Saturday, January 22, 2011

HELLO, HELLO, I have landed

There are some ideal moments to observe humanity. From a sidewalk cafe in the heart of Paris on a warm summers day. From the stands at Eden Gardens, or Anfield, or Madison Square Gardens - pick your sport. Or in an Indian train. Another such classic place is when an aeroplane lands. Regular readers of this blog are aware of this blogger's fixation with air travel and this piece will come as no surprise, especially after this and this.

As soon as the wheels touch the ground, humanity inside the plane wakes up and warms up. He may have been snoring just a moment ago, but he's wide awake now and is starting to limber up. The hand goes to the pocket and out comes the mobile phone. Its discreetly switched on and is sort of kept hidden between the legs, lest the pretty stew frowns on him and tells him to switch off. However the music on start up or the various pings rather give him away - such auditory masterpieces emanating close to an unfortunate part of the anatomy is brushed aside as an occupational hazard.

It has often been said that the definition of an instant in time is the time gap between the lights turning green and the idiot behind you honking. I submit that this is an erroneous definition. The real instant in time is when the aircraft wheels come to a stop and the action starts.

The jumping jack is the first to react. Beating all world records on speed of reaction, he reaches up to open the overhead locker to retrieve his bag. Displaying rare weightlifting talent, he hefts his bag in a wild swing designed to clobber competition..

The sprinter is equally quick to react. You see, he has deposited his bag at the other end of the aircraft as he was beaten to all the space when he first boarded the plane. Determined not to be outdone again, he pushes, shoves, crunches toes, lets elbows fly to reach his desired objective. Research has indicated that there is an overwhelming gender bias in the sprinter category - the female of the species seems to be more in number in displaying this characteristic.

The yeller is next. He has switched on his mobile phone. He then yells Hello Hello in about 1200 decibels. Only to ask the party a the other end "How are you" in the same 1300 decibels. And then disclosing the absolutely vital piece of information that he has landed.

The yeller is now being rapidly replaced by the thumb twitcher. This is the lot that switches on the dreaded Blackberry and needs to reply to E Mails. Having gone cold Turkey during the 2 hour flight and not being able to read or send emails, he is in the cold sweat of the junkie who hasn't had his fix. He makes it up with furious jabs of the right thumb, thereby increasing his chances of being afflicted with the modern day affliction of arthritis of the right thumb.

You may have noticed that the yeller seems to be a species dying out. The thumb twitchers are taking over. Conservationists are encouraged to come to the defence of the former species - Medha Patkar , Arundhati Roy, et al; please note.

Most are now standing in the aisle designed only to accommodate the impossibly svelte stew ( except in Air India where the aforementioned adjective is not in the lexicon). Impossible human contortions of the human body were earlier thought to be the exclusive preserve of the peak hour Mumbai local train - we can now affirm that this is not true. For about 7 minutes the airline traveler is standing with the head at 74 deg, the torso at 14 deg, with the arms at angles not yet invented and standing on one toe.

Deplaning now starts. Travelers can begin practice the art of the rugby scrum . Our resident kiwibloke can even contribute the Haka to bring in the mood. If its a double aisle aircraft, lane switching happens furiously. Either way, the proceedings closely resemble the goings on in an Indian road. Down the steps and then into a bus.

The bus journey is equally revealing as a study of human behaviour. Our corporate hero climbs the bus and stand squarely at the entrance. Others try to practice their rugby tackling skills. The sight of a business class worthie who has been pampered by caviar and champagne and endless smiles from the svelte stew, now clinging on to dear life by the bootstraps on a jampacked airline bus is rather interesting. Especially since he is likely to be a thumb twitcher and is trying to get more of his fix at the same time.

As they all stream out of the bus and stream in to the loo, its time to reflect on the glories and wonders of man !!!