Imagine an 18 year old travelling transatlantic alone for the first time. All excited about being with the family and friends for the holidays. He loads up the gifts which he has bought from his first ever earnings. He reaches the airport well in advance and is the first one at the counter..... only to be told that he cannot travel that day!!!! The oversight is from the travel agent/ tourist site which guaranteed him that he would not need a visa for transiting through that airport. The reality is that there are two different terminals which require him to get out of the airport and go through the city for which he would need a Visa.
All alone at the airport, he does the only thing he can do.. call home in India. So at 2.30 AM the parents are startled out of their sleep to hear him saying that he cannot come. Can anything be more disappointing on Christmas day? The father logs on to the Internet and the mother brews some tea in anticipation of the long night ahead. The travel agent with the 1-800 number responds, but repeats the same thing over and over like one who has her lines down, too pat. "We are sorry, but as his documentation is not complete, he cannot travel today. We will give you a credit of 75% of the money and he can travel when his documentation is complete" . Really? But are you not the same people who repeated assurances that no Visa was needed for transit in the first place?. Also, who will give credit on the DISAPPOINTMENT we are all experiencing, never mind the credit on the 25% of the money!!
After more than an hour of being on hold and listening to the parroted statement, it seems like the only option is to cancel the reservation, take the sacred 75% and run to the next available ticket. Which would mean a last minute astronomically expensive ticket with some weird routing ( even via the moon maybe, astronomically being the operative word.. do they need visas for that?) as the holidays are on and the airplanes are full.
Maybe it was the Christmas spirit on the day of well..... Christmas, or it was the beseeching eyes or the disappointed look in the eyes of the 18 year old , but he was put on "Stand by" for another route,on a completely different carrier transiting through another country altogether, where he needed no Visa. Of course, it also meant arriving into a completely different city more than 800 kms away from the destination of choice, but being Indian, relatives and friends abound in every corner. But wait! "Stand by"" means just that! You wait all checked in at the gate, looking like the homeless person who wants to gatecrash the party of rich celebrities. You wait for everyone to go in and take their seats and IF there is a seat to spare ( like leftovers) you will be accommodated. Any port in a storm and any straw while drowning.... he held on. The wait punctuated by calls back and forth to anxious parents and travel agents.
Good things come to those who stand and wait, especially on Christmas day, seemed like. So he was let into the party along with the celebrities. So what if he was now going through a very different airport, to a destination that was neither close to nor convenient to his intended one. So what if it meant skillful juggling and rearranging some more travel plans and dragging relatives, reluctant or otherwise, to meet him at the unfamiliar place at god forsaken hours like 4.30 in the morning.
Welcome to global travel. You want to go one place and to reach there you traverse more places than you care to name (and are too tired to name or care) The world is shrinking they say. Add the extra hours spent on the plane just gathering more jet lag and it definitely seems to be the opposite. The information age does give you data at your fingertips, but it is not neccesarily the correct/complete information.Welcome to a networked world. But all said and done thanks to some kind, old fashioned human machinations, you land somewhere in the vicinity of what you intended.
Now all that is to be sorted out is the mere 800 kms distance, but for someone whose first trip as an adult began with a firm shove off the intended flight, this must seem a minor detail. Let the HOLIDAYS begin!!
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!