Archive for May, 2012

Business in 60 seconds

May 10, 2012 8 comments

Imagine you are standing in a queue for security checking in an airport. While checking your pockets, you realise that you forgot to put your swiss knife in your check-in baggage. What can be your options then?

You can go back to check-in desk and request if they can retrieve your luggage and you can put in your knife. But, what if the staff says no? Then you can put the knife in your hand baggage and hope that it miraculously goes through the scanning. But you fear that if it gets detected, they will simply throw it away. You like your knife very much and you know that seeing it being thrown in the dustbin is going to hurt you. May be you can give it to someone – someone who will value it. But how will you find that someone?

There is a huge queue at the security checking and the boarding of your flight closes in 30 mins. What can you do in this situation? I guess there are no options, except taking chances with the scanner. Will you think of selling the knife? At least, I wouldn’t.

However, our Tikipedia thought of it. That’s the nickname of our friend, Tiannan. Why? That’s a different story altogether :). This was the scene at Cagliari airport when we were returning from Sardinia. Tiannan realised that he was still carrying his swiss knife in his jacket. He tried the first option but without any success. He evaluated the other two options but wasn’t convinced. Finally, he decided to try to sell it.

“Guys, you go ahead. I will try to sell it and join you at the gate”, said Tiannan. “Man, it’s only 30 mins and there’s a huge crowd. Aren’t you risking missing your flight?”, Hari asked him. “I understand, but I can’t let it be thrown into the dustbin. Let me try. I promise that I’ll not miss the flight”, replied Tiannan and he ran towards the check-in area.

Frankly speaking, we were skeptical about Tiannan’s idea. However, we also secretly hoped that he is able to do it. We knew that he liked the knife very much. The queue was moving slowly. But the clock seemed to tick fast. Finally, we got through the security. Tiannan still didn’t return. We walked slowly towards the gate, hoping Tiannan will catch up. But still no sign of him. He is not even answering his mobile. Probably it’s in his jacket which he was holding in his hands, when he left.

Lei, Hari and I were at the queue of the gate for boarding the flight. It was almost time. Tiannan hadn’t returned and he was also not answering his phone. A few minutes later, we finally got a glimpse of him, running down the escalator carrying his jacket, belt, bag, etc in his hands. It was a relieve to see him.

When he came near us, all of us gave him the same quizzical look. He knew the question but didn’t reply for sometime. He was out of breath. Finally, he smiled and we understood. “Wow, man! That’s awesome!”, we exclaimed together.

He sold the knife for 20 euros to a British couple. He had bought it for 30 euros, after a big discount, about a year back. He had asked for 10-15 euros, but the couple gave him 20 euros. Now, that’s what I call “Business in 60 seconds” :).


The Conspiracy

May 8, 2012 4 comments

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”  — These are Paulo Coelho’s words in Alchemist. I do believe in what he says. I have experienced it myself before and very recently again.

On our way to Charleroi airport, as we got on to E40 outside Leuven, an Alfa Romeo overtook us. It immediately caught my attention. One, I am a car enthusiast and I notice cars on the roads. Two, it was an Alfa Romeo. A black 159! I have always found them appealing. There designs are bold. They look sleek and sportive, yet solid. However, I never got a chance to drive one. “Wow, that’s a cool car!”, I remarked.

We reached Charleroi airport in about an hour. We planned to park our car in the airport parking for 5 days until we returned from our trip to Sardinia. Both P1 and P2, the parkings close to the terminal, were full. We parked in P3 which is at some distance from terminal. As we were getting off the car, I saw another Alfa Romeo pulling into the parking right behind us. It was a black Cabrio.

“Man, what’s happening today. We are being followed by Alfa Romeos”, I said. “Anyways, cool car. Would love to drive it”, I told Hari. “Yaa, yaa”, Hari responded. His response was like a married man’s response. Someone who wouldn’t or couldn’t acknowledge other beautiful women around. After all he is now married to his Ford Mondeo whom he is leaving in the parking ;).

