Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the calm after the [sand]storm

My line, assuming that my identity is as simple as this sign claims

         "Is there nail polish in there?" The 3rd X-ray at Basra International caught me red handed, though I thought I'd checked my prized OPI collection. No liquids may pass security!
        "I don’t know, sir--but my flight is about to leave and the next flight out isn’t for days, is it really important?" I panted.  The afternoon had been a hectic one, as somewhere between getting picked up by armed men and checkpoints, we managed to be late for our flight from Basra back to Dubai. I volunteered to run through security before my family to buy time with employees at the plane's gate.
A man started to fish through my raggedy Timberland travel backpack as the other men looked down in order not to spot anything inappropriate. The bag itself is somewhat inappropriate for a lady. But like a baby's blanket, of great nostalgia and with remnants of dirt from backpacking all sorts of foreign places, I refuse to let it go. 
        "It's not my choice, ma'am."
        "Sir, I'm peaceful and I just like nail polish.  And I’m late. I swear, if it was harm I was after, I'd find a means other than nail polish," I exclaimed in a bit of an American-frequent-flyer-frustration.
        "Lady, it's not in my hands."
        “A’alek Allah, make it quick.” Being in Iraq, it takes me a day or so to adjust to being appropriately straightforward, as people tend to be around here. If I'd asked USA's TSA to please speed up, I highly doubt the reaction would be as chill as that of the Basra International TSA guards.
I excused the gentleman from his search and started to dig maniacally. The peanut gallery went awry, "ma'am ma'am--slow down" one of the eight men said. By this point, I didn’t care what they saw, as long as I wasn’t stuck in Basra for the next 4 days. As much as I loved it, I wanted to be home so bad.
"Found them! Please, Amu, give these nail polishes to a family member with manners as high as yours, and I am proud you are doing your job!” I yelled genuinely as I ran off past ghost terminals to barely make it onto my flight. Finally, I arrived to my gate.
That's when it happened. The moment of realization. There I stood at the gate, and the moment happened to a Beach House track blaring through my headphones into my ears: I was one foreigner of many in sheep’s clothing. Looking native as ever, I stood along side 3 Africans, a handful of Chinese guys, an Italian, and an immodest amount of Caucasian men. The terminal was flush with ethnicities, but was I as native as I appeared? I’m not sure I will ever know. 

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