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Cloth(e)less in Manila

June 30, 2012

( Thank you Shail)

I have only heard about other people’s experience, down to the last juicy bit. I had never in my wildest dreams, thought I would be able to experience it. It was only a matter of time. Time for all the planets to array themselves in a particular order for this particular thing to happen

The Saturday dawned unceremoniously in Yangon. As I came out to the balcony to get some fresh air I could hear the chirping of the birds. Serenity. So very different from the blaring horns, that one is so accustomed to, in Chennai where I live. Even in your sweetest of dreams you could hear those blasted horns in the back-ground. I soaked up the tranquility. My colleague and I had to check out in an hour. We had a hectic day ahead. We had to fly to Kuala Lumpur (KL) and then catch a connection to Manila from there. We had only an hour in between for transit. By the time we reach Manila, it would be about 11 in the night, given the time zone differences. We would have then spent close to 10 hours in aero planes and transit lounges but it would still give us some time to unwind and have some fun in Manila.

After a quick shower and breakfast, we checked out. We reached the airport and we were a little early and hence were the first in the check-in line. The Malaysian Airlines staff took their position. It was then that the Murphy’s Law hit us. The systems crashed. By this time there was a big queue behind us. Lot of business people were flocking Myanmar, in the hope that the sanctions would be lifted after the election victory of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar offers excellent business opportunities. We waited and waited. There was a flurry of activity amongst the staff. They were running all around the place. The systems couldn’t be restored. It was getting closer to the departure time. They then decided to check us in manually. They suggested that we hand carry the baggage since we had only an hour in Kuala Lumpur (if the plane took off on time) to change planes and there were 2 terminals in the KL airport interconnected by an aero-train (see pic) as it is called. My colleague was in two minds, whether to hand carry his baggage or to check them in. I was very sure that I was going to check my baggage in. I couldn’t possibly open my baggage at security check and have all my dirty stinking clothes tumble out. Not that I was considerate to the security people. How the hell was I going to stuff everything back and close my bag? Moreover, they are sure to take out my scissors (which I use to trim my moustache) my trimmer and my razor. My colleague was skeptical, but played along. Not that he had any other option.

We were checked in manually, which meant that we had to get our boarding passes for the connecting flight at KL. Finally we took off an hour or so late. The cabin crew assured us that they had contacted KL airport about the delay and that our connecting flight would be waiting for a ‘reasonable’ time. The flight took off one and half hours beyond schedule. The captain apologized for the delay and promised that he would make up as much time as possible. Even then we did not have the slightest hope that we would be able to catch the connecting flight. The cabin crew kept assuring us that we would be connected as they had already sent message to KL and that our baggage too would be transferred without any problem.

I had the meal that was served. Thank God the system failure had not play havoc with the meals being served. Satiated I went to sleep. Thankfully it is something that comes naturally to me and which I can do with my eyes closed. When I woke up we were descending to KL. I must have had a ‘sound’ sleep judging by the grumpy face of my neighbour. After all nobody would like to sit next to a snorer. I am used to such grumpiness and so I didn’t give him a second look preferring to act as if I was busy looking outside the window. As soon as we landed the cabin crew directed us to go the front of the air-craft even ahead of the first class and business class passengers. And as the aerobridge was connected my colleague and I were the first to alight. A Malaysian Airlines staff was waiting for us and directed us to the gate, where the Manila flight would depart from. We were issued the boarding pass and as we boarded I asked the staff if our baggage were transferred. He checked the baggage tag and asked us to board the aircraft and that he would check and get back to us. A few minutes after we were seated, he came inside the plane and showed the thumbs up sign, meaning that the baggage had been loaded. I showed him the ‘V’ sign meaning to ask if both the bags had been loaded. He took it as an acknowledgement from my part.  He kept waving the thumb vigorously I was afraid that he would start flying.

It was an uneventful three and a half hour flight to Manila, except that the shoe was on the other foot. I was wide awake and the guy next to me was snoring away to glory. I got a taste of my own medicine. After we landed and cleared immigration (as always the line I was standing was held up as one of the passenger’s visa was invalid) we proceeded to the baggage claim area. My colleague is lucky in these matters, even if he was the last man in the line, a new counter would be opened and he would be the first to be cleared. It is the case with his baggage too; his would be among the first few to arrive on the carousel, whereas mine would take an eternity to come.  So too that day, his strolley came fast. There was a sense of relief on his face that the bag had finally managed to make it. I gave him a wistful smile, knowing fully well that mine would come late. The hour was late; it was already close to midnight, I was ready to plop somewhere and go to sleep. It would be another hour from the airport to the hotel. People were picking up their bags and were fast disappearing.  Finally there were only 2 pieces of luggage on the carousel, neither of them mine, going round and round. And then it too stopped. It turned out that those bags belonged to the man whose visa was invalid. It also turned out that he would be deported. It didn’t strike me immediately that my baggage was missing. The airlines had goofed up big time. The airlines staff, a smart young guy of about 20, overseeing the baggage claim area, promised that something could be worked out. He took us to their office, where a lady of about 50 -55 was seated. She was the manager. The guy rattled out something in Filipino. The lady sized me up. I am just an ordinary looking guy, who could get lost in a crowd. Not so, my colleague. He is a smart young man, who could make heads turn. It was a pity that the poor guy had to put up with all this because of me. He would rather been in his bed, if it were not for me. He took over. There was a sudden respect in the manager’s eyes. He said how we were traveling right from the morning and about all the ordeals we faced due to lapses in service of Malaysian Airlines. He continued on how we are there in the Philippines for just 2days and our busy schedule, about how there was a dinner meeting with our customer the next day and about how I wouldn’t be able to attend without my Armani suit. All my sleep vanished and my eyes lit up. I always wanted to own an Armani. My colleague was a good story teller, but this time he outdid himself. I was very hopeful that we could coerce the airlines to give us a compensation to get a set of new clothes and more importantly the Armani suit. The lady looked at me, the second time, more carefully from head to toe and decided that the Armani and I didn’t go together. With any other person the story would have stuck. She was at her apologetic best, when she said she was really sorry for the predicament I was in and that she was not in a position to give any compensation. Her boss who was authorized to evaluate the compensation had already taken off for the weekend and would be back on Monday. She assured us that she will do everything possible to deliver the baggage the next day, failing which we could meet her boss and demand the compensation. We hummed and hawed. We told her of all the business we would be losing we couldn’t keep up the appointments with our customers, for having have to follow up. Nothing would cut ice with her. She was one hell of a tough gal. She would most definitely seen scores of people like me. It was getting late, we were tired from the flight and were clearly losing the fight. I filled up the lost-baggage form, giving them the address of the hotel we were staying. After expressing our displeasure and indignation, we decided to leave the place. She gave me an overnight kit as a consolation.

