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Aisle Be Damned: The crazy world of airline travel

Last updated on: March 22, 2014 15:06 IST

Aisle Be Damned: The crazy world of airline travel

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We bring you an excerpt from the outrageously hilarious book by Rishi Piparaiya.

How do you break the ice with that pretty single co-passenger?

Why you should have all the sympathy for that chap occupying the centre seat?

And what must you do if your pilot steps out of the cockpit for a loo break?

Rishi Piparaiya's Aisle be damned has answers to all these questions and more

Here is an excerpt from the humorous book:


Whether you choose the window or the aisle seat (if the center seat has even crossed your mind, you need serious professional help), primarily depends on how much you like clouds.

Clouds are complex objects -- I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent, but I still find this 'liquid droplets suspended in the atmosphere' concept fascinating.

Where is the liquid? Why are clouds white? How is rain appearing magically out of nowhere?

And I'm not even getting into snow and hail, which are in a different league of wonder altogether.

Clouds are nice and fluffy.

If you like cotton, bunnies or candy floss, you will also like clouds.

And if you like clouds, you should sit on the window seat because chances are pretty good, unless you are goddamn unlucky, that you will spot some clouds.

When to window

In addition to giving you the opportunity to stare at beautiful clouds, window seats have these advantages.

Windows provide a natural headrest.

This is of course irrelevant if you are one of those travelers who think nothing of resting their head on a random co-passenger's shoulder.

They help to prevent mid-air collisions.

If you find yourself in a hostage situation, the probability of getting screwed is lower if you're at the window.

I mean, put yourself in a terrorist's olive-green combat boots.

Would you rather scare the living daylights out of an aisle passenger or would you ask him to move aside, so that the window passenger can step out and be your hostage?

I haven't yet had any experience as a hostage, but common sense, validated by Hollywood flicks, dictates that aisle passengers get shafted more during hijacks.

Aisle be damned

Now if you don't have a particular fancy for clouds, you could just as well sit in the aisle seat.

You will see a lot of armrests and elbows.

And strips of floor level lighting that supposedly twinkle in minor emergency situations, such as slamming hard into the ground.

From the aisle seats, you can also make a quicker dash to the exits if required.

And aisle seats are easier for people with hyperactive bladders.

The flip side of course is that your flight is ruined if you are seated next to a perpetual peer-eer, dashing back and forth to the loo.

And oh yes, stewards, and stewardesses will keep swaying up and down, but well, that is nothing to write home about…

Ugh, the center

There are absolutely nil, repeat nil, upsides to being in the center seat. Unless by some ginormous twist of fate you are seated between two models, in costume, who are heading to Ibiza for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue shoot.

Center seat are only occupied by monks, children and duffers who checked in late, Center-seat pockets are the waste buckets for window and aisle passengers, who shove in chewing gum, chocolate wrappers, used diapers, snorted tissues and insect parts when no one is looking.

Center-seat occupants deserve sympathy, a pat on the back and any loose change in your wallet.

Kindly click NEXT to continue reading...

Please click here to purchase a copy of the book

Excerpted from Aisle be Damned by Rishi Piparaiya (Rs 250) with kind permission of Jaico Books.


Photographs: Cover of Aisle Be Damned

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When you board a plane, you have put your life in the hands of a complete stranger, who is usually too young to handle a car, let alone a 400-ton aircraft.

There are a host of items that one needs to be cognizant of when it comes to pilots and you should never hesitate to jump up from your seat and yell at the top of your lungs, "What the heck, Captain!"

If the captain boards the plane and heads straight for the cockpit, yank him out by the collar.

Shouldn't he be taking a walk around the plane, inspecting the body for cracks, tapping the engines, kicking the tires to check on air pressure and so on?

Isn't that what people do when they are going on a road trip, so why is flying any different?

Body tackle the attendant if she is taking meal trays to the cockpit during the flight.

The damn sandwiches can wait and can we get our priorities right, please? Hello, we have a plane to fly.

Ever noticed how often captains leave the cockpit to go to the bathroom?

