Regular travellers know the importance of good footwear when taking long flights and, for me, there are two factors to bear in mind. First is comfort. Feet swell after prolonged periods at altitude so your shoes need to be easy to get back on again at the end of a long flight. Second is grip. Most of the world’s major airports have highly polished floors so rubber soles are a must for sprinting across the terminal to make last minute connections. This is where I came unstuck. My old Reeboks, that had served me so well on many an international trip, sadly melted on my last visit to India. These were replaced with a pair of Nikes which made my feet smell like over ripe brie when worn for more than 35 seconds. So, mindful of my fellow travellers comfort, I chose my brown boots. These adequately meet the comfort criteria but having leather soles, woefully fail the grip test. Any effort put into forward motion is rewarded with the human equivalent of wheel spin. Consequently, the amount of energy spent versus distance travelled is ridiculously low and I arrived at the departure gate looking like I’d just had a sauna. Not much amuses the Swiss but this did.
The flight passed without event but our descent in the monsoon rains felt more like being shot down rather than landing. I slid through arrivals to reclaim my bags and headed for the exit. For reasons known only to them, the Indians scan your luggage as you leave the airport and my case attracted some attention. The security guard called me over to his monitor and pointed at the outline of my camera bag which was packed inside my suitcase. I have to admit that the individual lenses did bear a passing resemblance to a series of small hand grenades all neatly lined up. The one thing that was missing from the exchange that followed was the ability to speak English (his not mine). He waved excitedly at the screen and I mimed someone taking pictures with a camera – he seemed pleased. Encouraged by his initial reaction, I went on to mime someone zooming a long lens in and out. In hindsight, this was a foolish thing to do given the similarity of this action to the much used hand gesture employed by Europeans to signify that someone is a dickhead. For a moment, I thought I would be in for a little quality time with the rubber gloves but he ended up grinning at me and waved me on. I’m glad he never went to far as to actually open my case as he would have been sure to find the Firewall that I was illegally smuggling into the country having been too cheap to pay DHL €300 to ship it for me. Outside my car was waiting and I spent the short trip to the Hyatt trying to figure out how I’d have mimed “Firewall”.
The hotel check in was slow due to a computer crash and 13 hours on the road was doing nothing for my patience. I eventually got to my room at 1.00am local and was asleep within seconds. 30 minutes later the phone rang – someone from reception asking if everything in the room was to my satisfaction. I grunted that it was and hung up, unconscious again by the time the receiver hit the phone. 10 minutes later someone else from reception called and asked the same question. I assured them that since they last called, the room was still meeting all my expectations but added that the phone did seem to ring a lot. 15 minutes later, the manager called me to apologise. There is such a thing as “too polite”.