After reaching the hotel, I opened the kit. It contained a white collarless T-shirt, a dental kit, a comb, a razor and 2 tubes of shaving cream (I still cannot figure out why there were 2 tubes of shaving cream. Though the lady had said that she would try to deliver the bag the next day (it was already the next day, when we checked into the hotel), I was skeptical. What was I going to do without clothes the next day? I took off my clothes and washed them all, my brief, my vest, my shirt and my trouser and hung them to dry on the clothesline in the bathroom. I then took a shower and went to sleep. It was one hell of a day. The T-shirt was an extra large one and was coming down up to my knees and able to cover my vitals.

The next day I woke up late. It was a Sunday and we didn’t have anything to do. My clothes had dried. I pressed them with the iron box provided in the room. The airlines called me to tell me that my baggage was being air-lifted from KL by the morning flight and should reach me by evening. I constantly kept up the pressure saying that I had to go for the dinner meet with my clients. Finally the bag reached me around 7 in the evening. And with it my hope of getting an Armani with the airlines money was dashed.

To my friends (I know there are a few), who started reading this thinking that it might be about my sleazy adventure in  Manila, I can only entreat you to pray fervently that I get a chance  to write about that.

Picture courtesy:  Internet

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2012 11:49

    Well well well. Your hopes to own an Armani dashed. Poor Govind! And only an oversize tee to show after all the ordeal. 😐
    Btw, add more buttons to your ‘share’ option, makes it easier to share your posts.

    • July 1, 2012 20:12

      Thanks Shail for the visit. Looks like there is a chuckle behind the ‘Poor Govind’ the smiley says it all. I will try to add some ‘buttons’ to share. I don’t know how , but It will be something to learn.

  2. June 30, 2012 17:07

    awww…
    Disappointed by reading your last line 🙂
    funny read, gluing narration….

  3. July 4, 2012 22:09

    Congrats on the BlogAdda pick 🙂

    Shail, do you own blogadda? How do they select every crappost you recommend? Thanks again.

  4. July 4, 2012 22:33

    Haaaahaaa! Thanks for sharing @Shail. This is awesome, one of the more entertaining lost baggage stories.

  5. July 5, 2012 07:12

    hahaha you are safe!! A lady blogger once peeped out of her hotel room in a towel to get the newspaper and the wind blew the door and she was pushed out and the door locked with a part of her towel trapped in the door. The quick witted lady immediately made a poncho out of the newspaper and as luck would have it a female attender came her way and she could have the door open with the hotel key! I was expecting something like that seeing the title! Hilarious read:)

    • July 16, 2012 12:55

      Thanks Shivaja for the visit. Something similar to what you had written,happened to my friend. Should ask him if I can make it into a post.

  6. July 5, 2012 11:22

    Armani!?!? Well, I was assuming that it rained and the clothes you had put to dry did not dry and even on Monday you would be forced to wear an oversized Tee and stay closed inside your room 😉

    P. S: Was wondering about this – “three and a half flight to Manila”

    Joy always,
    Susan

    • July 9, 2012 07:16

      Sus, In Manila, I could have just gone out with the over-sized Tee and still would have merged with the crowd. And thanks, it always pays to have a teacher as your friend. 🙂

  7. July 15, 2012 20:50

    Hahahaha! The promise of entertainment here was too strong to resist any longer! All right with the world now, isn’t it? Clothed and all?
    Thank you, always a pleasure reading from you!

  8. October 22, 2012 17:37

    Wake up! Time to write a new blog!

  9. May 4, 2015 18:47

    This was such a fun to read, though i can sympathize with you. I would suggest you keep a pair of clothes and other essentials in the carry-on baggage too.
    If you are a frequent traveller, the Armani trick might work sometime, who knows 🙂

    • May 5, 2015 10:02

      Thanks Alok for the honour. I do now carry a set of clothes, once bitten you know. It never happened before or after in fact. That day, the odds were against me. A nice experience to write home about. 🙂

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