Tuesday, December 20, 2005

All things bright and beautiful

On my flight back from the US, I was pleasantly surprised to find an air-hostess who must have been approximately 80 kilos, very tall and broad. Yes, I know, the first thing that you may think is ‘Whoa! Whoever let someone like that become an air hostess in the first place?’. I was no better, being conditioned to Indian air-hostesses (in all airlines other than Indian Airlines, I mean), who are all pretty, thin and wonderfully made up. None of them are ever over 50 kilos maximum. So imagine my surprise when I saw this lady serving the passengers on my flight.

I’m telling you this because in all my years of taking flights, she was by far the most cheerful stewardess I have ever encountered. Every single thing she said was accompanied by a smile or a pleasant ‘sure!’ to any query. And I mean EVERY single thing she said, her weight and general gait not withstanding. In fact, none of the other stewardesses on the same flight were as cheerful and none of the so-called model-type stewardesses in India have been either, in my experience.

I salute her for that. In service industries like hotels/restaurants, airlines/travel or retail, you cannot be a good employee if you are not enthusiastic about interacting with customers and have patience as well. I don’t think many people realise that. If you can’t do it well, then you shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Like these damned auto-drivers in Bangalore. Of late, I can literally feel my blood boiling whenever I have to depend on the goons to take me from one place to another – which is almost all the time, since I don’t have my own vehicle here. They not only refuse outright to take you where you want to go, they reply rudely and with an awful attitude as well. After months of taking it quietly, yesterday I found myself threatening a group of them to take me where I wanted to go without asking for ridiculous sums of money, or I would go straight to the police. Some of the funny exchanges between auto-drivers (AD) and passengers (P) I have heard about:

P: I’d like to go to XYZ?
AD: (Gives a curt rough nod ‘No’, accompanied by a smirk to indicate his disinterest in your plans)
P: I see. Where do you want to go?
AD: I want to head in the ABC direction.
P: Ah. OK, that’s the route you need then. (Indicates road ahead). Go – what are you waiting for?!

P: I’d like to go to XYZ?
AD: No, not interested.
P: How about Kerala – will you take me there then?

P: I’d like to go to XYZ?
AD: No.
P: How about up there? (Points towards the sky).

(AD stops auto to see where P wants to go)
P: Which direction are you headed?
(P gets in quietly)
P: OK. Go on then.

As you can see, nowadays the passenger is exchanging roles with the auto-driver, more or less. Or we decide where we are going based on where THEY are. Which is bollocks, because what are they ‘auto-drivers’ for then? They can jolly well sit at home or become a pilot or whatever else they want. PFFFFFTTTTT!!!!!

This, by the way, is in complete contrast with a place like Singapore, where you have orderly queues that form at a taxi-stop (similar to a bus-stop), and taxis keep coming, stopping and then moving only after the passenger gets in. They take people wherever they want irrespective of the distance or direction. After all, it is money to them and if one ride is short then the next will in all likelihood be long. Which is the way it should be.

Do I sound too derisive of India? I don’t mean to – just reflecting on my own experiences, really. There is a lot to be appreciated about India, but maybe I’ll leave that for another day.

As for the title, it is my ode to that nice stewardess.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wide and wonderful,
The lord God made them all.

Thanks for being one of the better people that were created! :-)


Sushil said...

I found the dialogues betweent he AD & P very interesting as I hate the ADs in Chennai with all my heart as well. I try as far as possible not to use the Autos and if I need to I either get someone else to do the haggling or mentally prepare myself (in emergencies) to just throw money at them and in my mind tell myself it is charity and that the guy probably needs the money. Of course my rational self doesnt like to hear that story but once in a while when one is in a hurry and doesnt have transport alternative one has to submit.

I also had received excellent customer care from an non-model like air hostess on an AirIndia flight I had taken years ago and was really happy with it. Would rather have better service than surly eye-candy :-).

wanderstruck said...

hi there..ah so i have fellow auto-hating company! air india?! wow. they are not reputed to be too great but if you say so...!