking down the jetway and the British Airways gate crew seemed fine with it. So, we joined the others and boarded. Note to self: it isn't always a good idea to be among the first to board. As we got on, we both thought the plane seemed rather warm and close. Could be sharing a metal tube with over three hundred other souls, all exhaling and generating body heat, we thought. Then, the lights went out. The boarding stopped. The captain came on the intercom (how does that work if there's no power?) to say that the auxilliary power unit was in the tail, making it impossible to service and so the plane was plugged into power from the airport (must be one mighty extension cord!) and we'd tripped a breaker. Could it be that someone had tried to use the microwave, the hairdryer, and the 747 all at the same time?

After close to an hour of sitting in an increasingly stuffy plane with a whole lot of smelly people, they finally found the breaker box, the power came back on, and boarding resumed. As the last stragglers came down the aisle, Vicky and I realized that there was only one empty seat and it was next to Vicky. She thought we'd gotten away with not having to share our little slice of paradise with someone and she fastened her seatbelt. I felt that was tempting fate and I was right. Suddenly, a young man came bounding down the aisle and stopped right next to me. Wonderful. Once he was seated, we should've been able to depart, but we just sat there, still connected to Heathrow by that extension cord. Our seat partner explained that as he was getting on the crew was counting heads and trying to locate a passenger whose bags had been loaded but who hadn't checked in. That explained the urgent running up and down the aisle by the crew. Someone finally cleared us and the pilot came on to explain that we were ready to leave and hopefully we'd get a good departure slot and hopefully everything would go well and hopefully we'd make up some of the time we'd lost. That's a lot of "hopefullys" for someone who truly has your life in his hands.

All had gone hopefully well for about half the flight when the pilot came back on the PA. No hopefullys this time: instead he was announcing that some moron (my word, not his) had been smoking in the bathroom. He explained that there was a hefty fine involved and if it happened again, he'd be forced to have the police hold us and search the plane when we arrived in Delhi. You could just about see the anger of 299 people who had already been stuck on a plane an hour longer than they wanted to be. Anyhow, the juvenile delinquent (it takes a special kind of stupid to risk A)a $2000 fine and B) setting the bathroom on fire?) behaved and we landed in Delhi without further incident.

Vicky got through Immigration in about 15 seconds. The officer then turned his attention to my passport and wrote and wrote and wrote. I think he just liked writing my name. I finally got through, we collected our bags, changed some money and looked for our driver. We'd been told to looks for a sign with our names on it. Sure enough, the second sign said "Mr. Victoria, Mr. Wolotira (Coordinators)" Mr. Victoria could be anyone, but Mr. Wolotira? We took a chance and identified ourselves to the nice man.

Remember Luke Cabdriver from Korea? He not only has a brother in Delhi, I actually think he emmigrated to Seoul from Delhi. Our driver was relatively sane and he only blew his horn every minute or so, which may cause him some grief with the authorities. It is unlawful (we believe) and unsafe (apparently) to not lay on your horn from the moment you turn on the engine 'til you turn it off. We got to the Fortune Select Global Hotel safely, checked into our very, very nice rooms and spent most of the day either catching up on sleep or catching up on work. The hotel looks to be somewhere on the road to Jaipur, so not in Delhi proper. It is quite nice, quite comfortable.

Tomorrow: Les arrives from Cambodia and we get to see the venue. And, who knows what else?

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