At the check-in counter of Air Asia at Taipei Airport, I notice two things. One, the 7kg carry-on limit is for the TOTAL weight of both carry-on items and NOT for each, as I thought initially. Two, they are weighing everyone's carry-on bags and then checking in anything weighing over 7kg for a hefty fee.
Both my carry-on bags weigh 12kg combined! I leave the queue, go to one of the fancy handicap restrooms and start unpacking. I gotta pull a Joey (of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. fame) here—I put on five pairs of underwear, trousers on top, then my travel cargo pants on top of that. I then stuff as much stuff as possible into the six pockets of my cargo pants. Finally, I wear two t-shirts and a shirt on top. By the way, except for my sleeping pajamas, these are all I'm carrying on my short trip.
I step out of the restroom. I have to say I feel like an astronaut, or the Michelin Man, whatever you may say, as I slowly walk back to the check-in counter. I dare take no selfies as that could be used as evidence later on for violating the airline's strict carry-on policy.
“Sir, your carry-on bags are overweight!”
I am too stiff in my spacesuit to bow to plead. Her frown turns to a smile: “Sir, it's 8kg and our carry-on limit is 7kg. That's ok, we'll let you take this on board. But please, do not buy anything from the duty-free shops as that will make your bags heavier.”
“Of course, ma'am!” And of course I'm not going to buy anything from the duty-free shops anyway—remember, I'm a cheapskate flying a discount airline.
At the security checkpoint, I draw a small crowd of inquisitive onlookers thinking I'm David Copperfield as I go through the endless ritual of disgorging my six, deep pockets of items that are never found in the pockets of a normal person in the first place. The items take up two trays. I almost rip my pants (yes, both) as I bend down to take my shoes off.
Anyway, all done. I painstakingly put everything back into the six pockets.
I'm at the gate. Mission accomplished.
Or so I think. The paging system announces: “Passenger Naveed Mahbub, please identify yourself.”
This could be a discount airline, but they sure have some sophisticated mechanism of flagging down a man wearing five pairs of underwear.
I don't report to the attendant, but blend in with the passengers in queue and board the plane and settle down in my seat.
“Passenger Naveed Mahbub on seat 31K, please identify yourself.”
It's not really the proudest moment to be singled out in a flight.
The flight attendant comes to me. This sure isn't my idea of a pretty flight attendant asking me to strip to see what's underneath my clothes…
“Sir. I need to see your…”
“Passport and boarding pass!”
Don't tell me boarding passes now carry clues on the number of undies one is wearing?
But I remain calm…before the embarrassing storm.
“What seems to be the problem ma'am?”
“Sir, your address at your final destination [Dhaka] is not on our system. We apologise for not taking that information during check-in. We'll take just 10 minutes. Again, we're so sorry!”
Never have I been this close to getting a heart attack… She rapidly walks towards the front of the aircraft with my passport and boarding pass as I rapidly space-walk towards the restroom at the back of the plane with my five undies, two pants, two t-shirts, one shirt and six pockets full of courier cargo. And it's no easy job to shed off all these items like a five-stage rocket in a restroom barely big enough for a five-year-old.
And now, I have to step out of the restroom, walk all the way to my seat (just great, I HAD to pick a seat so far from the restroom) undetected with two t-shirts, four undies (do the math, I'm still wearing the one essential one) and one dress trouser under my armpits. I have to keep my outward look the same—the shirt, the cargo pants with its five-tonne cargo.
The coast is clear. I dash to my seat, open the overhead compartment bin, stash the booty into my bags and settle down into my seat.
Just then, the flight attendant returns with my passport and new boarding passes, profusely apologising for the inconvenience (not to mention the flight being delayed just for this incident). I would have asked for a complimentary meal (to be paid for otherwise), but decide against it—Naveed, don't push it…Air Asia. Thank you. I save not only a pretty penny, I go through one hell of a great adventure to write this column. Sure, you can send me a complimentary ticket for the free publicity here.
Well, now everyone can fly. And when it comes to Las Vegas, now everyone can not only fly into it for cheap (LA to Las Vegas for just USD 30 wearing five undies), but now everyone there, even total nuts, can buy automatic weapons and a thousand rounds of ammo...
Naveed Mahbub is an engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA and CEO of IBM & Nokia Siemens Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla's The Naveed Mahbub Show and ABC Radio's Good Morning Bangladesh, and the founder of Naveed's Comedy Club.