As is my habit, I reached Chief Tsosie’s Antelope Slot Canyon Tours in Page in Arizona a few minutes before the appointed hour. A young Indian couple was checking in. “Pradeep Dalvi *”, the slightly built boy with a huge Canon backpack wearing white Nike tennis shoes told the receptionist. Soon they were arguing and I decided to log in.
Apparently, the couple was booked for a photo tour of the upper Antelope Canyon for the previous day. Having trouble with their car, they claimed to have spoken to somebody at the tour’s office on the phone for a reschedule. The problem was the receptionist could not find any such rescheduling in the paperwork. The couple had been marked as “No Show.” And now there were no spots left on the tour.
The couple was livid. They has booked the tour several months in advance, driven down from LA just for it! The attractive lady at the reception asked if they remembered who they spoke to. The boy confessed he did not. But look, he said, look at my phone. I called at 8:52am, then again at 9:03am and finally managed to reach somebody. The receptionist casually asked them while looking at the phone if they remembered where they called from?
Bryce Canyon said the Indian girl. Without smiling, she quite told them that it is 8am in Page when it is 9am in Bryce. The office would not be open.
The couple was given three choices. They could take a 90 minute no-tripod tour or they could join a tour at 5:00pm. The third choice was obvious. The couple kept pushing. They blamed the inefficiency of the office. They were surprised how the employees at the office were not communicating with each other. Their voices rose. Tempers flared. The receptionist apologized for the hundredth time, but with a surprising calm, told them that the choices don’t change.
This had been going on for a good 30 minutes. A dozen other tourists had lined up behind me. People were growing restless. Tongues clucked. Normally, I would have interjected myself into the situation somehow. I would have pulled the boy aside and told him that It was cloudy outside. There would be no sunbeams at the upper antelope canyons. On a cloudy day, the lower antelope canyon is as good, if not better, than the upper antelope canyon. They could walk into the lower canyons right now. I would have done so had they not been Indian. I knew what would happen. The girl would take one look me up and down , and ask me to go to lower antelope canyon while they took my place. I let them be.
Eventually they stepped back and stepped out. I was next. I checked in. Normalcy prevailed.
Outside the tour office. “Me sangat hote tula …” I heard the girl speaking. She was angry and spoke in a tongue uncommon in India but one I am extremely familiar with. I immediately lingered.
“Shambharda sangitala kal nako piyu, nako piyu. Tari dhosali. Bas atta radat. Kahi jamat nahi tula.”
A-Ha. So that is what happened. Apparently, the boy had drunk himself stupid and had been unable to wake himself up in time. The no show was because of a hangover. And we had to bear the drama! I have grown up old not letting such opportunities pass by. I walked past them, stumbled and said in a voice loud enough that would not be lost on them, “Chaila!”
I would have given a hundred dollars to see their expressions, but I have grown up old knowing not to.
[Epilogue: Apparently the couple got into their car and stormed away. They should have waited. A couple booked on the tour did not turn up]
*Name changed to protect myself.