Friday, June 12, 2009
Hell on air
I am writing this while on official business in Butuan City. The last time I was here, Martial Law was still in effect and I was still wearing short pants so I really didn't have any memory of the place. But Butuan City (and Agusan, for that matter) has always intrigued me because of its rich archaelogical sites. In case you don't know, they were able to excavate balangays (boats) that date back to pre-Spanish times, which further proves that the Philippines had its own civilization and culture even before Magellan came to the country.
I intend to write about my Butuan experience in another post. Right now, I will rant about one of the worst traveling experiences I've ever had: my flight coming here aboard PAL. Fortunately, it was a relatively short trip - 1 hour 15 minutes.
As required by company policy, we had to take PAL to Butuan. I really don't have major issues with PAL - in fact, I've only flown Cebu Pacific a couple of times and only because there wasn't a PAL flight available then.
I had the misfortune of being seated next to a guy who was reeking of alcohol and vomit - clearly, he went straight to the airport from an overnight drunken revelry. His body was draped like a crumpled rug on the plane seat and many parts of his appendages were encroaching on my space. I don't know if there is a rule against allowing drunk people to board planes, but there really should be.
And behind me was a gang of Japanese macaws. They must have been in a real hurry and didn't have time to meet prior to boarding because it looked like they were conducting a very contentious meeting 25,000 feet above sea level. The guys kept on talking the whole time. In Niponggo! I didn't know which was worse, the fact that I couldn't understand a word they were saying or the fact that I couldn't understand what they were saying.
Worse, there was a low pressure area in the Visayas and the flight was a little bumpy. My right ear was stuffed and I was in pain.
Fortunately, I had an audio novel stored in my ipod so I decided to practice diverting the pain by concentrating on something else.
Twenty minutes into the flight, they started serving food- or what passed for it: A small packet of nuts the size of those Happy peanuts packs that cost one peso per pack and a packet containing two biscuits. When the cabin attendant serving drinks reached my seat, I automatically looked up and quipped "juice, please." I fly PAL almost every other week so I knew they served funny tasting orange juice in plastic packs. The guy (Michael John something) heaved an impatient sigh and said something which I couldn't hear because I was wearing ear plugs. When I noticed that he was still standing there, I took my earplugs off and heard him say "Just coffee, tea or water only, sir" in an annoyed way.
"Uh, okay, coffee then," I told him. Thereupon he plunked down black liquid in a styropor cup on the panel in front of me. The cup didn't even contain half a cup of coffee. I checked those of the other passengers nearby and noted that they also didn't get a full cup of coffee. I was seated towards the back of the plane so it was obvious that he was rationing what seemed like the last kettle of coffee among the passengers. In short, tinamad kumuha ng bagong kettle of coffee at pinagkasya na lang kami sa natirang coffee.
That cabin attendant was really surly. He should have taken the day off instead of inflicting bad mood on everyone else. When the passenger in front of me asked for a newspaper, he actually had the nerve to tell the passenger that there were "no newspapers available anymore." It was probably true, there were no newspapers available anymore, but he could have said it in a more courteous way.
To cap it all, 30 minutes prior to landing he came around and told me to turn off my ipod. I checked my watch and wondered why we were descending earlier than scheduled. Ten minutes later, the pilot announce the descent and that's when he asked that all electronic gadgets be turned off. In short, the cabin attendant just seemed intent on annoying passengers.
Rain was beginning to pour when we got off the plane and guess what, there were no umbrellas available for those of us disembarking from the rear side of the plane. We had to stage an impromptu one hundred meter dash competition.
As if things couldn't get any worst, there were a swarm of porters that got in our way at the very cramped baggage collection area. They didn't turn on the baggage conveyor belt - obviously that would have deprived the porters of the opportunity to fleece money from passengers. So this meant that passengers had to pick up their bags right where they unloaded them.
Fortunately, our welcoming party turned out to be such a gracious host. Right after lunch, he brought us to the Butuan Museum. That lifted the dark clouds that seemed to hound us on the way there.