I went to the waiting lounge to wait for the electronic display to announced the boarding. It was pathetic. There were only few chairs in the lounge and they were already occupied by the passengers who had arrived there the previous night to catch the EARLY morning flight. So I decided to walk around the airport and picked up the Stansted airport guide to make myself familiar with the airport plan. What if I had to plan another 9/11 attack here :)???? I know how to use the AK 47 and trying it here wouldn't be a bad idea :) isn't it?!
Aa well... it took me just about a couple of minutes to read the entire booklet and then I was restless again. What do I do to kill the time? I walked into "Boots" to compare the prices of the articles they sell in the airport shop and elsewhere in London.
I found the prices were pretty much the same. Not much of a difference? How uninteresting! Wish they had sold it at different prices and I would have found something to kill the time. I was soon tired of checking the prices and just when I decided to walk out ... I noticed that they sold sports socks at 3£ for a pair and TESCO sells it at 3£ for 3 pairs!!! Yippee!!! Something was expensive after all at the airport.
I then walked back to the waiting lounge and found a seat unoccupied. I walked fast, lest someone else occupied it. Where were all those people who seemed to be here just a few minutes ago? What had happened to everyone? Where had they all gone? I sat on the chair for a few minutes and was restless again.... I decided to check the boarding announcement again... and to my horror it read
Flight no: HG8553 Destination: VIENNA boarding now open!!!
No wonder I didn't see many people around. I ran towards the A49 gate to take the airport transit train service. There were just about 1000 people queued up ahead of me waiting to board their flights.... Oh Flippin heck!!! [Mark's favourite phrase :)....] How do I get past all these people?
To my good fortune, they opened another door and instructed us to proceed through that door.... he he he... this was good... I could sense few people gritting their teeth who had been waiting in the other queue for a long time :)... and just a couple of people like me who had arrived late were permitted to walk right through! This was unfair. Wasn't it?! :) Who cares? I got into the next lounge and I was happy.
The security cleared me and asked to proceed to the train. I stepped on the escalator and I heard the ever so famous line in London "Please mind the closing door". I thought to myself "oh! There goes my train. When will the next one be?" I reached the bottom of the escalator and was glad to find that I was the only person waiting at the door for the next train to arrive :). The display read
"The next train is within 2 minutes"
I waited for another minute and then I heard the train slowing chugging in. I was now smiling and telling myself "hey look at all those people rushing towards the door for the first carriage, while there are just a handfull of people waiting at the entrance for the second and the third car :). ahoy! Look... it is just me here ... and just another few people waiting at the entrance for the third car...
then I just looked up at the display right above the door and it read :(
Attention please. The next train has only one carriage and all passengers are requested to proceed to gate one to board it.
No wonder everyone was flocking towards the single gate. I too proceeded to gate one. I was probably the last person to board :(. But I go on alright and that is what mattered at the moment. The train chugged towards the boarding gates. I could hear the announcement
"Please hold tight. This train is now approaching the terminal."
When I heard it for the first time I was expecting the train to go through a dangerously curved track or something... :) but it was almost travelling in a straight path and sometimes Dooooooooooooooooooooooooown and then sometimes up...
I got off at the boarding gate and proceeded to the next waiting lounge. I saw a young couple with two kids - a boy and a girl. The husband was particularly very handsome :) and he was feeding his daughter. I find it so amusing that Dads in Britain take care of their children more than the moms. You see the dads holding their child or pushing the baby cart while shopping or walking with them in a park. You see them feeding the child in a restaurant. You seem them explaining a science concept in a museum. You seem them dropping off their child at school. I recommend that every Indian Dad be sent to UK for a few days to learn and take up more responsibilities. Not that all Indian Dads shun away from their responsibilities, just that a few do and also most of them just hand the baby to the mother if it starts crying or when it is time to feed or change.
There was a commotion at the checkin counter and I saw an "easyjet" attendant running towards the huge window signalling frantically with her hands what appeared to me like... "NO... DON'T"... as she was waving her arm wildly and at the same time blabbering something on the walkie talkie....
