Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Traveller's blues

To the fine folk who visit my blog regularly:

This may be the last post I'll be writing in a while. I'm in a bit of a blue funk right now, and find myself incapable of thinking cheery thoughts - or thoughts, even. Ah well, here goes, then... Hope I get out of this here funk sooner rather than later!

Living in a country without speaking the lingua franca is never the most pleasant experience. Travelling can be even tougher, when one has to figure directions out. It gets even worse when you happen to be me. The Warriers have never been, since the dawn of time, a race capable of sniffing directions out like one of those bloodhounds you always hear of (assuming bloodhounds sniff directions). Philosophers, yes. Saints, quite possibly. But intrepid adventurers we never have been and never will be.

When I first flew in to Germany, I decided to save the ten quid that I would have to shell out to get a Berlitz German phrasebook - an act of parsimony I shall forever regret. But I never regretted it more than when I was to fly to Glasgow from Duesseldorf.

My RyanAir ticket - curse their black hearts - informed me that I was expected to be among those present for the ritual sniffing of one's genitals by the Alsatians from the Bomb squad at an airport called the Duesseldorf Weeze Flughafen. Flughafen, I assumed, was the operative term. All I had to do prior to boarding the airplane, I assumed, would be to go to this airport in Duesseldorf called Flughafen - a task within the reach of even one as inept as me.

In fact, I observed that the authorities had been kind enough to draw a (rather ugly) facsimile of an aeroplane to indicate the direction to this Flughafen airport. It was, therefore, with a song on my lips, that I alighted at the railway station conveniently attached to this airport that was called Flughafen.

Five minutes into the airport, however, I began to smell a rotten fish - an aroma that made me hark back to the Shastri Nagar fish market. (I didn't actually smell a rotten fish, except metaphorically). It was a confused self that walked towards the helpdesk.

I decided to try my pidgin German out.

'Hallo, ich bin Ryanair flight FR8789.'

The chap at the counter could not repress a laugh.

'What? You're a Ryanair flight? (Oh so that's what it meant)!'

'Er...no, I...want.. to... get... Ryanair...flight...to...Glasgow!'

I spoke in loud, slow and ringing tones - accompanied by feverish movements of every appendage of my body. Though I have never understood how this would make things any better, and why people do it - but I can't help myself doing it.

The chap at the other end of the table, watched me do the cha-cha-cha with thinly veiled amusement, and spoke,

'Well, you're at the wrong airport, mate. Ryanair flights use the Duesseldorf Weeze Flughafen'

'Another airport named Flughafen?', asked I, shocked that they could do something like this in one city.

'No, Flughafen is the word from airport'. said the bloke, rather like a chap measuring a lunatic for a straitjacket would.

It was then that a line I read long ago in the Lonely Planet came back to hit me - 'In German, it is not just the proper nouns that are capitalised.'

I asked the chap, reaching a state of panic, 'So, where is this other Flughafen?'

'Just about a hundred kilometres from here'

'What!!?? Then why do they call it Duesseldorf?'

'Well, the question you should ask yourself is why you choose to fly RyanAir?'

'Er..because its cheap!'

'Well, now you know WHY its cheap!'

And all this while, I thought it was cheap because they used slave labour to fly the airplanes. (Later, sources assured me that this was also the case).

It was thus a chastened self - cursing my parsimony for not having got that Berlitz phrase-book - that travelled to Berlin.

P.S: Attempts to confirm that this was a deep-dyed conspiracy hatched by George W Bush, Tony Blair, and Ahmed Chalabi expressly to discomfit me have now come to nought.

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