When The Shit Hits The Fan
March 26th, 2010

Ramgarhia Bunga (towers) and Guru Ka Langar at the Golden Temple Complex - Amritsar, India

Ramgarhia Bunga (towers) and Guru Ka Langar (dining hall) at the Golden Temple Complex - Amritsar, India

In my last post, Screw The Photo, I mentioned that when I left the Golden Temple, without creating any of the photos that I had hoped and planned to create (expectations are always a bad idea!), that I fully intended to return later that day as well as bright and ridiculously early the following morning. I never made it back. Here’s why.

We had a blast at the Golden Temple, but after three hours of modeling and conversations we were hungry. So we decided to head out to find some breakfast. (It is possible to eat right at the Temple as they have a massive kitchen that feeds thousands of people a day in the Guru ka Langar. We considered it, and I highly recommend it as it looked interesting; however, we decided that it was time for a change of scenery. We would try the Temple kitchen later. Again, that later never arrived.)

We had breakfast, followed by a lot of street wandering and then after lunch we headed back to our hotel. We have two beautiful dogs, and at least once a day, when possible, we like to hear that they’re fine. So we periodically check email to see if “home” (in this case my brother was house and dog sitting) had written. I don’t remember if he had, but on a pure lark I decided to check my junk email. There, in amongst the real junk, was an email that radically changed the rest of the day (as well as the following day).

Jet Airways had sent me an email notification, informing me that there was a change to one of our flights for the following day. This happens all the time with airlines. They’re always tweaking times, flight numbers, etc.; I think for almost every trip I take that I receive these messages – usually well in advance of a flight. However, this one was different. Take a look at the new “Confirmed booking” (this is the listed definition for the “HK” status).

Notice anything completely and utterly impossible? The new time of arrival for the flight from Amritsar to Delhi was now thirty minutes after the departure time for the connecting flight to Jodhpur. Yet it was confirmed! The first flight had moved not a few minutes but an hour and a half. It was clearly now an impossible connection. Naturally, my first reaction was to call Jet Airways. (OK, my first reaction was to freak out.) I found a number, but I couldn’t get through. I went to the front desk to clarify the use of the phone. I was told to dial 9 first, and returned to my room to do so. Nothing. It didn’t work. Down to the front desk again. This time I was informed that indeed it doesn’t work. You can’t call out. This from the same person who instructed me to dial 9. Welcome to India!

A different staff member of the hotel offered to help with the use of his cellphone. (This hotel, although nice, was my least favorite in India, but maybe that’ll be a different post.) I still couldn’t connect to anybody. He tried a different number that he had in the hotel’s address book. Nothing. After at least an hour of trying we finally managed to connect with somebody local who confirmed that my new “confirmed booking” was in fact impossible. Thank you very much! I spent more than an hour to learn what I already knew. What I wanted was a solution. They were clearly out of those. They had no other flights and didn’t know what I could do. It looked like I was going to have to fly to Delhi on the rescheduled flight, miss the connection and overnight in Delhi before catching a flight to Jodhpur a day late (assuming there was space available). I didn’t like that idea at all. My time in Jodhpur was already too short. Losing a day was not going to make me happy. (And I do like to make myself happy!) So I did the next obvious thing and jumped onto the web to find out what other options I had. I found only one. (Thank you Kayak!) I could run to the airport immediately and catch a Kingfisher flight to Delhi, spend the night in Delhi and then make the scheduled Delhi to Jodhpur flight the next morning. That was not ideal, but it was better than losing a day in Jodhpur. I hated the idea of not making it back to the Golden Temple. I could even see it from my hotel window; so close, yet so far. Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that when the shit hits the fan you just have to take the best cover you can find. For me that was running to the airport.

Of course, once we arrived in Delhi we were going to need a hotel; so I went to the site of the hotel where we had been staying to quickly book a room. Fully booked! Did I mention that it was New Year’s Eve? Suddenly I had visions of forcing my wife to spend New Year’s Eve at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Panic! I gave my wife the number of the hotel, and she went down to check out and to call the Delhi hotel, while I practiced the fine art of speed packing. Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of packing, and I can indeed pack very, very quickly. Equally fortuitously my wife is charming. Our Delhi hotel told her that for us they would have a room. Perfect. (And Definitely more on that hotel later.) Only thing left to do was to get to the airport immediately.

Long story less long, it was the right decision. I still have to go back to Amritsar, but, man, I love Jodhpur. I wouldn’t want to lose a minute there. Those who follow me on facebook will remember my story of getting lost in Jodhpur. I can’t wait to do that again. Although, if the same events occurred I’d be forever spoked.

This definitely wasn’t the only problematic flight on this trip. I think of four scheduled Jet Airways flights I actually flew on only one. Kingfisher often got us where we wanted to go when Jet Airways couldn’t. That’s not something that I’ll forget when I next need to book flights in India.

The title of this post came to me as my iPod was playing random songs. Bonus to anybody who knows the song without Googling it. It was off a mid-80s soundtrack.

5 Responses to “When The Shit Hits The Fan”

  1. Jack Kurtz says:

    Don’t Look in the trunk!

  2. Sander van Hulsenbeek says:

    Jeffrey, travel in India it not fun, it is hard hard work! In fact, most activities we have made easy for ourselves in the West, are still very hard work in India :-)

  3. Ah, the joys of international travel, and the pleasure of dealing with “customer service” in a culture vastly different to the one you’re used to!

    I’ve never been to India, but I have spent quite a bit of time in Southern, Eastern and Central Africa. My favorite “shit hits the fan” story is from a trip to Rwanda in 2005. I had found a great guest house that came very highly recommended, and through several int’l long distance phone calls and faxes, I managed to make a “reservation” for the four weeks we’d be in country.

    We land in Kigali after about 36 hours of transit. We get a taxi to the guest house. We haul all of our bags out of the trunk of the taxi, and head in to the office.

    And then the very polite gentleman behind the desk informs us that we have no rooms. Apparently a huge American religious crusade descended on the city and offered twice the rate we had been promised for all the rooms in the place. It was very Seinfeldian- they could *take* the reservation, they just couldn’t *keep* the reservation.

    So, they gave us a room for that night, partly because they felt sorry for us and partly because I think I had a murderous look on my face after not sleeping for 36 hours. But, the rest of our trip was grand experiment in “shifting” from place to place every day or two, as rooms became available or unavailable. I think we would up with 8 different stays at 5 different places.

    The next time I went back to Kigali, I just begged a spare room from friends, and managed to stay in one place the whole time!

    But, as they say, looking back on it after a few years, you can’t help but laugh!

  4. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Jack, I’m impressed!

    Sander, Travel in India is indeed complicated – wrought with delays, cancellations and other international mysteries. Fortunately, often the outcome compensates for the frustration.

    Greg, I have to confess to having at least once bribed my way into having a room at a completely full hotel. I found myself in Prague without a reservation and not a single hotel had a vacant room. (This was back when it was still Czechoslovakia. I imagine there are far more hotels today.) When the last possible hotel, the nicest (and most expensive) one in Prague, also didn’t have a room, I did the only thing I could do. I gave the woman at the counter a crisp $10 bill (quite a lot there at at that time). Presto; I had a room. (She also became my black-marketer for exchanging money. Everybody in Central Europe in those days wanted to exchange money on the black-market.)

  5. Silvia says:

    In India you always need plan B, C and D, and in one way or another a solution will come.
    At the end we end up having a fantastic New Year on the roof of the Hotel Tara Palace.

    “they could *take* the reservation, they just couldn’t *keep* the reservation” :)

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