I am heading to the airport later today.
The last time The Boss and I flew out of Bangalore we had an experience which I still, many months later, find hard to believe that it actually happened.
We were headed to Thailand on a planned relocation to Bangkok and we had quite a lot of luggage. In fact we exceeded the allowable weight limit quite significantly, a fact which was soon brought to our attention by the Air India ground staff.
Having never paid for excess baggage in the past and not planning to start now we appealed to his better nature and explained that we were moving country and could he please understand. We also threw in a promise never to do it again.
For a while he looked doubtful but eventually succumbed to our angelic smiles and said ok he would let us off as long as we didn’t do it again, and said he would see us inside before boarding. Collecting our boarding passes and saying a prayer of thanks to the God of Air Travel, we walked off saying how lucky we were to find such a nice check-in staff.
We whiled away the next hour and a half at the gate, and just before boarding, the same Air India staff approached me and asked me to accompany him to the counter and to please bring my passport. Thinking that there were some final formalities to attend to, I happily followed him to the counter where he was now standing along with 3 of his colleagues.
Taking my passport he started copying down the details onto a scrap of paper. Looking up at me he said, “your luggage was X kilos over the allowable limit and I have made it under the limit so you won’t have any trouble from now on.”
“Thank you very much” I replied with a smile.
“ But now you have to make me happy” he said.
“I am sorry, what did you say?” I asked
“You have to make me happy”
Being the naive innocent young country boy that I am, I had no idea what he was talking about.
“I don’t understand what you mean” I said.
“I have reduced your weight amount and now it is your turn to make me happy”
Being a bit slow on the uptake and not for a minute thinking anything nefarious was afoot in full view of his colleagues and a plane load of passengers, I asked “what do you want me to do? Should I write you a thank you letter?”
“No, no. Please make me happy” came the reply.
“I am sorry I really have no idea what you are talking about”
Deciding that subtlety was obviously not working on the unsophisticated traveler before him, he said “you have to pay me 4000 Rupees”
Realisation finally dawned upon me and luckily my brain-cells belatedly kicked in. “Oh I see”
Simultaneously contemplating expressing my indignation in the loudest possible terms and also thinking that I had no desire to be hassled about my luggage just before departure, I decided on the simplest course of action. “I don’t have that much money on me” I said.
“How much do you have?” came the prompt reply.
Taking out my wallet and angling it so that he couldn’t see in, I told him that I had 1000 rupees on me.
“Give me that”
I handed it over and folding it he put it into his shirt pocket, his three colleagues looking on.
“Have a nice flight” he wished me and handed back my passport.
Wishing I had told him I only had 500 Rupees on me and still stunned at this blatant display of corruption, I walked back to where The Boss was sitting.
“You would not believe what just happened!”