Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Part 8 - 2nd trip to Baltimore...

I’m back home in India and it’s been a crazy two days! First day itself I took the car and I’m surprised how come I didn’t bump any other vehicle or get bumped myself; we really do drive crazy here - cutting lanes at will, without using indicators and overtaking on both the left and right sides; all of these are traffic violations in the US. And 2nd day I’ve had to use the public bus which was so crowded that I missed my stop and had to walk back for 10 minutes drenched in sweat.

Alright; now we’ll go back into the parallel mode of cinema since... Ah, reasons for parallel stream later... The snaps in this blog relate to a future edition but since they looked very pretty am positing some here (credit goes to my Baltimore friend for the pics).

Trip to Baltimore

Here I am in a good old friend’s home - was kind of home alone actually for the morning. This was my second trip to Baltimore - again traveling alone. It’s a holiday for us but not for many other companies. Kind of nice feeling typing on his Macbook Pro - like everyone would say, the laptop just feels so sturdy and smooth; you don’t feel it moving around or jerking as you type. Keys feel great but the edge of the laptop is a little sharp; would have been nice if it was curved rather than sharp right angle cut... anyway, this is supposed to be a blog and not a review article.... so let’s get back to how I landed in Baltimore...

It was 16:27 when I left home and my bus was at 16:45 to Boston; I should be able to make it within 10 minutes; hopefully there are no hiccups on the way. It took me exactly 5 minutes to drive to the bus station. Using the net on the bus seems kind of natural to me nowadays though I initially found it odd - it is a little uncomfortable keeping the laptop on your lap but still manageable. Since I didn’t have a mobile phone I emailed my friend that i had started. In a group of 20 people you can surely see around 4 or 5 people pulling out their laptops. In fact now in the 20 you would even see 1 or 2 have an ipad or some tablet as well.

Boston Logan airport

The airport had different drop off points based on the airline - it helped avoid traffic congestion in the airport. And this airport was among the top in terms of domestic traffic. I was on a direct JetBlue flight to Baltimore and had nearly 3 hours to kill. The airport was busy; I headed to the JetBlue self help kiosk, followed the touch screen instructions, selected my seat on the screen (I found only 1 window seat) and printed the boarding pass. Since I didn’t have any luggage to check-in I didn’t need to go and drop my luggage on the conveyor belt. I enquired with an employee whether that was it and he confirmed, “That’s it. You can go for boarding at 8.” That was quite easy!

I loitered around looking to see how I could spend a couple of hours here. A few minutes in the restroom - it was pretty clean, a few minutes doing one circle around the terminal.
I was in terminal C and was tempted to walk to Terminal A but because of my heavy backpack (it had my laptop plus clothes for the 3 day stay) I decided against it. There were a good number of eateries - Dunkin donuts was there and I’m sure my friend, who stayed back, would have been missing Dunkin! Find a Dunkin and he will have his breakfast, lunch and dinner there! There was a Burger King, a chinese restaurant, a japanese one and a few more.

Scenes at the airport

I saw an old lady on a motorized wheelchair - it seems more common to see these motorized vehicles in the US nowadays; the person sitting can operate the wheelchair using buttons without having to strain their hands in moving the vehicle and didn’t need to depend on anyone for mobility. She was moving around the airport looking at options for eating. There was an elderly man, probably her husband, by her side who was also peering at the dishes displayed while discussing with her. Something was touching in that scene when I saw her; I don’t know what struck me - maybe the joy in seeing that her mobility wasn’t curtailed and that many of the places here are accessible to people on wheelchairs; or maybe the joy in seeing her inquisitively looking at each dish and taking a moment to assess them.

Worry worry everywhere!

The next thing my mind jumped to was about how unpredictable things can be in life; there was this person staying in a serviced apartment like us who was charged a fine of $750 because she had damaged the kitchen table top - she kept boiling hot coffee on the table and the thin plywood type material got burnt. But the repair would require complete replacement of the top and that was around $750 - a big chunk when compared to the allowance she would get every month.

And then I wondered whether it is good to save money - we try our best to be miserly in spending, worry about saving and give up some luxuries. And then one fine day whatever you’ve saved gets wiped out suddenly and now you again worry! Yeah you might argue that since the person has money they are able to handle the disaster - but maybe if it was spent elsewhere the disaster might not have occurred itself; life might have gone on a different mode! Oh well, whatever... worries always...

A serial on death

Being alone in the airport and just looking at different people made different things pop up in my mind. Thinking of unpredictability, my mind switched to this tv serial that comes here titled “A 1000 ways to die” which shows how people doing the most trivial things die doing them!

So you had a person who wanted to escape from his family for a
while who got killed by getting ejected into the ceiling when sitting on a used aircraft’s pilot seat. Then there was a person who died because of anger - a lab technician threw a bottle in anger and the fumes from the acid killed her. A guy dies because of a prank that he plays on people who are driving; the prank worked - the driver lost control when blinded by the redirected sun rays and crashed into a street-side water hydrant. So far so good but the metallic water hydrant, in the force of the impact, popped out and hit the prankster killing him! One guy dies while doing a magic show on stage and another while he is walking in the forest. A little whacky but brainy kid gets killed in his quest to make a perfect robot cutter - the cutter ends up cutting the inventor. A couple of people die while trying to steal from a place where there is not even one human around (perhaps the ghosts were watching). Who knows what next.... the topic is saddening you’d think but the way they present it makes you feel a little lighter.

And then you might pause for a moment to think, “What if we weren’t here? What if there was no life in the world? Where would we be? Or would there even be a ‘we’?”

I grabbed a couple of donuts, and found that 2 chocolate donuts and with one having cream was just a bit too much - at one point you feel it is so sweet that you feel like puking! I opened my laptop in Dunkin to send another email to my friend. I initially thought it was Dunkin providing wi-fi but it was actually a free service from the airport. I then read a free local newsletter and settled down on a cushioned chair near an airport screen. I noted down some points for my blog and was trying to kill time till 7:30.

Do your work

I had the typical junk food - everyone around was also having similar junk food. I estimated that i’d take 30 minutes to finish the food and then it would be time to go to the gate for boarding. And near me was a customer who cleaned his table after he finished eating - that’s something i noticed happening more commonly here than back home. Even a person I talked with was saying, “Even though we have someone cleaning the place it’s just that you kind of don’t feel nice with someone having to clean the mess you made. At least with the little things when we are able to do it, why expect someone else to do it.” It’s not that everything here is great - there are things in this culture good and bad; in fact the way things have evolved here, it seems a lot easier for a person to get influenced in the wrong way - look around at the type of clubs you have and you’ll realize. There was a person telling me how during his times his parents were strict and conservative but how much freedom his daughter has in the current age - the Internet has just opened things up. he’d say.

I’ve heard a few of my friends who studied in US talk about the culture shock that many students experience when they come here - it’s like you suddenly get exposed to an open world. And some succumb to the temptations around as well. The Indian way is also changing - you can see a lot of similarities between what is happening in India now to some of the things in the US. And though we keep saying we should take only the good parts of Western culture into ours, it is tough to be selective - you don’t have a filter through which you pass these things.

It's 8pm; time to move...

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