After landing at Cagliari airport in Sardinia, Lei and I rushed to the car rental while Hari and Tiannan collected the baggage. We had booked a Renault Megane Sports Tourer at Sixt. I handed the booking printout, my Sixt card and my Miles-n-More card at the counter.

“Sir, we have a problem”, the Sixt staff said after sometime. “What is it?”, I asked. “I can’t find your booking in the system”, he replied. “Probably your booking has been cancelled, since its more than 2 hours past your pick up time”, he said. He was the most unfriendly Sixt staff I had ever met. He simply pleaded helplessness in helping us, without even trying. Calling the Sixt customer care and the office at Brussels also didn’t help. They said that it’s the staff at Cagliari airport who can do something. And this guy was hopeless!

This didn’t look like a great start of our trip. Getting a car was crucial as the entire trip was planned around it. All other known rental companies, like Hertz, Budget, National, Avis, etc were sold out. They didn’t even have a damn Smart!

Left with no other options, we started checking the local rental companies. Atleast, they were not completely sold out. But they had either Fiat Panda or Fiat Punto. “Come on, we don’t get to drive a Punto or Panda on a trip like this”, I lamented and so did others. There was one small counter which we hadn’t checked. Left with no other option, we thought of checking it out before settling on either a Punto or a Panda!

“Hello. We would like to rent a car for 5 days. What do you have?”, I asked at the counter. “I can give a Punto”, the guy replied. “Please no Punto”, I uttered under my breath. “Anything better than Punto”, I asked him. “A moment please. Let me check”, he said. He opened his drawer and started checking the keys. After a while he said, “I have a Alfa Romeo Giulietta. It’s about 100 euros more expensive than Punto. It was returned only sometime back. The inside is clean but outside needs a bit of cleaning”. “I can give you this”, he continued.

The first thing that struck me at this point were the words from Alchemist – “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” The universe has been conspiring since morning, dropping us hints.

Anyways, we couldn’t have asked for better in that situation. Moreover, we would get to drive an Alfa Romeo :). We finally took the car.

We loaded our baggage into the car’s trunk and got into the car. I was setting the GPS and checking the controls. “Let’s have some music”, I said. Tiannan was sitting besides me who started looking for AUX input. He couldn’t find one. All of us joined him in the search. We couldn’t find either. Dammit! There was no AUX input in the car!

Although the universe conspired, it didn’t conspire completely. We had to manage with Italian radio and Hari’s ingenious compositions :).

Finding Alessandra

May 5, 2012 5 comments

“Folks, let’s find a name for her”, I said to Hari, Lei and Tiannan as we drove out of our hotel for dinner. “Last year, we found a nice name for Hari’s. Monica! Now, let’s find one for mine.”

“Maria” “Julia” “Martha”… suggestions poured in but none felt right. After sometime, I said, “What about Alessandra?” I thought about it for sometime, “I like this name. She was nice and sweet”. Everyone agreed. “Yups, that’s a nice name”. “Ok then, Alessandra it is”. I was glad that we finally found a nice name for her :).

Earlier that evening, we checked in our hotel at Stintino in Sardinia. We had booked four single rooms. The lady at the front desk showed us the rooms. Although the rooms were nice and sea-facing, they were not together. We requested her to give us rooms near each other. She gladly agreed and showed us around.

Once the rooms were finalized, we started asking her lot of questions. “Which is a good restaurant here?” “Which are the nice spots?” “Where can we get good view of sunrise and sunsets for photography?” and many more. Although she struggled in her English, she tried her best. She patiently tried answering our queries.

She was leaving after handing us the room keys. I liked something about her. She had a very gentle and friendly demeanor, and she always had a smile. I asked her, “Senora, what is your name?”. “Alessandra”, she replied. “Grazie Alessandra :)”, I replied back.

And she is my Alessandra, always cheerful, like the Alessandra whom I had met :).

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