Everybody needs a home away from home. For many it is a religious center – a temple, a church and for the atheists, their favourite pub with the gods bearing first names Jimi or Bob. For us, and I’ll briefly introduce the “us”, its Hotel Airlines. While starting off on Part I of this blog, the intent was to talk more of the “us”. It was only after the start that it dawned on me – while 4 of us meet at the place regularly, what bonds us was the 5th entity - the place itself. So Part I went in describing the place and the emotions it whips up.
Everybody needs a home away from home. Where they feel welcome and even if they don’t feel welcome, they don’t mind. You can’t be a guest at your own home, can you!? The waiters at Airlines go all-out in ensuring you feel at home. As mentioned earlier, there are lines drawn with wands that separate each waiter’s ‘area’ of tables from the others’. Like a friend puts it, these are Lines of Control and are taken very seriously. Ask something of a waiter from the enemy territory and the cold stare he gives along with the wave of the finger, suggesting “barthaare (he’ll come shortly)”, makes you feel like it’s a happy birthday party in Alaska – in your birthday suit. Few patrons have dared ask twice the same waiter, the whereabouts of his area’s designated man. Once bitten at Airlines and you’d be as shy as a newly-wed on the first night (strictly talking arranged marriages here). Trying to encroach upon another’s territory is like expecting breakfast before the gods have been given their quota of morning calories in an Iyengar household. That’s how much the waiters make you feel at home.
Asking for a tea/2, initiates a series of actions that would be banned in any self-respecting middle-eastern country. The WHO’s executive committee in its collective wisdom would yell out “WOO HOOO” upon spotting the hygiene levels. Empty glasses left in the open make you question authority. But the ones at Airlines start off an entire game of 20Q. The tap plays the role of Director, Make-shift Sink, c/o Massive Tree. Few swirls like those done by a Romanian gymnast later, precise-yet-meaningless, and the water is thrown on the ground you stand on. The waiter then proceeds to quickly split the tea into two. A deft flick of the hand is all it takes. What they miss out on quality, they make up with the metric system. An eye-to-eye check of the glasses, held at mid-riff level is undertaken to ensure both patrons who sought the tea/2 are given equal volumes of the tea.
None of the waiters ever make eye-contact unless provoked or seriously threatened. Their vision settles on a spot of “No Smoking” on a distant wall, easily recognizable by the hoard of smokers under it. Looking at you and acknowledging your presence, is in their books, putting the two of you on an equal plane. He may serve you two and take your money. He may obey a few of your commands and still like you tipping him. But as true as the brew in his hand, he’s superior to you. And he knows it. Waiters of Airlines, take a bow!