Saturday, June 7, 2008

Arriving at New York - 23 MAY 08

On 23 May, we left for New York. After having being completely frisked at the Detroit airport - we were shortlisted for special screening - we boarded the Northwest Airlines (NA). I kinda got a feeling that we were profiled because we are Indians and perhaps, not white. Although the flight was on time, I did not like the service. There was this snooty air-purser who was oozing attitude as if he's the CEO of Northwest. Now, in US everyone has a lot of ice in their drinks, even water. So whenever we place an order, we have to outrightly and immediately tell them to go easy on ice or no ice. So when this purser came up to our seats, I asked for a glass of juice with no ice. I thought I wasn't loud enough, so I raised my voice, albeit by a bit and said it the second time "no ice please", not to be rude or anything, but in a way that I thought I wasn't loud enough in the first place.

Very snootily, he replies back "Do you see ice in here?" I didn't respond to that as I do not believe in unnecessary confrontations, but if this would have happened in some Indian based airline in India, I would have ripped his ass apart. USA may be ahead than Indian in several matters, but in hospitality industry India is the best. US airlines suck. They do not know the abc of service and are just interested in picking up passengers from one destination and throwing them at another. Unlike Indian airline companies, they do not serve food anymore. Just water, coffee and/or soft drinks. No airline knows to serve their customer better than India. You travel by any of the Indian-based airlines and they treat you like Kings and Queens. I have heard good reports about Chinese airlines too, but I have not first-hand experience there. International staff should get some training from Jet Airways or Kingfisher Airlines.

Rest of the flight was good. We took the famed NY yellow taxi and reached our hotel on Lexington avenue. I decided to venture out in the afternoon and within minutes I got lost and was stranded.
NY is a large and very vibrant and lively city. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps. It's very easy to get lost in NY the first time, but it's even easier to get accustomed to the city and then never get lost, ever again.

Manhattan - NY'S main island and the centre point of all activities - is like an island. There are streets and avenues in Manhattan. While streets run from left to right (horizontally), avenues run from top to down (vertically), depending upon from which angle you look at the map. While streets are numbered from 1 to 49, avenues are usually numbered from 1 to 10. There are a few avenues that have names - like Lexington avenue where I stayed, Park Avenue, etc., but that's not much of a problem and easy to get accustomed to. The trick to finding your way is to get to know two things - your street number and avenue number. Then you simply, meander your way through an array of horizontal and vertical rows and columns of streets and avenues to get to your destination. The best way to explore NY - and by that I mean Manhattan - is by foot. Else, you got a perfectly working underground railway, new yorkers call it Subway, or take a bus and simply stop a taxi. Like Bombay, you'll find taxis everywhere. But the Subway is my choice of getting wherever you want to, whilst in NY. It's cheap, efficient and fast. Also, like Bombay, you'll find lots of people everywhere. You don't find people walking about in Detroit, but in NY, they're everywhere. Pedestrians also break traffic rules and attempt to cross roads or even cross at many times even when the pedestrian signal is Red. And if you drive to NY and manage to find a parking spot, consider yourself to be blessed! But despite such heavy traffic, narrow roads and high population, things never comes to a standstill and they keep moving and there's an enormous amount of discipline - road discipline - to be seen there.

Anyways, I checked out Times Square, Grand Central Station and the main hall of Madame Tussuad's on day 1. In the evening, we watched a show at Broadway called 'Mama Mia'. This wonderfully crafted play has songs sung by ABBA interwoven in the story. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch a show at Broadway and I am anyways a huge fan of ABBA, so it was perfect way to spend the evening. The tickets were very steep and my pocked was light to the tune of $320 for 2 tickets. But it was worth it.

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