My first trip to US happened when I worked for an Indian IT Bellwether. I was so excited as I was travelling first time abroad, for a project with our Wall Street client. We had team of people who got B1/B2 Visa for a transition. It was a 10 weeks trip and the day we landed in Newark International Airport was a goosebumps moment and felt butterflies on my stomach.
Post this trip, I had never got that same feeling in subsequent trips to US, Europe and Middle Eastern countries. But my 2nd trip to US turned out to be a roller coaster ride.
It was 13 years before, one US spring we visited for yet another transition on Business Visa. My team comprised of One QA (Ron), One Linux Admin(Eshan) and One Application guy(Shoeb), and I was heading this team. Note: (Their True names were concealed for their privacy).
Ron is a talkative guy and has Anglo-Indian roots, he can speak anything under the sun once a beer goes in. Eshan is an Introvert, who rarely speaks and had always a smirk on his face. Shoeb is very focused and more action oriented guy, never gets into conflict or unnecessary banters.
We were getting ready for day-one to visit our Wall street client Head Quarters, since we stayed near Edison(Due to proximity to Indian restaurants and Indian Grocery stores) the travel involved a Cab trip to Amtrak station and then by Path train. I was explaining how to buy one trip ticket or a card having 30 or 60 trips for Amtrak train in station, to my team. Being first day, I had asked them to buy one ticket each. As soon as I went past Turnstile gates by showing my ticket on sensor, I could sense two figures sneaking behind my back hurriedly. To my disbelief, it was Ron and Eshan who was behind my back and sneaked through the turnstile gates. I was shocked and looked at them with a question on my face. It turns out that, they thought I had bought tickets for all.. hence they squeezed through the turnstile gate along with me. Fortunately, the security guards weren’t paying attention on us. Only Shoeb followed exactly what I said(bought a train ticket and swiped past turnstile gate) and he was standing their nonchalantly observing the mockery these two guys just did.
As soon as we completed all means of transport and walking towards Client office at New Jersey, Eshan came running towards me with a sign of panic. He told the passport he was carrying, is missing. Since we were in Business Visa, we carried passport with us to handle any surprise checks by authorities.
It was Eshan’s first travel to US and I could sense he got scared for two reasons
1. The administrative toil to report to Indian Embassy and the wait for him to return back to India without any hassles.
2. The backlash from me as leader of the pack.
It was a catch 22 situation for me too, told him to calm down and think where he could have missed the passport. Since we weren’t carrying US mobile number, told him we shall call(from office phone) the Cab guy who dropped us in Amtrak station to check for misplaced passport in his car. I was playing the next steps in my mind while crossing few blocks, again I heard Eshan’s voice but filled with excitement. I had turned back and saw him with passport on his hand, it turns out that, he has kept the passport inside the secret pocket of his overcoat. A sigh of relief came in, but I was cursing myself on how I could select these fellows part of a Transition team to US. In fact they had gone through mandatory “Beyond the Boundaries” training which was specifically designed for first time travelers. The curriculum covered all the “dos” and “dont’s”.
Slowly we settled into a routine and used to bring lunch by preparing food the previous night. Two-three weeks passed without any funny incidents, and I was surprised with the way Eshan was picking up conversations with fellow workers at office and I could see Ron becoming famous with his one-liners and jokes & Shoeb engrossed in Knowledge acquisition.
Around 11 Am, we used to hop down to street for a Tea break(We hated milk powder based office Coffee Vending machines.. Btw we picked up Cafe Latte which came close to Indian coffee when we don’t have much time to go out), but I found only Ron gives this break a skip. One day instead of going down to street with Eshan and Shoeb, I wanted to see what Ron is doing on this break time. To my surprise he went to pantry and came back in few minutes, fully energized. I asked him, how he manages without any break until lunch. He gave a smile with pride and took me to pantry and showed the refrigerator having all sort of fresh juices, coke and milkshakes. Now I connected the dots, right after a week when we started reporting to office, the colleagues in the floor kept complaining the fresh juices and coke bottles getting disappeared. I had to struggle a lot to convince Ron that Fresh juice and cokes were bought by employees/colleagues for their own consumption and he was unknowingly stealing them, thinking its for common consumption!!
During late evening drinking sessions, we used to recollect this incident and laugh our heart out and Ron was least bothered about our trolls and enjoyed the fun.
Our transition was nearing last phase and it was just a week away from our travel back to India. I was carrying India SIM with incoming calls enabled for emergency purpose. One afternoon, I had completed my lunch and Eshan came down for a late lunch, I had handed over the lunch bag(used to carry lunchboxes for all in my backpack) to him. After a while, I saw Eshan coming back to seat and haven’t seen him carrying my backpack. Since I was in a call, couldn’t check back on my backpack.
It was around 3 PM, when I was glued into my monitor, I could see two senior security officers walking towards my bay. They enquired about my bag and I called up Eshan to get it. We found he forgot to take the backpack after lunch and came upstairs to his workstation. Meantime since the backpack was unattended in Cafeteria, the security was alerted and bomb squad came and did thorough check. They found my passport and my mobile number in my visiting card and called multiple times, but it was in vain(My mobile was in silent mode). The Building Security Head gave us a stern warning and left us.
Till we landed back to India (Bangalore Airport), there was lot many such incidents. We were lucky enough to make it back without much of serious impact on our transition and our prospect to travel again to US. Oh btw, the transition was a grand success and we all got good appraisal. Our career boomed and we become closer as a team more than ever. Even after 13 years passed, this trip still stay close to my memories!