Bangalore Sans Scooter, aka Counting backward from ten in Sanskrit

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/01/27 08:16 -05:00, original URI:

No, the title is not about a new font name for the next version of Windows!

It was inspiring, I could almost hear the Chad Michael Murray voiceover (re-used script from the One Tree Hill episode Pictures of You with the writer's strike and all):

You ever wonder how long it takes to change your life?

What measure of time is enough to be life altering?

Is it four years like high school, one year, an eight week rock tour?

Can your life change in a month, or a week or a single day?

We're always in a hurry to grow up to go places to get ahead but when you're young one hour can change everything.

Perhaps I should explain how and/or why I think something changed so fast....

Another my India trip post, of course.

The trip from Chennai to Bangalore really did manage to put a cat among the pigeons, let me tell you.

I arrived ninety minutes prior to departure.

They smiled and told me I had plenty of time.

They seemed uncertain about checking the scooter plane-side. Although willing to go along with me, it just did not seem to them like something people do. No one could really imagine that I wouldn't want to be able to sit back and be pushed places, rather than being in control of my own movement.

I count from ten backward to myself. Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One.

On the other hand the scooter had everyone interested -- we had two supervisors, four loaders, and two women whose exact role was never explained (the supervisors wore ties and introduced themselves as supervisors, the loaders were very deferential to them, but the exact relationship between the women and the others was indeterminate).

Of course the guy in the uniform we had to pass before going through security refused entry of the scooter.

"It can't go through the x-ray machine," he explained.

Fair enough. We head back to the ticket counter and I get a baggage claim ticket. The loaders now wrestle with the scooter. I offer to help in case they have to take it apart or tilt it or whatever. They assure me they have the matter in hand (as one of them lifts his end by the seat and it comes off the base in his hand).

He smiles, apologizes, and lifts by the bottom.

I count backward from ten to myself in Portuguese. dez, nove, oito, sete, seis, cinco, quatro, três, dois, um.

They put it on a baggage cart and head off.

Me they put in a wheelchair. One of those wheelchairs with really small back wheels so I can't drive it myself but am absolutely dependent on someone to push me,

Only one of the women remains; all of the supervisors and loaders and the other woman have vanished without a trace.

I suppose a man on a scooter is more interesting than one in a wheelchair.

The woman, who is not wearing a tie but is wearing a beautiful purple outfit, if trying to find a loader to push the wheelchair.

I can't help noticing the irony that when I needed no one and could do it all myself I was surrounded by a small entourage of Jet Airways employees, yet now that I was put in a situation where I needed someone the only person there was someone who clearly had no intention of pushing a wheelchair.

I am a bit too embarrassed to ask for a chair with big back wheels that I could move.

And way to embarrassed to ask her if she could do so. She is very slight, the sort of person who one could imagine blowing away on a blustery day, and pushing me plus two laptops? I am happy to accept her decision to look for a loader, though her attempts to signal one over do not seem to be having much success.

I take a moment actually look at her, mainly since I don't know what else to dco. She is young, attractive, a bit distracted trying to find a loader and with the stress caused by this has some worrying lines on her forehead. I hope we figure this out soon, her face definitely looks better when she is not stressed. The purple is something I can't decide how I feel about -- very exotic, to be sure, and it stands out a bit. But it has an odd effect on her eyes that I cannot quite place. I can't really determine whether I like it or not, to be honest.

It occurs to me that I am not going to be telling her any of this, conversationally or otherwise.

A brief sigh of regret, and I let it go and pay attention to our situation again. I simply lack that kind of nerve, these days....

It is now 45 minutes to departure, I was not through security yet. And my companion clothed in purple and I are going nowhere.

I am struck by the fact that the loaders were eagerly surrounding a powered scooter yet no one is even willing to acknowledge the existence of a beautiful woman.

Very odd. I suppose there are many beautiful women around while the scooter is something of a novelty. But still....

Finally a loader responds to her now furtive yet still subtle gestures.

I am pushed up to security and I give then my laptops to go through the x-ray. They do not ask me to remove them from the case, or to take off my shoes or put my wallet in the tray, or my belt.

They ask me twice to put my phone in a tray.

When I am through the officer asks me if I can stand. I am thinking about how tired I am at the end of the day and I grimace a bit, saying "If I have to, I can."

He shakes his head and gives me the most lackadaisical pat down I have ever been given.

I am almost offended -- I could have been sitting on a SCUD missile and he would have missed it. On the other hand look how poorly those SCUD missiles did in Iraqi hands. I was too tired to argue they should look at me more closely, so I just let myself get led over to retrieve my bags.

One of the officers wants to look in one compartment of one of the laptop cases.

It is now just twenty minutes to departure. 

I count from ten to myself in Swedish. tio, nio, åtta, sju, sex, fem, fyra, tre, två, en.

He opens it and takes everything out, asking what each item is (it was my two Zunes, three batteries for the MacBook Pro, two USB powered personal fans, about ten different pieces of various adapters and chargers and converters for power outlets, a few USB keys, the charger for the phone, and the AC adapter for the MacBook Pro,

He packs the bag back up and lets me go.