On every flight I am on, either one or both pilots take turns to go take a piddle.

I can understand the need for a quick wee-wee on, let's say, a transatlantic flight.

But can't you hold it in for the duration of a quick Mumbai-Delhi hop?

Fling a bottle in his direction, if you see the captain exiting the cockpit to use the loo.

He can use it to pee in, while staying put at his seat instead. No one leaves the cockpit on your watch.

Captains who leave the cockpit to make conversation with friends in business class should be hung from the wings at 38,000 feet.

Pilots who venture at the way to economy, to say hello to passengers, could be given a hug, but then still need to be shot.

In this networked world of mobile phones, Blackberry, Watsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Whatnot, do they really need to step out, mid-flight that too, to make conversation?

Pilots sometimes cover the windshield with newspapers to block out sunlight.

Are you kidding me?

Tint the windows, wear sunglasses, use your palm on your forehead as a visor, but leave your line of sight clear, for God's sake.

Peek into the cockpit and throw a fit if you see this happening.

Other aspects of captaincy

If you have any technical questions about the airplane, feel free to ask the captain.

If you are not satisfied with his answer, ask for the instructions manual that come along with the airplane.

It will be a little booklet wrapped in plastic and you should be able to find it, dust-coated but unopened, at the bottom of the cardboard carton that the plane was shipped in. Along with the extra wires and the AAA remote control batteries.

How is it that pilots travel with such tiny suitcases and yet their clothes are always freshly ironed, crisply starched and as white as a pilot's clothes?

What's their secret? Does a dhobi tag along on the jump seat?

And why do all pilots, whether men or women, wear ties? Do they all go to the opera upon landing?

An experienced pilot earns well over $100,000 and flies about 800 hours a year.

That's $125 an hour for essentially playing Flight Simulator.

He has no monthly goals, no boss and all his colleagues are hot.

The job calls for some travel yes, but stay is at luxury hotels, meals are included and life is one long MTV Grind party.

I have a 9 to 5 job -- 9 am to 5am. I work 365 days a year, looking forward to leap years when I get a day off.

I have stiff monthly sales targets and a boss who roams around in a patent leather jacket and brandishes a whip.

I get paid peanuts, three bags reaching home every month, and I supplement my meager income by writing paperbacks during bathroom breaks for 10 % author royalty.

I am, what is known in aviation parlance, a low-cost career.

But I have never gone on strike a single day in the 15 years of my working life.

In some cultures, it is customary to deliver a vote of thanks to the pilot at the end of a flight. You should take the lead on this if other passengers are bashful.

Just identify yourself to the flight attendant as the person who will be proposing the vote and settle in at his or her landing station.

As the plane lands and taxis to the gate, announce to the cabin, "Dear all, please join me in thanking our captain for getting us here safe and sound etc..."

Sprinkle some humor by poking fun at any mistakes he made during the flight or describing any Scary moments that you all went through. That always draws some laughs.

Announcements from the cockpit

I think it is an unsaid job requirement -- pilots need to have bad diction.

Listen to the captain's announcements on the public address system very carefully.

Look out for pronunciation, quality of English, pace of speech and so on.

It's not his interaction with the cabin that concerns you, but his communication with Air Traffic Control that will determine whether you make it to ground in peace, or pieces.

So do not be shy to slip him a note with useful tips -- "Dear Captain, thank you for your report on the weather enroute. In general, can I ask you to speak a bit slower and enunciate your vowels a little more? Your well wisher in seat 14C."

If you are flying internationally, the captain will first make his announcements in the local language and then repeat it in some alleged dialect of English.

Pay close attention to the local language version -- you obviously can't understand what he is saying but observe the reactions of the passengers.

If they have not started shrieking and screaming, it means that all is probably okay with the plane.

That said, here are some announcements that you don't want to hear in any language.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking.

Am having some ummm... technical difficulties here -- does anyone in the cabin know how to help fly a Boeing?"

"Can someone remind me, where are we heading to today?"

