© Santosh Subramanian – Some rights reserved - Under Creative Commons

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My New Jersey Diary - A travel log #1

I have been transferred to our New Jersey Office for a period of 1 year starting 4th June 2007. Unlike my earlier travel this is for a quite a long time, and I thought I would write a travel log... though I am not sure how long it would be before I call it quits to writing... even though... as long as it goes... let it go.

This is my travel log...

On the night of 2nd July, I stepped out of `Swapnakoodu` with a heavy luggage and a much heavier mind. I am going to be away from my family for a month until they joins me in New Jersey. I did my check in at 10 PM for my 2AM flight to New Jersey via Frankfurt. After the check in & prior to immigration, there is an area in Bangalore Airport where you can meet the people who have come to say farewell to you across a steel fence. Amiya, my princess wanted to come to me across the fence and was nagging for that. My heavy mind started becoming heavier with the guilt of leaving her & her mom; even though it is for a month. The security check was OK; I declared my camera at the customs so that I wouldn't have an issue while coming back, though the customs officer told me that there is no need to declare anything. The long wait for the flight started then. I realized that 10PM was too early to check in for a 2 AM flight...

Before the boarding for my flight started, there was a Singapore airlines to Singapore, Thai airways to Bangkok, Air India to Singapore and Air France to Paris (this was simultaneous to our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt)... around 1200 people crowded in a hall of size of a mini auditorium... very hot, sweating and people inching for space. I managed to get a seat because I chose to check in earlier and my plans to call home before I boarded the flight was shot down by seeing the queue on the ONLY available telephone booth there and the serpentine queues...

At around 1 AM, the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt taxied straight into the only terminal gate and it was this huge Boeing 747 aircraft (also known as jumbo jet in local parlance) the large double-decker flight. The configuration for economy class was not as good as British Airways one that I took last time... the simple reason is that it does not have the personal entertainment system - A TV (a couple of them at strategic locations) mounted at the top like the ones in Kallada travels. The seats seemed to me more congested by the 3+4+3 configuration... YES 10 seats in a row!! And all of them were full. Jam packed on a weekend... I guess the whole IT crowd travels on a weekend!

After the other formalities, the flight started taxiing to the runway on time... 1:55 AM... taxied to the Marathahalli end of the runway and started racing towards the west... The running continued on and on and on and did not take off... and I started wondering whether it would run against the embassy golf links offices. Finally at the end of the runway, the huge metal bird slowly lifted and I could see the ring road very close...very very close... very slowly & steadily it gained height and by the time it reached the required altitude, almost 45 minutes had gone past.

I was very sleepy and wanted to catch up some sleep... but then they started serving dinner! Dinner at around 3 AM... I think they referred to the dinner in Germany because it would have been 11PM there then. They asked me for a choice and I said chicken and the food was better than vegetarian food that was some kind of steamed food made of corn (I peeped into my neighbor’s box). I had the food and that was just filling... not more; not less and then slowly got into a decent sleep... waking up occasionally and eyes red with headache.

After a long 7 hours, the captain announced the landing at the Frankfurt airport, it was 6:50 AM local time... the flight landed very smoothly and I dint even know that the flight landed until the brakes were applied... It was so smooth and I think Boeing 747 is a great flight...

The horrendous waiting at the Frankfurt airport started then. There was high vigil at the US terminals especially after few people were arrested plotting to do something at JFK airport, New York the previous day. My next flight to Newark was at 11:45 AM which got pushed to 1PM. It was really horrible waiting there... there is very little space in Frankfurt airport and people were like sitting and sleeping on the floor. The high security has added into the existing space constraints. I saw many people from Honeywell, at least 6-7 of them on their way back to India. I met my friend Rajesh in the airport on his way back to India and he gave me good company until his flight was announced.

During the waiting period, I felt very thirsty and wanted to buy a bottle of water, but the US security will keep it away and will not let me take it with me... so i was in a dilemma whether to spend euros on water or not. I finally decided to have a cappuccino. That fellow charged me 3 euros for a cup of kaapi.. pandaarakaalan.

After the long waiting period, 12 PM arrived and they let me into the terminal to check in. The view from the terminal was really gorgeous. The all glass pane could see most of the airplanes lined up and I took a chair that was facing right into the taxiway. The flight had not yet come then. After a few minutes; I saw my next flight, another Boeing 747 jumbo jet taxiing near to the gate which was on to my right side. It was being pulled by a special vehicle (looked like a cross breed of a truck & tractor) and it took a quick turn near the gate and started advancing towards me. That is a very special view... It came intriguingly closer and at one point I felt it is going to crash into the terminal. And it stopped a few meters away.

This flight was full of students from central Europe & Israel who were traveling to US for their higher studies. And it was not crowded. I was disappointed to see that I have to sit next to a couple; both of them triple my size and I dreaded about the next 7 hours of flying... It was then the airhostess came over and asked me whether I would like to shift to another seat in the middle row... Though I initially hesitated; later when I saw the row of seats, I could not refuse the offer... the whole row was empty... 4 seats and me. After take off, I can keep the hand rests upright and can lie down... And I took them. After take off; they served lunch at around 2PM and I had a good lunch along with scotch and caught up with some more sleep.

It was uneventful & boring through the whole 7 hours except for the last 30 mins. The captain announced that we are nearing Newark and they are expecting thunderstorms in the evening and the weather is cloudy. While flying above somewhere near Boston, the aircraft got into an air-pocket. It was a terrifying experience. For around 5 seconds, the plane did a free fall... The kids in the aircraft started screaming & howling and I saw an Indian aunty (who must be going to visit her children) saying her prayers... eyes closed and quickly chanting something... People become really funny when they see uncertainty in front of them; especially when it comes to your life

A few minutes more and we landed at the Liberty International Airport in Newark, NJ 15 mins ahead of schedule (despite starting 1 hr late) the immigration took another 40 mins and finally I was out in the lobby at 3:30 PM local time. I was looking for my friends Jobin & Susha since they had promised to come & pick me up. And I couldn't find him there initially. Lucky that I carried some loose change with me, I could call him. I tried a couple of times and I couldn't reach him and I exhausted my coins. Then I decided to find my own way and took a taxi to Candlewood suites in Morris plains. The taxi guy was an Indian and was really helpful though he had to rely on the GPS since he himself did not know the route.

After I checked into the hotel, I called Jobin and found out that he was caught in a huge traffic pile up and by the time he reached the hotel, I had left and he still was at the airport then looking for me. They came over to my hotel and we went out to do some basic shopping for the day to day survival - bread; milk; cereals and fruits. We had our dinner at the Mexican restaurant near to my hotel and finally I came back to catch some sleep by 9:30 PM.

And interestingly, the sunset here is now around 9PM and it would be bright day light until then...More to go in the following editions...

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