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It all began at seven thirty in the morning, as I stood – stooped to one side by the weight of my laptop bag – in a long line of similarly dressed and contorted men and women, before the hallowed ground dominated by large hulking voyeuristic machines and khakhi colored sentries armed with dongles which went beep, everytime they hit a steel kneecap. Welcome to security check  at Mumbai Airport’s Terminal 1B. When I wasn’t shifting from one foot to the other, or moving my burden from one shoulder to the other, I was glancing at my watch in disbelief. 22 minutes and 37 seconds. This was like watching sludge move in slow motion. And I am a patient man… so I could only imagine the plight of my fellow laptop shifters who aren’t endowed with an adrenalin valve. So we have the

1) Quarterbacks: Offensive humans who make it a point, every five minutes, to break the line and walk indignantly down the serpentine queue till the end, trying to figure out what the blasted problem is. And then trying very surreptitiously to insert themselves in the queue several paces ahead of where they had left it. These people are brash and brazen – stopping every body in an airline suit and expecting them to provide an answer to the question “Why me?”

2) Linebackers: Defensive humans whose job is to detect, block, tackle and if necessary pummel-to-death quarterbacks trying to cheat with the actual number of yards traveled. This tussle could end with either side winning, depending on who is larger, or louder or who doesn’t have testicles. Linebackers are often joined by other linemen in the tackle – and then typically the quarterback has to slink away with his laptop bag strap between his legs.

3) Coaches: These are the modern day spiritual gurus. Having achieved fame and fortune, these people are wise and charismatic. They are usually flanked by a loud starry-eyed bevy of fans who hang on to every loud, pretentious and totally unnecessary word that comes out of the coach’s mouth, paying their unabashed respect with loud shrill laughter that sends the quarterbacks running again. The coaches have an opinion about everything, from an accurate analysis of the reason for the delays to how swine flu can never affect them as they have the B+ blood type. (It’s true… I heard this!) Coaches enjoy the queue and feed on the human detritus around them – intervening tackles and dispensing with nerve-wracking advice on patience and superior human values – completely missing the fact that it is because of them that the queue is unbearable.

4) Sulkers: These guys never amounted to much in life. They don’t amount to much in the queue either. Standing anonymously like a bead in a string of sweaty beads, they shake their heads in silence at the unfairness of it all. They create vivid mental pictures of how they would jump in the air and decapitate the obnoxious coach behind them, in a Matrix-style kick to his empty head – but all they end up doing is burn a hole by staring at the nape of the neck belonging to the guy in front. Sometimes, one of these sulkers can explode like a soda bottle which is shaken a bit too much. Sulkers are serial killers in their heads. Brrrrr….

… and then there are the FMDAs (see title). Quarterbacks I can deal with, Linebackers I admire, Coaches I can blank out – but FMDAs – I feel like decapitating their foul heads with a matrix style kick. And there are so many of them.

And the unusually long and useless segue was for this particular FMDA who was two paces in front of me in the queue. For the entire 28 minutes that it took to reach the x-ray machines, he talked loudly on the phone, left the line twice – once for coffee and once to wet his shoes and generally made it clear to everyone around him that he was the king of the universe. As my heart leapt in silent celebration for reaching the end of my tiresome vigil – I heard FMDA loudly announce the meaning of his life.

“Shit!”

He turned around and started waving his boarding pass printout wildly, possibly showing the rest of the losers in the line how smart he was to have done a web check in. I soon realized, as I saw the white sheet of paper in his hands, what the problem was. FMDA had found the limit to his smartness and forgotten to get it stamped at the check in counter.

“Hey! Jet Airways!”

Everybody in earshot turned around, half expecting a man dressed like an airplane (like the life-like Mickey Mouse at Disneyland) to come prancing by and give him a wet towel to wipe his ass. But he was shouting at a poor line usher with a lanyard who, on not finding the prancing airline-man like the rest of us, realized, it was he who was being hollered at. Humbly he came closer to the barricade and FMDA shoved his virgin boarding pass into his face.

“Can you please get this stamped?” (just because he said please doesn’t mean he isn’t a jerk) Born into subservience, the poor usher, trembling under the hot gaze of his master, managed to mumble “Si..uh..uh..r… I cannot get this stamped…”

“What?? If you cannot get this stamped – why the hell are you standing here?”

Not to wipe your ass for sure.

“I-I… am so… sorry sir” The usher was visibly terrified now and looked like he would soon need a wet-wipe himself. And all this while the line had stopped moving. But, FMDA didn’t care. He just stood there like a defiant prince who just found out that the sun was the center of the solar system.

“Call your superior! I will lodge an official complaint!” Hearing the dreaded “C”-word, the jellyfish-usher, gathered his imaginary skirts and ran like Julie Andrews jumping over bushels of imaginary edelweiss. Meanwhile the linebackers were shouting from the back with self-righteous anger – “Hey! We have been waiting for so long blah blah…”  But FMDA stood his ground. “These airline people take us for a ride. I will lodge an official complaint!” Your mother should have lodged an official complaint with the creator for giving her a monkey instead of a boy.

Meanwhile, people started stepping around him and queue started moving again. But I kept my sights on this developing situation. The usher’s “Superior” – basically a better dressed guy who spoke better english – came bounding, “Sir, can I help you?”

“This idiot refuses to stamp my boarding pass! Now I might miss my flight becauses of him!” Because of him???? He wasnt the one who was stupid enough not to follow a simple well articulated process.

Though his eyes said “Inshallah!” – the official said “Sir, you have to get it stamped at the check-in counter with identity proof.”

“YOU MEAN I HAVE TO GO ALL THE WAY THERE TO GET THIS STUPID STAMP? WHAT KIND OF SERVICE IS THIS?? CALL YOUR SUPERIOR!!”

All our hopes of seeing Naresh Goyal in the flesh were dashed, when the Jet Airways official buckled under the constant bayonetting by the FMDA and swore on his mother that he will do everything for the prince including licking the lint between his highness’ toes. The poor guy ran like the wind, (powered by images of smelly feet I am sure), to get the print-out stamped – and the FMDA stood tall – chest out in triumph. Another victory for the glorious and all-powerful FMDA. All say hail!

I wonder what they were thinking when they wrote in the bible “The meek shall inherit the earth.” No sir. It is definitely more effective being a Fecal Matter Disposal Aperture.

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