don’t (…or do) judge a nation by its airport security, pt. 1

Just one more note about privilege — my sister-in-law accompanied me past security in the Kuwaiti airport in June, on my way to Jordan.  It was an interesting circumstance, because technically she wasn’t supposed to do go through security with me.  But she did.  Several times.


One moment stands out in my mind, after my check-in, passport inspection, and before heading off to the gate.  There was a security guard between us and the final security check, making sure that only travelers got through past that point — which goes to show how much confidence the airport has in all the previous checkpoints which were supposedly assuring the same result.  So each time, it’s an implicit, “Ok, but this time, we REALLLY mean it…”

There were literally droves of people that the lone guard was holding back, probably rejecting about two-thirds of them.   It was a fairly straightforward process:

“Tickets?”

[yes]

“Ok, on through this way.”

More people:

“Tickets?”

[no tickets]

“Sorry, you can’t come through.”  Unless of course you look like a well-to-do natural-born Kuwaiti.

My sister-in-law narrated:

“He’ll probably let me through with you because of who I am.”

So we approached, and she carried herself a little differently — back a little straighter, chin a little higher.   The guard stops us.

“Tickets?”  I show him mine.

He asks her the same.  Her cool, matter-o-factly response:

“No, I’m taking my brother-in-law to the gate.” There was a brief hesitation, and then his response:

“…okay, on through…”  He turned away and casually went back to doing his job the way it was supposed to be done (at least, until the next entitled Kuwaiti without tickets wanders up)

In all likelihood, the hesitation was him deciding whether he would get in trouble for doing his job in this particular case — i.e., denying her access when she obviously wanted access.  His hunch was probably right on the money.  My sister-in-law would never actually do anything to punish him for doing his job — she’s too fair-minded, and often has an “oh well” kind of demeanor when things don’t quite go her way. But she was raised and surrounded by people who could and would make someone else’s life a living hell if they dared to become an inconvenience.  So when she does posture to leverage her inherent privilege, it’s really convincing.

If you remind me, I know another story about Kuwaiti privilege and “security” involving a big box of explosives.

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