Twenty years back there was only one reason newbie engineers flocked for interviews with IT companies. Their dream was to land in the US. It was the case with me as well as my ilk. After all we are the average of the 5 people we hang around. Many of them had “been and seen US many times” and I had the opportunity to “be with them and see them off” several times. I was getting good at “good byes” and”welcome backs”.
My entry and exit around the International airport was from one vehicle door to the other. So as I was waiting for my US boarding pass. I wondered whether I was trapped in my current skills and current positions.
An opportunity came my way in 2001. My passport was ready, the invite letter was ready then the twin tower attack happened and the conference got cancelled. I blamed it on my luck and the same trappings kept lingering on for long. The next possible opportunity came in 2014. By then new passport was ready , letter not ready and no one was ready to send me to US. So the wait for the boarding pass continued. There I was trapped again blaming it on fate. My daughter and mother got their boarding passes and have been to the US. I could have gone too, I was hell bent on a professional journey.
Meanwhile I thought let US wait. I’ve travelled to more than 15 countries in Europe and thrice To Thailand. Thanks to these trips atleast otherwise passport would have remained blank. So I knew how it feels like finally on an international flight with a “boarding pass” . But then you know how it feels when some of your hi – bye friends mention during those morning runs comparisons between different cities in US and other trappings of seeing and being in US. So then what was missing was the experience of a US traveller. In the last few years I had met several people who had lived in US, read several books and keep hearing lot of podcasts which are broadcasted in US.
The wait was over and there comes the boarding pass from the printer for a flight on the 13th Jan 2018. 20 years back I could not think of printing my boarding pass at home and leaving for catching the flight. This 14th Jan , seated on a middle seat 19F on Boeing 737 – 300 I was on my first journey from Dubai to Orlando. For the first 10 hours my co-passengers did not say anything except for the occassional glances and smiles. For the next 4 hours we spoke about everything. From life’s meanings to the mundane things. I met Mr. X and he shared his US life experiences. Mr. X was giving me a take on his life as he was living in US and its idiosyncracies and attractions. I connected with him over mail and ofcourse I shared my blogs with him as well.
A few things stood out for me in this first trip. In the next one week I had a lot of experiences. The chance encounters I experienced were very interesting .
I will never forget the Greyhound bus driver who took us from Orlando to Miami. In his baritone voice (which reminded me of my school headmaster) he mentioned that “if you get out of the bus and look around for a convenient store please keep in mind that we will drop you conveniently.”
We had a half day experience with aligators. The boat driver was an enthusiastic lady. Her announcements reminded me of a cricket commentator. She would mix a lot of jokes into the announcements. I particularly liked this line from her , “This boat runs on sheer excitement and joy, so buckle down and make some noise”. The task for me was to get us to see aligators in Everglades. She said, “I can’t promise everything but I will do everything.” On a lighter note she said , “Gallons (of petrol) are kept near your legs, but you don’t want to be the pilot.” She took us through 3 speed trails and it was one of the best experience in wildnerness.
Next we witnessed a crocodile show. The person who was doing the show started by mentioning that “if you are attacked by an aligator don’t run zig zag, just run!” I understood how he tamed aligators. He said, “He reached out when others withdrew.” His quirks were drawing a lot of applause. He would pick someone from a crowd and pull them into his conversations. Crocodiles have petty ego and their brains are small. He said,“I am ready for face a off and without me they are just a suit case.” Guess that is why they call him a crowd puller.
So the Grey hound driver , the speed boat driver and the crocodile tamer had all one thing in common. They were mixing fun with work and enjoying every moment. I enjoyed their quirks and eccentricities. Also I coined this lesson from the experiences as “Everything is now”. Maybe I was inspired by the book I had purchased before I left for Orlando ( #Now). No wonder I got fascinated with a book cover titled “Rocket Fuel” in Dubai airport and it summed up my US trip experience. In the flight, I was watching a movie and these lines caught my attention and this to me embodied my US sojourn.
Don’t talk , Just act
Don’t say , Just show
Don’t promise , Just prove
I was boarding the flight from Orlando for Dubai. One of my friend had requested to the Airline staff over the counter for a seat change and he got an aisle (my favourite). I thought I should have done it too. I felt I missed an opportunity. Later as the flight took off, I noticed that there was nobody in that row. Wow! Sometimes in life you feel you ‘ve missed a front seat , only to know that you got back what you missed with abundance (multiple seats). I slept through the flight as I got the full 3 seats.
I was in the escalator in Dubai airport. I was preparing for my next connection to Bangalore. Then I saw the Citibank billboard above as I was passing through the escalator and I immediately clicked it. To me that was the through line I was looking to summarise this visit to US. “The journey is yours. Where you take it is up to you”. I sat down, kept my “boarding pass” inside the book “rocket fuel” and waited for the announcement at the boarding gate.
I liked the airine tagline, “Arrive the Moment You Board” and as we touched down , I discerned one thing, “The future will always be bigger than your past.” But for now live your life as if ” everything is now”.