One letter can make a world of difference, says our columnist.
You are travelling to Granada in Spain, wake up and find your aircraft is about to land in Grenada in the Caribbean islands. Whom do you sue? Or do you say, “Thank you for the extra 6,400 kilometres you let me fly free, can you take me now to Granada, please?” Sometimes a vowel’s movement can be painful, as the US dentist who flew those extra miles discovered. He is suing the airline, but somehow I am not very sanguine about his chances.
It is a truism in travel that you must choose your Granada carefully. Besides the two mentioned, there are two more in Spain (put it down to unimaginative geography lessons in school or a love for pomegranate, which in Spanish is ‘granada’), one in northern South America, three in Colombia, one in Mexico, one in Peru, one in Colorado, one in Minnesota, and of course, the one best known to the Americans, in Nicaragua. It almost seems as if Granada is the McDonald’s of the geographical world, with almost one around every corner.
How our dentist figured out he was going in the wrong direction seven hours after he was supposed to land is one of those romantic airline stories that will be repeated generation after generation until either Grenada or Granada changes its name.
“We are headed west when we should be going south,” the passenger is reported to have said to himself, speaking softly and clearly after checking the electronic map on the in-flight entertainment system. There are many morals to the story: don’t neglect the entertainment system on a flight – occasionally it might bring you Seinfeld when you want Modern
Family, but it is never wrong on geography and knows its a’s from its e’s. Also, it is sometimes useful to have a chat with a passenger or steward, casually slip in your destination, and see if he recognises it.
We all have our Granadas. Mine, when young, was to be accidentally taken to the wrong Salem.
In India, this is a city some 200 kilometres from where I grew
As a child, I hoped that somehow the train to the Indian Salem would land up in the US Salem
up in Bangalore, best known now as the place where the cricketer Roger Binny went to school. The other Salem is in Massachusetts, US, some 13,000 kilometres further away, best known for the Salem Witch Trials and Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible.
As a child, I didn’t know the details. But I hoped that somehow the train to the Indian Salem would take the wrong turn and land up in the US Salem. I wouldn’t have sued. In fact, I wouldn’t even have complained. I would have merely given the driver a pat on the back – something the US dentist, for some reason, did not think the pilot of his aircraft deserved.