Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rant of the Day (There's Someone on the Wing!!)

There was a time when I used to post all sorts of stories like the upcoming one. I wonder how many readers remember my infamous Manila posts, my rant about a certain restaurant in London, the origin of the Muqata Wafflemaker or Elvis the Drug Dealer...

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 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:


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 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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bec said...

best. post. ever.

if anything, i guess you could always give your passport to the guy on the wing. perhaps he'll have your meal out there as well....

Mikeage said...


And of course we remember your earlier rants^H^H^H^H^Hposts.

Commenter Abbi said...

BTW, back scatter is for EVERYONE not just the special ple

Commenter Abbi said...

BTW, back scatter is for EVERYONE not just the special ple

Mark said...

Awesome post! Reminiscent of the kinds of posts by David at Treppenwitz.

Mrs. S. said...

LOL! :-)

Cosmic X said...

Okay, this post had me in stitches!

A Soldier's Mother said...

This is so bad. I wanted to say I can't believe they did that to a kosher meal, but sadly, I can. Well, happy eating in India. Sorry to say, as much as I can imagine your've seriously succeeded in entertaining us all. Have a safe trip (happy meals).


Shira Salamone said...

Other than "carry more food," what is there to say? Oy. On the plus side, this story did make for a good post, albeit of the "roll-eyes" variety.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh, Jameel. : ) I feel for ya.....even though I cannot stop chuckling. You are such a good story-teller. : )
-- Ma Sands, USA

Leah Goodman said...

Maybe try to get ahold of some La Briute meals

there's an Israeli distributor listed here:

I saw them for sale in a supermarket on Kanfei Nesharim once, but it was years ago, so I can't say anything about their current status.

Jack Steiner said...

Waffles are the cure for what ills you. Granted they may be cold, but they hold up well.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Abbi: Its not for everyone yet, in every airport. Here's a story from a few days ago, where one woman was singled out...and she "opted out"...

Hear her story here.

Unknown said...

Alas, I feel your pain. In one trip I had two very different experiences. On a flight out to LA, I received my kosher meal all wrapped up and pretty, but upon opening it, was met with a rancid smell that instantly stunk up all of business class. I'm not sure what's better -- getting a kosher meal that you can't eat because someone else opened it, or getting a kosher meal that is spoiled and inedible.

At a client dinner in a treif restaurant later that week, I had a meal "shipped in" from another local kosher restaurant and it was like a media event. The chef (who apparently had worked previously in some other kosher establishment) told all the waiters to join him and learn the procedure. He served me the double-sealed heated meal, and some really nice (and sturdy) plasticware. He then asked me to open the food and transfer it to the plate, and then the waiters immediately removed all the foil and extra packages from the table.

The moral of the story is that you can't expect to write something and have them read and understand it. As is our hashkafa anyway, teaching by actually doing something is the only way.

Unknown said...

Jonathan Pollard has not had a "normal meal" for 25 years. He has subsisted on the kinds of foods you brought with you to India. He can never eat the regular tref food in the prison mess hall.

The frustration, pain, hunger and distress over the lack of kosher food, and the sub-normal diet you had to subsist on, was something you endured for 1 week and you got so steamed up about it you had to rant and tell everyone. Pollard has been living the same food nightmare in the extreme for 25 years and I have never heard him rant. As a result of this extreme deprivation Pollard is very ill and in a lot of pain. Still I have never heard him rant. Kinda give new meaning to keeping things in perspective, doesn't it?

Leah Goodman said...

David: Your point please? If you were to, G-d forbid sprain an ankle, would you be sure not to wince or complain since there are people who've broken a leg?

I fail to see how this is related.

Unknown said...

Leah, I am really perplexed that you do not get it. A week of living on crackers and tuna fish, made out of a conscious choice to serve HaShem by keeping His Torah, is not a tragedy. Inconvenient perhaps, but in the grand scheme of things, no big deal. Instead of being grateful for the Tuna and crackers and the opportunity to serve HaShem inspite of a bit of discomfort, you see a rant as appropriate? I see it as ungrateful. To return to the Pollard model, he uses his writing (which is very difficult for him to do from prison) to try to help others and encourage others. He does not waste his precious time and energy ranting about physical discomforts, or his tragic plight. See an example:
Your attitude Leah, reminds me of a
a recent quote from Rabbi Lazer Brody that may help. He wrote:
"A bitter person will never be grateful; and a grateful person will never be bitter."
My conclusion:
If you make the choice to serve HaShem, do so graciously and in full awareness of all of the blessings we have. Tuna and crackers is a blessing, not a curse. Ask any survivor.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I think it is you who needs to learn a little perspective. As someone who knows Jameel personally, I can tell you that he is one of the least bitter people you could ever meet. I don't see any "attitude" from Leah, just a very valid point that you chose to ignore.

Lurker said...

David: I have never heard [Pollard] rant...
He does not waste his precious time and energy ranting about physical discomforts, or his tragic plight.

Clearly, you have not read or seen very much coming from Jonathan and Esther Pollard. Contrary to your claim, they "rant" about his tragic plight consistently -- including specifically about his food. Don't believe me? Just google "kosher food" on the Pollard site. Here's a typical example: "I would not serve this food to a dog. I try to survive on tuna, vegetables."

Please note, btw, that I am mentioning this only in order to demonstrate how utterly and completly wrong you are in your unfounded assertion about Pollard. I am not, God forbid, trying to criticize Jonathan and Esther Pollard in any way whatsover for their entirely justified complaints about his plight, including their specific complaints about his food. Indeed, for me to criticize them on this point would be incredibly presumptuous and chutzpadik -- just as it was presumptuous and chutzpadik for you to criticize Jameel here.

It is you, not Jameel or Leah, who ought to be examining your attitude.

josh said...

Can't you fly El Al? When they screwed up my glatt meal to India and back, at least it was only a nine hour flight. I'm not haredi, but I don't want my warm meal heated up in the combo meat and dairy ovens.

Batya said...

Sue them! Contact the kashrut agency etc
I'm hungry just reading the story.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

David: Shavua Tov. I don't really get your point. Yes, Jonathan Pollard is in jail, and that's awful. I've blogged about it before (just do a search on the top widget of the fact, we posted about him not too long ago, here.

What I fail to see is what Jonathan Pollard has to do with this post about India, kosher food, stapling my passports together, and the twighlight zone episode starring William Shatner.

This blog is not the official Jonathan Pollard information site, since there are many of those on the web which I wholeheartedly support.

If you can't see the humour in the "rant" and instead interpret it as "bittnerness", I suggest you try to get out more.

Shavua tov!

the sabra said...

I love how they came back to report to you bout the guy on the wing LOLLL

And ps-I see David's point. Similar thoughts went thru my head, dealing with so many deaths in such a short time. But it is a gift from G-d that we are able to dwell on other things besides the intense pain.

Anonymous said...

I used to be a flight attendant, totally LOVED the job and was one of the positive, always smiling "took care of myself" kind that is a dying breed as of today.
We were trained in our classes not to open Kosher meals. HOWEVER, she was only doing what we were trained to do: make your experience a pleasant one. Her intentions were that she only wanted to make you feel comfortable and present your meal in a more appealing way.
As usual, you had to respond like a total asshole. Shame on you!

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