Friday, May 2, 2008

It sucks to be back: Airport Rage continued

Barely back from Kenya, I tagged along with my husband on his recent business trip to Doha.

Doha passport control was a polite breeze, accompanied by a friendly: "Welcome to Qatar, we hope you enjoy your stay."

Return to Cairo? Not so much.

We arrive at the same terminal where the baksheesh incident took place less than 4 days before. Once again, my passport sailed through and when they got to YK's, they asked what his nationality was. YK said Canadian and I (because I cannot control myself) said rather snidely: "That's why he has a Canadian passport." Duh.

The passport guy had already called on a gopher to come get YK's passport. It was deja vu. Except this time, they didn't have the element of surprise or intimidation because we already knew what they were after. And they weren't going to get it on my watch.

This time, as he took the passport, I stopped him and said: "If you are taking this in the hopes of getting a baksheesh, you can give it back right now. We aren't going to pay you anything."

He looked at me blankly and walked towards the end of the wickets. I followed him, my blood boiling. He told YK to go back to the other side of immigration and something in my brain snapped. I held YK's arm and told him to stay put. I think all the protective Lionesses and Mama Elephants on safari had had an effect on me... all of a sudden, we were in "Mean Girls" re: how this would be settled in the animal world.

Insanely angry me: "There's nothing wrong with his passport or his visa. It has already been stamped and checked. He is not going anywhere except out of this airport and home. And you (insert culturally inappropriate finger point) are going to give his passport back right now."

I was, admittedly, blindly tired and reaching off the charts rage, which explains my clear lack of prudence. Rarely am I so ballsy -- especially around people in uniforms with the power to detain us or worse. Clearly, my exhaustion was getting in the way of my better judgement. But stay tuned, perhaps my insanity was the key to success in this country...

Passport gopher: "Hindia?"

Not this again.

Me: "NO. Canada -- see?" (waving passport manically in his face)

YK was trying to get me to calm down, but the scene had begun and there was no stopping me now. They were not going to get away with this two times in one week. I suddenly felt a real bond with Michael Douglas's character in "Falling down" in MacDonalds when he's had this terrible day and wants breakfast at 11:02 but they stop serving breakfast at 11:00.

Me: "This happened to us two days ago. There is NO reason for you to hold this passport or delay us. We are not going to give you a baksheesh, so give back the passport now."

Uniformed officer: "Please wait -- no English." Insipid smile.

Postal Me: "No English? Nice. (flash of obnoxious fake smile) Well, me: No Arabic. Give me back the passport now."

The uniformed officer held up his hands in a "calm down, don't shoot me" gesture, laughed a little and gave YK a look of pity, as if to say: You poor man having to live with such a crazy wife...
But he gave back the passport, no money changed hands and we went to baggage claim.

It's a few days later and I am STILL so mad. I hate that the only way to avoid this is to go back to having the University people take us through immigration and customs. So much for trying to transcend a stratified society. We should have stuck to our station instead of trying to be down with the people and clearing customs on our own. Lesson unpleasantly learned.

1 comment:

amreen said...

welcome home! hope your return to cairo has improved post-airport - that sounds horrendous! though bribery in airports is something i've experience a lot in India too. can't wait to hear about kenya and see your pics.