“Yes, Mr. Sharma, currently I see you in the economy section on flight 547 for tonight. You want to change it to business class. Right?” Sara, from the travel agency asked. “Yes.”
You’re lucky. One seat is available. I need a few details and you’ll be all set.”
I gave Sara my credit card number, seat and vegetarian meal preferences.
“Your card will be charged $3,000. Since you’ve requested the change on such a short notice, we need to get a confirmation from the airline headquarters. I don’t expect any problem. ”
A day earlier, I had hurt my back while lifting a suitcase, the reason for my change to business class. My doctor advised me to take two Tylenol tablets and rest.
My wife, Divya, applied Bengay to my back and massaged it in.
“There, there, a little down the spine.” I pointed the spot.
Divya gently rubbed the cream, her soft touch lulling me into a trance. “Ajay, you never took me in the business class,” she said coyly. “While you enjoy a four course dinner, I’m left with leftovers.”
“Divya, the four course dinner is for the first class travelers. We will go to Hawaii this winter in business class. I promise.” I hugged her.
At the airline counter there was a long line on the economy side but none on the business side. As this was my first trip in business class, I proudly walked on the red carpet, feeling as if it was spread just for me.
The airline representative at the counter greeted me with a smile. “May I have your passport, Mr. Sharma?”
“How do you know my name?” I asked and gave him the passport.
“I saw it on your luggage tag.”
“Elementary, Ajay,” Sherlock Homes whispered in my ear.
The agent got busy on the computer. “Mr. Sharma,” he said, “your name is not in the business class. It’s showing up in the economy section.”
“Did you check properly? My full name is Ajay Sharma.”
“I already checked twice. There is no confirmation for your business class.”
“Can’t you contact the headquarters?”
“Mr. Sharma, it is 10 PM. They are closed.”
My disappointment clearly showed on my face.
“Don’t worry, sir. You have a seat in economy anyway, and I have already checked-in your luggage with priority and business labels. It will be waiting for you even before you disembark.
You will not be charged for business class. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
“I’ll never travel on this airline again,” I whispered to myself.
The flight was full. My back pain kept me awake. Somewhere over the Atlantic, the airhostesses started serving dinner. “Sir, do you want Kung Pao Chicken or Seared Ocean trout?” A comely hostess inquired.
“No, not these. Actually, I have requested a Hindu Vegetarian Meal.”
“Your name, Sir?”
I told her. She pulled out a computer list from her pocket. “Your name is not here for the vegetarian meal. Sorry.”
My name disappeared mysteriously from business class and now from the vegetarian meal list. I was annoyed. “Here we go again,” I blurted.
“Sir, I know you’re upset. Did you exchange seats with any one?”
“Will egg noodles, bun, chips and some fruit be okay?”
“No, I don’t eat eggs.”
“Easy now, Sir. Let me see what I can do for you.”
Few minutes later, the airhostess appeared with my dinner, a tray with a small cup of warm cashews, a glass of wine, two small naans, hot saffron rice, gobhi, diced fruits, yogurt and ice cream.
I was pleasantly surprised. “Thank you. If you don’t mind, tell me, how did you manage this magic feat?” I asked.
“Sir, you’re lucky. It seems a business class gentleman’s reservation wasn’t confirmed so he wasn’t there, but his vegetarian meal was already onboard. I brought it for you. Enjoy it.”
I smiled. “Interesting. Would you believe if I say that I know this gentleman?”