Seattle to Dubai
I have been anticipating my 2016 trip to Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India for months. Every time I go there my life is filled with adventure, learning and renewal. Not only do I get to spend time with Amma, it is also the only period each year that Sreejit, Chaitanya and I are together. (My son, Sreejit, lived in Amma’s ashram in San Ramon, California from 1994 to 2009 and has lived in Amritapuri since then. Chaitanya moved to Amritapuri in 1998.)
On Thanksgiving morning at 5:30, a friend picked me up and took me to the airport. I checked in, got my boarding passes and went through the security line within 30 minutes. I appreciated the opportunity to begin this year’s journey in such a non-stressful way
Knowing I was going to be sitting in the plane for more than 15 hours, I decided to eat breakfast and then walk around the terminal until it was time to board. Within minutes, I saw a sign that made me do a double take. The words on the sign were: Pet Relief Area. I walked by it, but my curiosity got the better of me, so I turned around and walked back to the sign so I could see what a Pet Relief Area was. This is what I found:
I did not know that this type of service was available in airports; it seemed surreal. The first thought that went through my mind, as I shook my head in disbelief, was that this was one of those “Only in America” things. I also recalled a scene from a science fiction movie when a man traveled from the past to the future. He was shocked to see someone who was walking their dog stop to pick up the dog’s poop, put it in a bag and then take it with him. I don’t remember what year the time traveler came from, but if someone had told me back in the 60’s that in the future we would be picking up dog poop, I would have thought they were crazy. The other thought I had when I saw the Pet Relief Area sign was wondering if these relief areas had been available in the airport for some time and I had just been oblivious to them.
Later, when I looked for information about Pet Relief Area on the internet, I discovered that since 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation has required airlines to make relief areas available for service animals. I also learned that in August 2016, a federal regulation was enacted that required any U.S. airport that served more than 10,000 passengers a year to provide a place for service animals to relieve themselves. Most airports also provide the service to law enforcement dogs, emotional support animals and airport therapy dogs. I found no evidence that these areas exist in other parts of the world.
My flight from Seattle to Dubai was rough for a variety of reasons. For the first hour or two, there was a lot of air turbulence. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a flight where the plane shook so much, except for the one I was on in the late 90’s where our plane had a decompression problem, probably due to a fire onboard. After the shaking started, that plane had descended 25,000 feet in about a minute’s time. Even though on this 2016 flight the shaking was due to air turbulence, it was still jolting enough to get me chanting my mantra!
The flight was also rough for me because my back pain had been re-stimulated by the process of getting ready for the trip. I walked as much as I could during the flight so that helped, but I was still uncomfortable. I looked forward to arriving in Dubai.
Dubai International Airport
There is a 13 ½ hour time difference between Seattle and India, and as I’ve aged, I have had increasing difficulty with jet lag. Sometimes it seems as if I spend most of my time in India adjusting to the time change. Just as I begin to feel normal, it is time to fly back to Seattle and once I’m there I have to start the whole adjustment process over again.
The last two years, I have stayed at the airport hotel in Dubai on my way home from India. It is expensive, but the chance to lie down and even sleep before the long leg of the trip has been well worth it. It even seemed to decrease the amount of jet lag I experienced after I returned to Seattle.
This year, I decided I would stay in the Dubai hotel for 15 hours on the way to India. I hoped by doing that, I would feel better when I arrived in India and as a result, jet lag would be less of a problem for me.
There is another reason I love to stay at that hotel. The Dubai airport has untold numbers of duty free shops. It is also full of jostling people and bright lights. When you walk out of the elevator that goes to the Dubai International Hotel, you enter a world of complete silence. I find the hotel’s atmosphere to be such a blessed relief from the hustle and bustle that occurs in the rest of the airport.
I practically fell into bed and then slept for five hours. When I got up, I went to the Emirates travel desk to pick up my food voucher. I knew from past experiences that Emirates wouldn’t pay for the hotel but they would pay for meals. This time, however, when I asked for the voucher, I was told that they no longer provided that service. I had never bought anything other than a scoop of ice cream in Dubai. After looking around, I decided I would order some sushi at a food court restaurant that was located next to McDonalds. I was quite surprised to discover, when I checked the exchange rate later, that I had spent $23 for sushi!
After my second nap, I was a bit groggy. I decided to go into the main part of the airport to find out my gate number. When I stepped onto a walking escalator, and started walking, it seemed as if I wasn’t going anywhere. I laughed, a few seconds later, when I realized the escalator was going the opposite direction. Therefore, when I walked on it, it seemed like I was standing still. Dubai must be like India, where the cars drive on the left side of the road. As I thought about it, I remembered noticing that foot traffic in the airport was on the left too. I’ve never made that mistake before, but, like I said, I was groggy.
Dubai to Trivandrum
My flight to India was scheduled to leave at 2:55 a.m. The boarding process went smoothly. Once I was on the airplane, though, I received an unpleasant surprise. My “J” seat turned out to be a middle seat. I need to get up, to walk or use the restroom, frequently, so it is very important to me to have an aisle seat. Since I purchased my plane tickets in March of this year, almost every seat on the plane was available. I had taken care to reserve my all-important aisle seat. When I picked up my boarding passes in Seattle, I double checked with the agent that I had aisle seats on both flights. She reassured me that I did. To say I was displeased with this turn-of-events would be an understatement. Reminding myself that the flight would only be four hours long helped a little.
I grumbled to myself for a while and then noticed the aisle seat in front of me was open. I asked the person in the middle seat if I could sit there. She said, the aisle seat was her seat; she had moved to the middle so she could sit next to her friend. She was unwilling to let me have the aisle seat. Sometime after resuming my inner grumbling, I looked behind me and saw an empty aisle seat. The door to the plane was shut by then but the flight was delayed, so I switched to that seat. I was jubilant. I was so glad that I had been proactive in seeking to make a change rather than getting stuck in feeling victimized.
When we had boarded the plane, I had noticed that the business section of the plane was bigger than any I have ever seen. I was even more surprised to see that there were only two passengers sitting in that area. Later, I discovered that the plane was at least a third empty. In my experience, the planes are always packed at this time of year. I don’t understand why there were so many empty seats, but I felt very graced. Not only did I get the aisle seat I wanted, but the seat next to me was empty for the entire flight.
To read the rest of the posts in this series click here.