Friday, September 15, 2006

The Flat Tire

How many times you encounter flat tire on a tarmac, under the pregnant belly of a seven-four-seven?

It happened this morning, at exactly three-O-four, at the Shivaji International airport of Mumbai, during my cradle time (the few minutes between push back of an airplane from the gates until you are woken up to the rev of the engines on runway twenty four).

An 'object' had punctured a wheel, the captain announced hence bringing the mammoth back to a parking area, with the flat tire pulling itself shamelessly along with others full of 'air and pride'.


We were told that it may take a while to change the wheel. And we all believed, blindly, because most had their sun shades over the eyes and ready to sleep with no regards to the interruption and because none of us are used to changing a flat tire of seven-four-sevens.


One hour passed; two hours passed; three hours passed; the distant sun entering through semi-circle windows, waking up sleepy heads, reminding them that the world is not pristine and normal anymore. There is a new environment here that we should be concerned about because in normal circumstances, by this time, we would be flying over Istanbul merely touching the rim of Europe. But we are still here in Mumbai, going through a flat tire saga.


We wake up, one by one, relieving ourselves of nature's calls, quietly inquiring, by tapping on the shoulders of air hostesses, on what's going on. They point outside, with arm gestures that relate an open situation, with no control. Now the main door is open, a metal staircase attached, its bright light outside.


Can we walk outside? Sure; she doesn't care; the plane is on the ground; you wouldn't need a parachute or a multiple-entry visa and beside she is at the same level and situation as you are. Sure, go ahead!


Anxiety kicks in. Schedules are reminded; missing connections; a loved one's birthday party of that evening, a six week pregnant wife waiting to complain about all her pain (it's all because of you, three-minute-man!), a talk with a troubled teen daughter, unclenched million dollar deals and me, eagerly waiting to get out of Mumbai, for home food, own bed and warm hugs to snuggle-in and never wake up again, not entirely in that same order.


Some passengers disembark, half way through the metal staircase, "thud.. thud.. thud..", to take a glimpse at tire changing ceremonies. They embark again, "thud.. thud.. thud..", for a progress report, that all four tires of the particular wheel base has to be changed to maintain 'air, pride and balance' and that it may take longer than anticipated, however no one knew, technically, what to anticipate.


Fresh coffee distributed, orange glasses maneuver through narrow aisles, reflecting on the bright seven-O-clock sun, now encompassing the entire cabin, its orange everywhere, an eerie, delicate color scheme - the color of anxiety, it seems.


Calls are made, to loved ones, to awaiting meetings, missed mortgage payments, alimony and child support - nature's gift of a genuine excuse.


Then something happen. I witness something unique, extra ordinary, a common ground, breaking in lost hearts, hearts with no control of the situation.


Sharing of pain.


People gather around, talk about their anticipated plans and how it would impact their lives. They share, comfort, console, and promise each other goodness and that things will be okay and life would become normal eventually. There is optimism everywhere, no more "thud.. thud.. thud.." on the metal stairway. The birthdays will come again next year, and can be attended. The pregnant wife can be consoled; buy her something nice; how about a Dior perfume at duty free price. All teenagers go through these kind of phases; don't worry they'll come through it. A lost million dollar deal? May be this says something that it is not meant for your company. May be a bigger deal is on the horizon. Promises, promises and more colorful promises. Handshakes, sharing of business cards, new friendships, a twinkle of romance between an old couple and little down time to write this blurb, if otherwise would have spent watching Mr. & Mrs. Smith for the fifth time; one of "our" favorite, by the way.


Eventuality arrives. We take off. There is a destination. We will land and embark and embrace to face our bright life, once again and again.


Did I mention that I missed my connection in Frankfurt, questioned for not "looking" like a Canadian (need to buy a pair of shoes that reflects Canadian-ism: red-white-red and maple syrup) and almost thrown into a Terminal limbo?


Let me to share that in another dimension...