I saw another young man running behind her and shouting "that is not her fault. You can't do this to her". I looked out of the window and saw that two people - a man and a woman were disembarking from the plane and walking back towards the waiting lounge. I also saw the luggage trolley being manoeuvred towards the flight probably for getting the luggage off the flight. I'm sure in India this would have drawn a lot of attention. But none of the passengers there seemed to be bothered or they were too good at suppressing their curiosity. I saw a few more people getting off the flight and walking back. May be they didn't have the right papers. Someone too curious asked the girl as to why she had to get off the flight and she replied "you wouldn't want to know it" and walked off.
Then I saw the screen above me displaying "HG8553 passengers please proceed towards boarding" So I walked up to the counter and then began the series of questions again.
The person at the counter asked me
"So... are you an Indian citizen?"
[You moron. If you have my passport in your hand and it says "Republic of India" do you expect me to be a citizen of Guatemala?]
I replied "yes I am"
"Do you have a valid visa to enter Austria"
[Nope.I'm on a secret mission and I don't want the intelligence agency to know where I am. So I intend to fly without a valid visa and just hope that the immigration people don't notice me.
Can't you see there is a VISA in my passport that reads "Schengen VISA"?]
I opened the page that had the visa stuck on it.
He called another person and said
"She has this visa. Is it valid in Austria?"
[Unbelievable! It was issued by by the Austrian embassy. What do you expect? That it is not valid to enter Austria with? You got to be kiddin me!]
The other man read aloud "Schengen Visa?" and added "O yes. This is valid. Sorry mam it is our duty to cross verify. Sorry for the inconvenience caused. You may now proceed for the boarding"
I smiled and replied..."thats ok. You were just doing your job." and then boarded the flight.
The cabin crew greeted me with "Hallo. guten Morgen. wie Sie heute sind?"
It translates to "Hello. Good morning. How are you today?"
[YEAH!!! Like you care]
I replied "good morning. Fine thank you!"
Finally I was on my way to Vienna.
British Airways would have charged me 187£ to fly to Vienna whereas Airberlin -- NIKI charged me only 98£. Robin had told me that no food would be served on board a cheap flight. I would probably have to buy some. But the journey was only 2 hrs. So I didn't really mind. I could always eat something on landing at Vienna.
I had requested for a window seat and was hoping to take a few pictures. I was all set to take some pictures and then I noticed that it wasn't really worth taking any pictures. The landscape is not very beautiful around Stansted.
There were no individual television monitors either:(. There were a few hanging:) around and we had to just watch them. Headphone cost 1.5 Euros. So no music either :(. Not that 1.5 Euros was very expensive to buy head phones on flight but they only had a few English and German stations playing.
Next was the safety announcement. Can you believe that the safety announcements were made in German? So people who don't understand German will not be briefed with the safety procedures on flight? Yeah you could make out what they were saying as you could actually see them showing where to find your shwimmer suite(he he he another word that I learnt while I was there) another phrase I learnt was "unter Ihrem Sitz" which means "under your seat"... doesn't take a genius to deduce that isn't it :)?
I was settled comfortably in my seat looking out of the window. I turned my head and saw a German woman (with prominent masculine facial features) scowling at me.... probably wondering "where is she from? Why is she going to MY country?" or something on similar lines :). The young couple I had seen at the airport was seated in front of me with their kids.
I watched Mr Bean. O BTW, did you guys know that Rowan Atkinson is a graduate from Oxford University? I couldn't believe it either when I heard that at Oxford. He looks too dumb to be a graduate from that prestigious institute :). I watched Donald Duck as well... and a little bit of some serial whose concept was on the similar lines of "Candid camera".
Then they served us breakfast."ooo wow!! So I don't have to bother about finding food on landing at Vienna." I was served a sandwich that contained carrot pieces and something that tasted awful like grass. yuck! not that I have tasted grass :) but I'm sure that is how bad it would taste. That was the best food I could get as that was the only vegetarian food they served on flight :(.