In the few seconds between the plane landing and my eyes opening, my neighbor looms over me, getting into a question mark pose, to get at his laptop bag from the overhead bin, above me. As my eyes open, he hops across my body, his arse in my face, to get into the aisle.
The other men around look at him, a little shocked.
I ask him, “Are you going to break the door and leave?”
He looks at me, surprised.
I say, “The doors even haven’t opened yet.”
He looks away, uncomfortable at being called out. But no ‘Sorry’. The word may not exist on the dictionary of his laptop.
As we exit the plane and the jet bridge, walk through the airport to the baggage belt; the jumpy neighbor is not ahead of me by more than 5 seconds.
I look up something I wrote a few months ago, after a Mumbai-Delhi flight.
Jacks and Jills sit through the flight.
Some Jacks and Jills go to the toilet.
Some Jacks and Jills wake up only to eat the airline snacks.
Some Jacks and Jills are on their computers.
Some gaze intently at the screen before them, headphones in their ears.
When the airhostess announces ‘You can remove your seat belts now’ almost all the Jacks and Jills pop out of their seats like Jacks in boxes.
They crowd on top of each other in the aisle, breathing down each other’s necks.
Some Jacks start pushing against the crowd to move back where their luggage is.
One Jack contorts himself trying to get his luggage from the overhead bin, from his seat.
Some Jacks and Jills bang other people with their hand luggage.
The Jacks and Jills in business class are up in the aisle too but they have more stomping space, so they don’t get stomped upon.
All of them stomp around for another 10 minutes or so, until they can leave.
They dart out of the airplane door, up and down the long passage, up escalators, down escalators, striding down walking ramps.
At the baggage belt, the Jacks and Jills stand close to the belt, gazing intently, as if it will make their baggage come through quicker.
The stomping, pushing, banging continue, because to let the rush subside might mean you get left behind.
The Jacks and Jills may have taken the ration card out of their administrative systems, but the queue system mentality is burnt into their DNA.
To slow down is to fail. We need to push to get ahead, to get our share of bread and butter and jam.
But the baggage belt brings forth luggage in random order.
Who leaves first remains a matter of chance.