In my over precautious time management, I’ve arrived much too early for my flight. Spotting a row of seats on the far side of the boarding gate I sprawl across them using my backpack as a pillow. I close my eyes and catch up on some much needed sleep from my week of party filled Bangkok nights.
I awaken about an hour and a half later to the sounds of bustling bodies walking past me. Each holding more than they can carry: plastic market bags filled to the brim, big bottles of scotches and whiskeys clanking away in their duty free bags, electronic gadgets and their many cardboard boxes carefully stacked in piles which will inevitably fall.
I sit up and make room for the incoming passengers and the seats surrounding me are quickly filled. A plump older woman in her glistening sari sits across from me. She sees me huddling over my backpack on my lap trying to catch the last of my pre-board nap. My eyes somehow catch her gaze and she says to me in her thick Indian accent ‘Only one bag?’ I lift my head, blink the sleep away from my eyes and nod ‘Yes’
Moments later the boarding announcement is made, the plump woman looks at me, tilts her head to the side, waves her hand towards me and utters a self-assured ‘Come’.
A single word that contains so much power when said correctly. I’m either too tired to argue or I’ve been put under her spell, because I do exactly as she says.
She puts one of her large overflowing plastic market bags in my hands, aligns me adjacent to the poor excuse of a queue that is forming and pushes me in front of the other passengers. There is no order, no courtesy towards others, and definitely no understanding of personal space. I feel as if I’m no longer in the familiar realms of my polite Bangkok - and I haven’t even left the airport lounge.
My warning lights go on as I see what is happening to the passengers ahead. Screaming matches break out between staff and passengers over what baggage is allowed onboard, scales are brought out for preflight weigh-ins, cabin bags are unpacked and repacked accompanied by threats of police to be called.
As I approach the boarding gates of hell, in hope of brownie points I hold out my passport, eagle spread open at the correct page with the boarding pass placed neatly beside. I flutter my documents towards the airline staff in the chance it will distract from my oversize carry-on’s. The staff who, now broken from all the ‘gate-fighting’, exhaustedly check and usher me towards the shuttle bus.
I power-walk without turning back and with great relief I board the bus. The plump glistening sari woman finds me to retrieve her market bag and I become lost in thought, re-stepping the morning’s events and wearing my did-that-really-happen face.
The bus arrives at the plane and in the mad scramble to board I realise that it is not at all over, but rather has just begun.
I sink into my assigned seat and as the plane rolls out to the runway only aggressive screams from airhostesses can be heard ‘Switch your phone off!!! Tray tables up!! SIT DOWN!!! PUT YOUR SEATBELT ON!!!’
Amongst all the commotion I gaze out the window wishing I were on the other side and not on my way to Calcutta. Chin resting in hand the only words I can bring myself to utter as if straight from an episode of ‘Arrested development’…‘I’ve made a huge mistake’.