Regardless, I don't rant everyday but its time to let off some steam.
Last time I flew to India for business, I brought all my food with me. Not that there's so much Kosher food to eat in India to begin with, but I brought everything: cereal, boxed milk, tuna-fish, pitot, a bunch of manachama (manot chamot) [just add hot water for an instant meal], and bottled water.
I sparingly ate every meal knowing that there was no margin of error, and I didn't want to get stranded without any Kosher food.
After a few days, it was time to fly home to Israel, via London and I was thrilled that I'd have a "normal" kosher meal on the plane, even if it was "airline food".
During check-in, I double checked to ensure that my kosher meal was in fact reserved, and I'd be receiving it on my flight. All was in order.
Luckily for me, this leg of the trip was in business class and I sat in the upper deck of the plane (you'll soon see why this factoid is important for the story)
About 30 minutes into the flight, the stewardess (air-hostess? what's the proper politically correct term?) came by and reassured me that my kosher meal would be ready shortly. My stomach growled in anticipation -- I guess there's something about flights that makes one hungrier than usual, and having spent the week rationing my food, I was famished.
Meal service began.
Meals were given out one at a time, as I hungrily looked on in anticipation...one more minute...and I'd have "normal" food for the first time in a week.
And then, the stewardess smiled and presented my meal to me.
A linen napkin covered tray with steaming hot food, smiled at me.
"Excuse me," I said, "I ordered a Kosher meal."
"This is a Kosher meal," stated the stewardess, as she smiled and pointed to a piece of paper written in Hebrew, Yiddish and English which was neatly lying on the tray.
Shaking my head in hungry disbelief I asked, "didn't you see that the entire tray was wrapped in plastic, with big red letters on it, "ONLY TO BE OPENED BY THE PASSENGER", and that the hot dish of the meal had the same warning on it?"
The stewardess smiled back, "This is India. They didn't want you to feel bad that your meal looked different than everyone else's, so food services opened up your meal, and we heated it up with everyone's food, so you wouldn't feel different than everyone else ."
It took a minute for all this to sink in.
"Do you know that I'm not able to eat this now?" I asked?
The stewardess sighed.
I asked her if she could look out the window of the airplane for a second, and if she could read what it said in big letters on the wing.
"DO NOT WALK OUTSIDE THIS AREA," she read from the wing.
"Exactly!", I said, "Maybe...just maybe someone in the India ground crew thought the wing would 'feel bad,' and walked all over the wing. After all, you can walk on other parts of the airplane, but not that specific part of the wing, and we wouldn't want the wing to feel differently, would we? Even though there's a clear warning on it, how do we know that no one walked all over it?"
The stewardess nodded her head seriously and said, "You're absolutely right. Would you like anything else to eat?"
She managed to find me some fruit and a coke.
Ten minutes later I was surprised when a member of the cockpit crew, perhaps the Captain or Co-pilot walked over to me.
He bent down to talk to me and in a very serious voice said, "We radioed back to Bangalore airport. Apparently, the person you saw walking on the plane's wing was a fuel technician, and he is specially trained where he is allowed to walk on the wing, and where not to walk."
I stared at him in disbelief.
"I didn't say I saw someone walking on the wing," I blurted out, "I was trying to make a point by the comparison of my meal to the wing, and how instructions should be listened to..."
The cockpit officer gave me a puzzled look, and said, "I thought you would be happy to know that the person you saw on the wing knew where he was allowed to walk."
"Thank you," I said, "I'm very relieved now," and he turned around going back into the cockpit.
No one seemed to "get it."
And why am I reminded of this now?
I'm going back to India soon, and needed to apply for a visa. The procedure required that I provide my current and expired Israeli passports, as well as my US passport to the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Now, my US passport was very recently issued and is therefore a "USA Electronic Passport". You can tell from the weird symbol underneath the "United State of America"that this is a genuine electronic passport.
The exciting features of an electronic passport include some of the following (but isn't limited to)...
* Securely stored biographical information and digital image that are identical to the information that is visually displayed in the passport;
* Contactless chip/RFID technology that allows the information stored in an Electronic Passport to be read by special chip readers at a close distance; and
* Digital signature technology that is used to verify the authenticity of the data stored on the chip. This technology is commonly used in credit cards and other secure documents using integrated circuits or chips.
Sounds great, right?
Located on the inside back cover (where the electronics are located) is a message in clear, bold, block letters:
THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS SENSITIVE ELECTRONICS:
FOR BEST PERFORMANCE, DO NOT BEND, OR PERFORATE,
OR EXPOSE TO EXTREME TEMPERATURES
Imagine my surprise when I received my Israeli passport with the new visa to India in it and all my other passports...AND THEY WERE ALL STAPLED TOGETHER BY THEIR BACK COVERS.
The "do not perforate" rule doesn't apply to India...(after all, you wouldn't want your passport to "feel bad" that other passports can be perforated, and not new US electronic passports...so who cares what it says...who cares if it ruins the electronics?)
Will this affect the validity of my US passport, now that it has 7 pairs of staple marks in the back cover, probably ruining all the high tech invested in it?
Probably not yet, but I doubt the friendly people in TSA will care or even believe me when I say, "it's not my fault, the Indian embassy in Tel-Aviv did it," as they drag me off to one of those newfangled full body naked scanners.
PS: My travel agent informed me today that the airline I'm flying on from India to London leg of my trip, no longer offers Kosher meals when leaving India. I guess following directions proved to be impossible...
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