Travel Travails

How memorable your journey will depend a lot on who your co-travellers are

It is good to have an end to journey towards; but, it is the journey that matters in the end
- American writer, Ursula K LeGuin

In trainSometime or the other, we've all watched it happening in movies, advertisements or, may be, if you're lucky, even in real life.

A girl with a bored expression on her face sitting next to an empty seat, while the aircraft or train seats around her are rapidly filling up. Suddenly, a gorgeous, perfectly-groomed man walks towards her with his boarding pass/ticket in hand.

She hopes. She prays. God is obviously listening, because before she realises it, the same Greek God is smiling down at her asking "Is this 22B?"

Though he looks literate enough to read the number on top of the seat, she nods anyway, unnecessarily adding, "Yes. This is 22B." They lock eyes, sit side-by-side and very soon interesting conversation, liberally peppered with laughter, flows smoothly. And, this is the beginning of a wonderful journey for them.

Well, reality is quite something else, even if the preceding incident happens only in movies. Or, commericals. Or, fantasies. Or, most probably, to other people.

Irony of it

In the real world, you are never, or rarely, as lucky. Because, in the real world one's co-travellers are people one fervently doesn't hope for.

Talkative motor-mouths plonk themselves right next to you when you've been hoping to catch up with your reading. Monosyllabic corporate types, who switch on their laptops the moment they are allowed to, find their way besides you when you are feeling particularly chatty and are looking forward to dissecting, err.discussing the latest superstar wedding.

And, just when you think that choosing an aisle seat over a window-seat was the smartest decision you could have ever made, your fellow passenger is, almost always, someone who seems to have bladder problems of the serious kind. And, every few minutes, or so, you find yourself getting up to make way.

Then, there are the discourteous ones who use up all the overhead space for luggage, or hog armrests, or listen to their music really loud, without a thought for their co-passengers. And, worse still, they fall fast asleep with music still blaring out of their by-now-displaced speakers, while you sit counting sheep as you stuff your ears with all the earplugs available.

Odd balls

Let me also not forget to mention the odd balls that you spot at the airport/station waiting lounges and ardently pray to be on another flight/train. Like the gent with the furtively darting eyes clutching onto a suspicious-looking suitcase. Or, the lady in flowing black robes and a multitude of bracelets and chains, with her nose buried in a fat book, How to Summon Spirits. You can bet your favourite shoes they are going to be seated, right next to you!

If you thought all this was bad enough, wait a minute!

I save the best for last. Wailing infants. Now, I'm sure people have nothing against babies; in fact most people love them. Except, when they wail their lungs out, without a moment's respite, right next to you.

Any other place, and it would be okay, because you could walk away. But, what do you do in the confined space of an aircraft, or train carriage? Strap on a parachute and jump off the aircraft? No. Pull the chain to stop the train? No. Instead, you just offer to help the hassled mother as best as you can and pray for better luck, or at least a better seat, on your next journey.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

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