Can the tall gentleman in 28E please be seated? You are blocking my rear view mirror."

"Folks, the autopilot system has hung and I need to Control-Alt-Delete. We will be plummeting approximately 25,000 feet until it reboots- please do fasten your seatbelts."

Can I have you attention please? Does someone have a map of the Middle East? This darn GPS doesn't seem to be working."

"Aaand we would (hic) like (hic) to thank youuuh forrr flying (hic) our ayerline (slur)."

Kindly click NEXT to continue reading...

Please click here to purchase a copy of the book


Image: Erm... who's flying the aircraft? (Picture used here for representational purposes only)
Photographs: Miguel Villagran/Staff

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Single and attractive co-passengers

If you are male, this section is probably moot because it is a well-observed fact that single women do not generally travel by plane.

It's a little surprising actually because the airports are full of pretty women who appear to be single.

They are alone in the coffee shops, or browsing books in lonely bookstores, or standing wistfully on the moving walkways.

But they never seem to board -- it's as if there is a Bermuda triangle between the gate, aerobridge and plane that just sucks them in.

Or possibly they bump into long lost husbands or boyfriends at the gate and board with them. Or maybe they all come to the airport, change their mind and then take the train instead.

In any case, all women, irrespective of their relationship status, get seated on rows 21 through 25.

It is standard check-in procedure to put them together so that they can surreptitiously check each other out with raised eyebrows, giving each other the ubiquitous woman-to-woman look over.

If you are female, this section is equally is equally moot because it is a well-observed fact that attractive men do not generally travel by plane.

It's a little surprising actually because the airports are full of attractive men who appear to be single.

They are alone in the lounges, or at the airport bars, or standing wistfully at gates checking out the attendants.

But they never seem to board -- it's as if they decided that the cricket match on the TV at the gate was actually more important than the flight itself.

Or possibly they fall into the urinals and come out disheveled and seeped in body odor. Or maybe they were all heading to the airport, but lost their way and as usual, refused to ask for directions.

That said, if the Boeing or Airbus gods, depending on who you pray to, do happen to seat you next to an unattached god or goddess, you have to make the most of it.

If even a tinge of self-doubt creeps into your mind, remind yourself that you have two critical things going in your favor.

It is an uncomfortable walk to the exit and even if he or she makes it there, it's a 38,000 foot drop to the ground. So there really is little choice for them but to listen to you.

So now that you have an attentive, and more importantly captive audience of one, listed below are a sample of mind- blowing icebreakers that should have him or her breathlessly giving you a phone number, BlackBerry pin and email ID by the time the "We will be landing shortly" announcements come on.

  • So where are you flying to?
  • Have you ever flown before?
  • Going home or on vacation?
  • Can I borrow the newspaper?
  • Hey! This newspaper has yesterday's news.
  • You are classier than first class.
  • How did a bomb like you get through security?
  • It's true! Angels do fly!
  • Was that the plane or did my heart just take off?
  • Can I redeem some miles for some smiles?
  • I hope this plane doesn't fall for you, like I have.
  • In case it does fall, can I have your name and number for insurance purposes?
  • I wish my boarding card had your photograph on it.
  • Can you give me directions to wherever you are going?
  • Lovely elbows. Do they run in the family?
  • I missed the safety demo. How does one use this seat belt thingy?
  • Do you prefer headwinds or tailwinds?
  • They're out of blankets. But you can use me.
  • Hey, want to cross the dateline together?
  • Would you fancy a visit to Khandala?
  • Hey, want to claim baggage together?
  • Hey, want to walk down the aisle with me?
  • Hi, I am SH891074532 on Shaadi.com.
  • I'm not very hungry. Shall we just share a meal tray?
  • The food is a tad bland, isn't it? Shall I spice it up with some tadka?
  • Shall I put this armrest up and we can get the party started?
  • Do you want me to help you recline?

Please click here to purchase a copy of the book.


Image: Tongue-tied on seeing an attractive co-passenger? (Picture used here for representational purposes only)
Photographs: Tom Shaw/Getty Images

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