The cab rolled in around 10:30 pm. The driver saw me standing outside the house on the phone, and still went ahead. Oh well, I thought, maybe it’s someone else’s cab. But it wasn’t. The driver was just retarded. He made a grand reverse as he faux parallel-parked into the center of the street. I rolled my eyes and asked N to step out. N and U walked out muttering something under their breaths, both visibly nervous. Some married couples give you a very clear indication of how well they click together. N’s parents were coming to the US, it was their first trip.
I sat in the front seat next to the desi cab driver, yeah that’s a big surprise! A small note to cab drivers: I understand you like the idea of picking up a desi customer, but that doesn’t grant you the privilege to babble away until we reach our destination. Thank you. I speak to N & U in Hindi, unfortunate as it turned out, for every sentence we said was prompted with sage advice from the cabbie. Thanks for telling us what airport trolleys cost when you came to the US dude, now please keep your eyes on the road; getting us killed will affect your tip adversely.
Anyway, he drove competently, made a couple of wrong decisions in avoiding traffic, but eventually got us there. As we had no luggage, he knew we were picking up someone, and started offering to take us back home. You know what, at least he was enterprising. We muttered a quick no and walked into the terminal. Thanks for overcharging us by the way.
We knew the flight number by heart, as we had checked the status every five minutes since 9:30 pm at N’s house. In the cab, and N and I used our respective smartphones with the flight tracker app to confirm that the flight had in fact landed. N, U and I have made over 10 trips to India between us, but somehow seemed to conservatively estimate that getting off the plane plus immigration and customs clearance would take his parents only 5 minutes.
It actually took them about 15 minutes. See paranoia works! U noticed N’s father first, followed by his mom and his nephew. They were beaming with an excitement our faces reserve for the kind of fatigue only a 16 hour flight could generate. Still, parents are always excited to see their son, his wife and his best friend, so what the heck.
I always hated walking out into the airport waiting lounge after a flight simply because of the hordes of people among which you need to find the guys waiting for you. It is one of the highest stress situations in daily life, and should be included in the astronauts’ training course. You’re walking out of a tiny opening in the wall, so everyone can see you, and they’re watching you incompetently scan the crowd. I would worry about not being able to spot my deliriously waving family as I was wheeling out the luggage I had ever so gingerly stacked on the trolley as a challenge to gravity. But, N’s parents strolled out cool as cucumbers, so cheers to them.
There were six checked-in bags plus three carry-ons which meant that we would struggle to fit everything in two cabs. Somehow we managed. U got in one cab with N’s parents, and the rest of us rode in the other one. U had forgotten her phone at home, I mean come on, it’s not like cell phones are used for emergency situations, so N gave her his phone. N and U were communicating between cabs as frequently and with as much poise as I imagined the navy seals who hunted down Osama to have.
There is one thing I simply do not understand, and please correct me if I’m being elitist. I believe, as a cab driver, one should drive capably and be well versed with the city. So why is it that I always find myself giving the cab driver directions from JFK to my area: a fifteen minute journey involving precisely one exit and two right turns?
When we reached the destination, the cabbie sauntered out to pick up the bags. I was impressed, this guy was gunning for a whopper of a tip, and was about to get it. He opened the boot, and took out the smallest, lightest carry on bag at the top. Thanks Schwarzenegger! How does 2 percent sound?
It was well past midnight as we dragged the luggage into N’s house with U nervously walking around, all the time monitoring N’s parents’ reactions to the neatness of the house. Personally, they didn’t have a thing to worry about. U is a conscientious person who doesn’t spill much, and while N is not as smooth as she, once a month he gets down on all fours and scrubs the floors with a gusto that would make the peering butt-crack from his sinking jeans almost bearable.
N’s parents are among the warmest people I know, and sure enough, they brought a lot of food, with the only regret that the damn weight restrictions made them throw out nearly twice of what they were actually gonna bring. As N was scratching his head while isolating all perishable items from the six mammoth sized bags in which they were randomized so well that it seemed planned, U made us some tea.
I said my goodbyes and ambled home in the slight teasing remnant of the New York winter.