Saturday, May 3, 2008

One Ordinary Travel Anecdote

- Have you ordered a special meal? asked the stewardess
- …. (Listening to music through my iPod)
- Miss?
- Sorry, what?
- Have you ordered a Moslem meal?
- …
- ???
- Oh, yes, thank you.

She said the word “Moslem” so loud, I felt like everybody in the plane was looking at me. Nine hours and twenty minutes… how far was I going to manage not to see all those eyes staring at me? I’ve always loved to put my cultural and religious identity forward, although I didn’t practice most of what my given faith told me to. Not eating pork was one way to affirm one of my identities. You don’t chose where you come from, but you can learn to live with it and even enjoy your differences with others. Being the “other” had never been problematic for me since I’ve been lucky to grow up in a quite nice, even if not fancy, environment, with educated parents and friends. I suppose it was a luxury to affirm my Moslem identity out loud while still living like a Westerner. My “special” meal had arrived, and there is no need to be a gourmet to see that it wasn’t special at all. Chicken, potato and carrots… “Mmmmm… I hope the carrots are halal” I thought I was joking with myself when I figured out that my neighbor began to observe my apparently strange behavior. I smiled at him and took a bite of my supposedly halal chicken. I never eat halal at home, I don’t pray either, only when I got scared, like everyone I suppose. It’s my best friend who’s working at a travel agency who booked the special meal for me. He always does so. A very sensitive gesture, especially when you know that I myself wouldn’t even think of it. Anyway, I had to spend the next nine hours and sixteen minutes on this flight to the United States, having already accepted the fact that every other passenger around had tagged me as “THE MOSLEM”. Maybe I was getting paranoid, but believe me, even five years after 9/11, with all the new security rules in airports and Islamophobia in the international air, you follow the way of paranoia, Moslem or not.
After seven hours of uncomfortable flight, the same question rose again from a different stewardess, only this time, I was ready to answer.

- Have you ordered a special meal?
- Yes, yes, I did! Why all the fuss about it?
- Well, no fuss Miss. Just wanted to let you know that it’s the same meal for everyone, only that you get an extra bar of cereals.
- Hmm ‘hanks

Let’s hope it’s a halal one! This time, I didn’t say it out loud, but I could feel my neighbor hearing it anyway.

1 comment:

Erinc Salor said...

Everyday we hear stories that tempt us to say "the World is going to hell" but come to think of it, there never was an idyllic time where everyone was happy. We struggle along trying to fix this while messing up that.
I guess finding love and grace can be our greatest achievement as individuals, one that would collectively take us several steps forward.