We are now just ten minutes to departure.

They put me on a bus (three men lift me and the chair onto it), and we drive to the plane. They lift me off the bus, and wheel me up to just behind the plane. The woman in purple leaves with the bus, and I am sitting alone at the bottom of a staircase leading up to the rear door on the plane.

Finally a flight attendant sees me and tries to get some people to help.

I count from ten backward to myself in French.... dix, neuf, huit, sept, six, cinq, quatre, trois, deux, un.

At this point I am just way too frustrated, so I go ahead and climb the stairs. I know I might be regretting it later but for now the adrenaline pushes me up the stairs. Someone has taken the bags off my shoulders and carries them up.

The flight is uneventful and takes less time than the flight from Seattle to Portland, or to Spokane.

Everyone else is off the plane, but the flight attendant won't let me get up, "Someone is coming to help you down," she explains.

I count from ten backward to myself in Basque. hamar, bederatzi, zortzi, zazppi, si, bost, lau, hiru, bi, bat.

Two men finally come up and are carrying me down the stairs, almost tipping me once and almost dropping me twice. I am briefly terrified, and this does not improve until I am on the ground.

Someone pushes me into the terminal. I look for my bag and the scooter, and find my bag,. But the scooter is nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly I see a piece of it. Harrison Ford's voice pops into my head.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

I count from ten backward to myself in Greek. thaeca, eney-ya, octo, aeft, aeksee, paendae, taessaera, treea, thee-o, aena.

I ask if someone can push me up to the scooter piece and they do so.

It is actually two pieces hanging together oddly - they removed the clip connecting the front section to the rear section but did not disconnect the wiring plug between them (it is now cracked and wires are exposed).

I count from ten backward to myself in Hebrew. esser, taysha, shmoneh, shehvah, shesh, chamash, arbah, shalosh, shtayim, echad.

I stand up and say "please let me do this" before they break it any further.

While I am taking care of these pieces, the seat and the battery arrive (the basket is still nowhere to be found).

I put the whole unit together, noting the cracked wiring case, presumably due to it being kept attached rather than separated when the clip holding the pieces together was removed.

I count from ten backward to myself in Esperanto. dek, naǔ, ok, sep, ses, kvin, kvar, tri, du, unu.

I mentally try to decide what to do about that. No biggee, I'll probably just buddy tape it. If everything works then the buddy tape will be fine.

Then I sit in the chair and pull out the key from my pocket (realizing suddenly that the pat down did not find that either).

I put the key in and the meter goes to full -- I start to smile, as the connection seems okay.

My smile stops when the scooter starts beeping insistently.

I count the beeps -- five of them , cycling and then another five, and so on.

I did not have the manual in front of me, but I do now and I knew what it meant then.

Solenoid brake trip. The manual freewheel lever may be in the freewheel position.

It's okay, an easy fix.

I remove the key, take off the seat and the battery,and try to pull back the freewheel lever.

It is jammed. It won't move forward to freewheel mode or backward into drive mode.

I count from ten backward to myself in Sanskrit.

Wait, I'm totally kidding -- I don't know how to do it in Sanskrit. But I do close my eyes and count OM ten times slowly.

I ask to see a supervisor.

When Charumathy arrives I tell her what has happened and show her what is working and what is failing, what is broken, and what is missing (the basket).

She has me fill out the damage complaint form, gives me her card with her name and number on it and assures me someone will call by the next morning at 11am.

She did call (it was about 11:30am but she apologized) and told me that they were going to work this and that although she could do nothing until after the weekend that someone would call me on Monday evening. I mention I have some information wholesale prices and such and she asks me to forward this to her, which I agree to do.

Everything changed, either way. I was on the verge of taking a leave of absence for the rest of the time on the visa from this India trip and travelling for longer, but the knowledge of how close I am to helpless scared that notion right out of consideration.

It was like the first time I fell; I never felt the same again. I doubt this one is going to be any easier to get over as a former invulnerability becomes certain knowledge that I am even more vulnerable than I used to be....

Anyhow, this blog will be live on Monday morning (Bangalore time) which is a few hours from now that I am typing this, so the situation will be some hours from knowing what is happening next.

But I can update everyone once I know what is happening.

And what language I am counting back from ten in at that point.... 


This post brought to you by(U+0950, DEVANAGARI OM)

# Pavanaja U B on 27 Jan 2008 11:34 PM:

In India, we call scooter for a different kind of vehicle, actually a two-wheeler. That is not the one used by challenged people, but by commoners on the road. In fact, it is easy to drive a two-wheeler on Bangalore roads rather than struggling to drive a four-wheeler.


referenced by

2008/01/29 What's in store for Bangalore? A guy who's not a beauter but he has his scooter!

2008/01/27 How would Harry Potter have pronounced शहिवाख़्‍ का दर्पण, anyway?

go to newer or older post, or back to index or month or day