One-track mind on a flight

The air hostess I just paid 300 rupees to mistook the 100-rupee note for a 50, and realised her mistake only when I asked her for the change. She said she’d give it to me later because she didn’t have a 50 on her. Okay, I said tentatively, expecting her to give me an ‘I owe you’ slip as well so she wouldn’t forget. She didn’t, and moved on to serve the next row of passengers.

I was suddenly disappointed and anxious and nervous. Questions fired in my head. Would she remember? How would she remember? When was later? There was no record of the transaction that I could access, so what if she simply blows me off later? Would she and the other hostesses judge me for being so particular about a 50? An hour passed and I did remind her, mouthing ‘50’ when our eyes met with a half dozen rows between us. I will give it to you later, she repeated, and looked away.

I had been reading a book before lunch; now I couldn’t concentrate and began to play a game on my phone to distract myself. Over time, I wondered if ‘I owe you’ slips were devised for those who owe money to remember that they did, and to whom, or if they were also meant to reassure those who were owed money that they had a record of the transaction as proof that they were, in fact, owed money.

Actions that are repeated often set up expectations; if they were originally instituted to ensure the party that provided a service did so consistently and reliably, it is inevitable that those who receive the service understand that things are going according to plan, so to speak. In my case, receiving an ‘I owe you’ slip would have implied that I would be able to collect the money later with no further effort on my part. When the slip wasn’t forthcoming, I no longer knew what I would have to do to get the money back.

I am an anxious and fussy traveller and, usually, a fan of IndiGo’s services because of their rhythm-like consistency. But on this occasion, though the hostess or anyone else may not have realised, an apparently trivial deviation broke the routine.

The matter was resolved only shortly before the flight began its descent. The hostess came up to me and handed me my 50. I smiled in acknowledgment but she quickly walked away. It seemed like I was the only passenger owed change among the rows she had served. Repetitive processes are double edged; to illustrate, was I owed an ‘I owe you’ slip less or more for being the only passenger who needed it?

(One thing I have started to find annoying about travelling on an IndiGo flight is that the number of minutes for which there are announcements over the speakers seems to be increasing. I haven’t undertaken a count yet — I will on the next occasion — but from what I could discern, IndiGo has increased the amount of self-advertising. It doesn’t just do well, it also talks about doing well, like an airborne self-help guru.

Many flight service providers do this these days. But if I remember correctly, IndiGo started the practice, as if in keeping with our times where actions are meaningless without pictographic and/or videographic proofs published on social media platforms. Funnily, this also extends to the pilot telling us today that he and his copilot took a slightly circuitous route to our destination to avoid a stormy patch “only for the sake of the safety of our precious passengers”. How kind of you.)