Get me to the airport on time!

I flew to Calcutta on Tuesday evening by the 6.30 PM SpiceJet flight for a series of meetings on Wednesday. What is remarkable is that I flew at all! But for a concerned and dedicated call-taxi driver, I never would have made it. Mind you, I left the office at 4.30 PM, made it home by 4.45 PM (TIDEL Park to Perungudi) along with the call-taxi. My wife had already packed for me, so a quick change of clothes and I was in the taxi heading for the airport at 5.00Pm, with a full hour left for the counters to be open to check in. So I was pretty confident and relaxed, because it usually takes about 40 minutes, even during that time of the evening. It can get quite unpredictable if one starts out later in the evening.

What I had not factored in was the campaigning for the local body elections! We turned left at LifeLine Hospital at Kandanchavadi and headed towards the Velachery Link Road without much traffic. But soon as we reached Velachery Link Road, all hell broke loose. Apparently Stalin was in Velachery and its vicinity, campaigning for the DMK candidates. There was bumper to bumper traffic inching along in both directions. With many adventurous souls in various vehicles also plying off the road, avoiding pedestrians, shops and other vehicles like some dodge ’em contest. It was chaos. So, as soon as we made it to the right turn towards Taramani, I had him turn and get out of the mess. This is a narrow road with regular traffic at the best of times, but it was a highway compared to the main road!

We got near Taramani and had to decide whether to turn left towards the Velachery Road or go straight to Taramani, then along the narrow road that shirts the IIT to Sardar Patel Road. Emboldened by our experience of getting there, I had him turn left towards Velachery Road. But somewhere along the way, we missed a fork and landed up once more on the Velachery Link Road! Once again, at the new TCS BPO, I had him turn right and head off towards the Velachery Road. All was well, and we went along steadily- until we passed the Guru Nanak College on the Velachery Road itself. As we approached the signal where the Velachery by pass joins it, we saw a massive jam ahead. With everyone driving any which way. My heart sank!

My driver too took matters into his own hands, and tried driving in the opposite carriage way to get somewhere. But the traffic was hopelessly gridlocked (naturally!) I looked at my watch- it was 5.40 PM! I had twenty minutes left to get to the check in counters. Our travel desk called to say SpiceJet was insisting that I be there by 6.00PM or the counters will close (I hope that supervisor is caught in a similar situation some day!), and absolutely no grace time was possible. I told my driver that this was the situation. He looked at me carefully, saw the concern and anxiety on my countenance, and his face set with determination with his jaw out thrust. He leaped out and approached the auto jammed against us at the back. He convinced the auto and the motorbikes piled behind us to make way, and started backing down the road in the narrow gap created between the side walk and the traffic (In the opposite carriage way mind you!)

Soon he was able to back into the parking area in front of a shop and head down the road towards Velachery. Turn right on to the by pass for about half a kilometre, the right on to the banks of a huge lake. The road that skirted the lake was ideal for testing shock absorbers, for the ride felt like a cross country rally across the bad-lands! I hung in there, numb and with my fingers and toes crossed, yet not convinced we’d ever make it. After a long stretch, he turned right on to a narrow road, sped down it for a ways, then left into a crowded residential area. I think he yelled “Adambakkam” over his shoulder as he soldiered on. Through myriad roads and lanes, then down into a subway, and what appeared to be a main road. He sped along this, and lo and behold, turned on to the highway to the airport near the Radisson! Now he took off like a bat out of hell, speeding down along with the likes of much more powerful vehicles like the Accent and the Honda City. To tell you the truth, I have never been in a gas powered call taxi at those speeds, but he pulled up in front of the departure terminal one at precisely 6 PM!

I charged in to the SpiceJet counters, ready to do battle, but was completely disarmed by a charming young lady who informed me the counters would be one for some more minutes and not to worry. So I made it for the flight, thanks to a concerned call-taxi driver who made it his life’s mission for that twenty minutes to get me to the airport on time! I did tip him handsomely for his trouble, but I really should get his name and send a letter of appreciation to the call-taxi company. It’s good to know there are people with big hearts like him (God bless him!) around in our city. Life is that much better for everyone because of them.

9 Comments so far

  1. Navneeth (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

    Good work, Mr.Call-Taxi Driver! :D

  2. Mukunth (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 10:01 pm

    Good that you caught your flight…but, driving like a lunatic is not something to be “thanked”…we have enough of these “kind-hearted” call taxi drivers. Have you ever wondered what the others would have thought about that particular driver?

  3. Mehak (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 10:01 pm

    Good to know David that with the taxi driver’s help you were able to reach the Airport on time…But these same drivers drive rashly & are a cause of concern…atleast for me…am just too scared of them…they like to honk honk all the way,overtake from the wrong direction,don’t use the word line-sense with them….But they help their passengers reach there destinations ON TIME :)

  4. David (unregistered) on October 14th, 2006 @ 10:16 pm

    I know how rashly they are capable of driving as I face them on the OMR every day. This guy was a better driver though- not the honk, honk variety and a fairly safe driver. Perhaps he was the exception. I didn’t have my heart in my mouth because of his driving for sure!

  5. Nastikan (unregistered) on October 15th, 2006 @ 5:36 pm

    It’s not hard to get drivers to break rules and drive like maniacs, I wish there was a way to make them drive sanely. One driver called me Anniyan when I told him I’d give him a good tip if he stayed within the lines.

  6. Danesh (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 1:07 am

    Rule of thumb: start 2.5 hrs before for a domestic flight and 4 hrs early for an international flight. Has always worked for me.

  7. SLN (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 2:39 am

    Moral of the story 1: Breaking rules in OUR favor is to be appreciated. That coming from a vehement critic of traffic indiscipline in Chennai’s roads is the irony.

    (Real)Moral of the story 1: Same as Danesh’s


  8. Dinesh (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

    Hello David,

    Nice experience, i once missed a flight because of traffic. Had to take the next flight. Not a pretty sight when you came all this way and you see your plane just running on the runway:)


  9. Sivakumar (unregistered) on October 26th, 2006 @ 1:59 am

    David, nice to hear that you reached the airport on dot. But best thing you could have done is to take the Bypass road to Chrompet from Perungudi.. no traffic hassles, only possibility of delay is the railway gate at Chrompet, still its easy to get through. Far better than the route you chose to travel.

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