I have literally been around the world and have found my way to and from where I was going without much difficulty. But today I experienced a bit of panic as I found myself in the middle of a very busy city, in a foreign country, with no way to get back to my hotel.
I’m in Bangalore, India this week doing a training class at our office here. I arrived here on Friday night (it is now Monday night) into Delhi, and made my way here to Bangalore yesterday. As part of the travel arrangements, I booked car service for pickup and dropoff as needed. By booking the car service, I didn’t have to worry about taxis or getting to and from the office because the service is supposed to take care of all that. Well, today they had a massive fail.
Today was the third and final strike against this car service. Strike one was at the airport in Delhi when the driver was nowhere to be found. After calling and looking repeatedly, I finally found him about 30-40 minutes after I was supposed to be picked up. Apparently he opted not to go inside the airport and figured somehow I would “just know” where I was supposed to go and get picked up. No, none of the emails or other communication told me what to do. My colleague who had been here the week before praised the car service and said they were at the airport with a sign with his name on it waiting for him. Not the case for me in Delhi.
Strike two was yesterday in Delhi as I waited at the hotel for my car. 11:00am passed and no car. 11:15 came and still no car. As it got closer to 11:30, one of the guys working at the hotel asked if he could call the driver for me. Sure enough, the driver said he wasn’t coming because he had a pickup at 1pm and that I just had to deal with it. The hotel got me a drive to the airport.
I had my confirmation for a pickup today at my office for 4:30pm. I had the drivers phone number, car model, and license plate information. 4:45 came and no car. 5pm came and no car and I finally tried to call him. I had been told that the car service had “good English speaking drivers”. This guy couldn’t understand much of what I was saying and proceeded to say something about being at “the gate”.
The office is a secured area so cars have to pass through a gate. I thought maybe he meant he was there and couldn’t get through. I walked up there but no sign of his car. Tuk tuk’s were everywhere, along with many other cars, people walking, cows wandering the streets, stray dogs walking around looking for food and humping each other (that part was at least funny) and just massive congestion of anything and everything.
I went back into the office and asked one receptionist about where car services are supposed to pick us up and she had no idea. I asked another person if she could call the guy on the phone and she did. Guess what? He was on the other side of town. Thought our office was somewhere else so there was no way this guy was going to pick me up.
At this point, it’s pushing 5:15pm and I’m starting to wonder exactly how I am getting back to the hotel.
The hotel… They have car services. I called the hotel and the woman on the phone was very helpful. She said she’d call me back with information on car availability. I took a deep breath and felt better.
The sound of “Take A Picture” by Filter came on my phone and sure enough the hotel had called back. No cars available until 8pm. Uh oh.
Ok, now I’m getting a little freaked out. It’s pushing towards 5:30 and I know I can’t walk back because it’s a good hours walk, and it’s in the middle of a city I don’t know, with massive chaos on the streets. No taxis in sight and only a small, limited amount of cash on me, I go back out to the gates and look around and then it hits me, “WTF am I going to do?”
There’s no one in the office I know. I don’t speak the language. I don’t know the area at all. There’s cars and livestock wandering everywhere with a 100 horns blasting each other trying to drive through what seems to be the most chaotic system of roads I’ve ever seen.
I started to get really freaked out. As I am sure some of you know, when your mind starts to panic, rational thought goes right out the window. Yes, I probably could have gotten in one of those tuk tuk’s and found my way back to the hotel. I could have probably went back inside the office and see if they could call a taxi for me. It’s easy to think of these things now after I’m back in a comfortable room feeling a lot more calm about the situation. But at the time, I’m looking around me and all I am seeing is just chaos everywhere and no way to get out of it. I can feel my heart beating a bit faster and I know it could get worse.
I was really starting to get freaked out.
But as I looked down at my phone a light went off in my head. What about Uber?
I quickly opened the app and sure enough, there’s a ton of Uber options here. I pick my destination, say I want a ride, and 5 minutes later, I was sitting in a car on my way to the hotel. He didn’t speak much English either but he had Google Maps on his phone with my hotel dialed in. I breathed a sigh of a relief and watched the madness around me continue. He pulled up to the hotel and I thanked him feeling a huge sigh of relief.
I got out of the car, came into the hotel, and it hit me. The raw wave of emotional panic that was bundled up inside of me burst out of me as I started walking down the hall towards my room. I was just a spaghetti bowl of nerves and emotions that just erupted all over the place and it took me a good 20 minutes to calm down.
Thankfully, a very nice employee saw how distressed I was that he helped me to my room and even put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door for me. 5 minutes later, the assistant manager shows up and wants to know if I am ok, and if there is anything he or the hotel can do for me.
I’ve spent hundreds of nights in hotel rooms but I have never had a hotel seem this genuinely concerned for my welfare before. I am absolutely blown away at how gracious they are here. It’s amazing.
My nerves have finally calmed down, and after a quick chat with my wife, and a rearrangement of my car services, I’m feeling a whole lot better now. I was never in any danger. I never felt like I was unsafe. But I certainly did feel like I was stuck somewhere and had no idea what to do. In this case, it seems like Uber was the saving grace for me.
It also serves as a reminder that when things start to seem like they are spiraling out of control, you need to take a beat, and just remain calm. The “panic” of it all really didn’t hot me until I got back to the hotel and realized how spooked I was by the whole thing. It could have been far worse. I’m glad to be feeling better now.
It’s only Monday. What’s the rest of the week going to be like?