I don't know why I remembered this. These incidents happened a long time ago, in 2007, during my first US trip as an adult.

July 12, 2007

I'd boarded the UA flight from Frankfurt to DC that morning.

1. At cruising altitude, but before we even reached the Atlantic, I sensed a commotion behind me. Turned out that this young south Indian couple with a young girl and an infant were looking to sit together. Their seats had not been assigned properly. I was shocked that their seats were in a row that did not include bassinettes. How on earth were their boarding passes assigned? Poor lady, having to sit with an infant for so long...

I looked back, wondering how the airhostesses would manage this, whom would they ask to vacate the middle row for the bassinette. Well, to my astonishment, they didn't. The South Indian couple were given three seats, instead - one two rows behind mine, and two just behind mine. And then, suddenly, the airhostess saw that the seat next to me was vacant and quickly amended herself, and asked the man to come and sit beside me.

That was surprising - why must he sit beside me when there was a seat already assigned to him, just as far from his wife and kids as the seat next to mine? There didn't seem to be any rationale except for clubbing the obvious Indians together in four seats and two rows.

Also, I know it for a fact that airlines are very accommodating of children so it seemed incredible that the poor wife and infant and toddler had to sit still for the entire length of the flight. AND it was a long-haul flight (at 9 hours, it took longer than Delhi-Frankfurt). I did not suspect anything except for extremely inhospitable behaviour on part of the stewardesses.

2. On the flight, we were being served beverages. I hadn't flown international since I was a child, so I politely enquired which beverages were available - a natural enough question, phrased in a clear accent. That is when it happened.

The air-hostess, an older woman, probably in her forties got an edge to her voice - noticeably - as she said that there was coke and sprite. I found it surprising that there were only two items on the menu. You see, I was hoping for some juices. Nevertheless I ordered coke.

Then it was Andhra man's turn. Note that his speech was very polite, with none of the self-entitlement and over-loudness that characterises the Bad Indian Traveller.

Stewardess: What would you like to drink, ma'am?
I: Could I know which drinks are being served?
Stewardess: There's coke and there's sprite and orange juice. *repeating herself* Beer is $5 a can.
I: (That's all?!?) Oh, I'll have a coke, please. Thank you.
Stewardess: *gives me a coke*
I: Thank you.
Stewardess to Andhra man: What can I get you?
Andhra man: Beer, please.
Stewardess: Beer? *she pulls the cart closer to her*
Andhra man: Yes, please.
Stewardess: That's $5 a can, sir.

I call that uncalled for. She was pretty loud, and had stated the price earlier on. It didn't make sense that she repeat herself within 20 seconds. I felt then that she was underscoring the fact that the alcohol came with a price.

Andhra man: Yes. *Felt in his pocket*
Stewardess: *Remained standing*
Andhra man: *Took out wallet and handed stewardess a $5 bill*
Stewardess: *Pocketed it and THEN rummaged in her cart* *No thanks were given*

I found that bizarre.

What was even more bizarre that when the stewardess moved to the row adjacent mine, populated by a white family of four, she immediately handed to the children a couple of coloured cans which did not look remotely like Coke or Sprite. I'd never seen the words Ocean Mist before. I was intrigued and wished I'd been offered that green and purple can. The parents were offered cranberry juice, something I'd never tasted before and wished I could. But I'd been told there was only coke and sprite on board the flight. Hmm. I wished that there'd been a menu in place... I'd lost my drink!

The bizarre feeling of something not-quite-right returned when some time later, the Andhra man requested a second beer of the same stewardess. He was again reminded that it cost $5, even though he was already taking out his wallet as she approached. And she again waited for him to tender the money before giving him his beer.

I did not like her behaviour - it was not AS hospitable and courteous as her behaviour to the white people who sat adjacent and in the row after mine (the two men in the next row asked for beer and were given it immediately. They paid up on the stewardess's way back.)

3. Father and mother enjoy going to Ross. They can pick up loads of t-shirts for the children back home, and I've found some good reasonably priced shorts fairly often.

I was carting a load of clothing into the dressing room, and miscounted them. I asked the Asian lady (I think she was Chinese) for the tag that said 8, whereas I should have asked for the one that said 9. When she was counting out my clothes, I said, oh excuse me, I'm sorry, please give me the tag for 9 pieces.

Asian lady: *loud, accusatory voice* You should have counted them properly.
I: Yes, I'm sorry.
Asian lady: *fetching tag* Are you Mexican?
I: *I was dumbfounded* What!??
Asian lady: *holding tag, not giving it to me* Are you Mexican?
I: Me? No!
Asian lady: *Still holding tag, not giving it to me* Then what are you?
I: I am Indian!
Asian lady: *giving tag* Oh, Indian. Okay, be careful then.

The sibling had often laughed that he was considered Mexican. I thought that's a natural assumption, given our complexions. But when I recounted the same to my sister-in-law, the Kelliebeans, she was livid. Mexicans, apparently, are notorious for being shop-lifters. SO! Can't say I agree with or approve of the racial profiling. If at all anyone shop-lifts, they would mostly be teenagers than any person of colour.

That was the account of my first flight to the US and my first shopping-for-clothes-experience in the United States of America.
toujours_nigel: BFT (Default)

From: [personal profile] toujours_nigel

unh. wow. *insert frustration at racism*

i'm not sure which is worse, the assumption of penury, or that of thievery.

but, well, gah, all the same.
dhobikikutti: earthen diya (Default)

From: [personal profile] dhobikikutti

Short answer - yep, that's racism. Long answer to follow when I get back home on Monday.


oddnari: (Default)
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