//Being Taken Away by the Jordanian Police

Being Taken Away by the Jordanian Police

(Sorry, no photos in this one as the cops wouldn’t let me write or take photos for security reasons)

The moment Waffa left the police came over to me and asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was visiting the woman who had just left. They pretended like they hadn’t seen her (she’d been right in front of them). They then asked me where I was staying—I pointed to the house (which was right around the corner from the salon). They pretended not to understand. They kept asking me; I kept saying “Right here” and pointing to the actual door. Finally one of Waffa’s (older) brothers came out and I asked him for help. He explained to the cops that I’d been staying there. They still insisted on taking me back to their station.

I wasn’t too happy about all this. One, it was back the way I’d come and I didn’t feel like having to walk back, but two, I couldn’t see why they had to inconvenience my day like that. I truly hadn’t been doing anything. I also wanted breakfast.

At the station I was brought to an office, asked only a few questions by the commander (the one person who seemed even half-way like he knew what he was doing), and then left to wait with people watching me. In fact, they even brought in a couple of female police officers dressed to the hilt. I was not allowed to write. Not allowed to even cross my legs. (This latter one I found ridiculous and the moment I saw one of the women doing it I insisted on doing it too. They relented.) One of the women asked me why I wasn’t happy and I responded with “I don’t want to be here” and “I’m hungry—I was looking for breakfast.” They and some of the guys wanted to do (what looked like) small talk, but not knowing what was going on and not feeling chummy, I told them I’d only talk to the commander (who was both courteous and professional).

The first half hour or so I spent getting my adrenaline under control. I was too keyed up. And, not having enough practice in calming myself under situations like that, it took a lot of breathing and meditation to bring my heart rate down. (I doubt any of this was obvious to the police watching me.) I eventually decided to try and get some rest, since I hadn’t slept much that night. They didn’t seem too thrilled by this for some reason—I guess they wanted me to be proper? Scared? Wait patiently? This allowed me to relax enough to start finding some humor in the situation and I started occasionally pestering one of the guys about breakfast—I mean, if they were going to snatch me off the street and keep me for hours, why wouldn’t there be breakfast. I thought this was funny, but the women didn’t seem amused. And then I did the unthinkable—in an effort to get even more comfortable I took of my sandals and curled up in the chair. This made one of the women go ballistic. She literally started screaming at me to sit up “properly” and a few other things that I could only guess meant to put my shoes back on. I innocently told her, “Sorry, I don’t understand you. I don’t speak a lot of Arabic.” I swear, froth was coming out her mouth. I then turned to the guy sitting next to me and shrugged saying, “I really don’t understand.” I tried to explain in Arabic too and eventually I gave in and put my sandals back on. Who would have thunk they would have been so upset (well, only the one woman was upset)? I then went back to “sleep.”

At some point the men lit up cigarettes, and while I’m willing to put up with a potential allergic reaction when I’m being hosted by a family, I’d wasn’t going to then. (I have a history of being allergic to cigarette smoke and getting asthma from it.) So the moment they did that I got up and stood next to the door. They understood that it was about the smoke, but since I didn’t know the word “allergic” that was about all they got it. He finally agreed to sit at the window when smoking.

It was during this time that the commander came back and asked me my name. This seemed like a silly questions, as he’d already had my passport for more than an hour. I told him to read it off there—it would be easier for him. Then the guys tried to enter it into the computer, but couldn’t for the life of them figure it out. (To be fair, if their keyboard was only in Arabic, this WOULD have been a chore! Especially since none of them knew English.) I opened my eyes and asked them if they wanted help and they said “No.” with startled looks on their faces.

Eventually the said they had to take me “downtown.” This worried me a bit, mostly because it would be a long-ass walk back out of town, but also because they plot may have been thickening. I mean, I knew this wasn’t Iran and that Jordan seriously both valued its tourism and its relationship to the U.S., so I wasn’t too worried. At the same time, the whole thing was baffling—I honestly hadn’t done anything worth even a moment’s notice—just staying overnight with a Jordanian family.

They asked me to get into the back seat of a truck with the two women on either side of me. This was obviously not thrilling and I complained. They insisted. When we got to the downtown office they brought me to something like a waiting room with a man behind the desk, at least one unhappy-looking person waiting in the chairs, and a small, wild-west looking cell. After saying good morning to the room I sat down and ask the man behind the desk if I was going to sleep in the cell. I guess they weren’t amused, as they immediately moved me to an office with two (friendlier) police women just about to have breakfast.

They were just about to share with me, when I was asked to come to a different office upstairs. This office had an important looking man behind a large desk. I was asked to sit down and all of the men who’d been holding me filed in, as well as the two annoying women. (Apparently they’d needed someone fluent in English to deal with me.) The commandant apologized to me in English, told me to just consider this “a visit to the police station,” and explained that they’d had a misunderstanding with my name. I looked over at the commander sitting across from me (who’d been the last one to struggle with typing my name), and, with a twinkle in my eye, told him he needs to learn how to write better English. He laughed. The commandant then explained that they’d been looking for someone, and that given the perilous situation in the Middle East right now, he’s sure I could understand that his officers had to take all precautions. (I was mystified how they could be looking for anyone even remotely similar to me, but whatever.) He said that his officers behaved appropriately and that I had to admit, they were much nicer than American cops, who would have had me in handcuffs. (I wasn’t so sure about this, but who knows?) I was then told I’d be driven to wherever I wanted to be driven to.

We then get back in the truck (with me trying to NOT have to sit between the two women again) and drove back out of town. On the way, I continued to tease the commander about breakfast until he finally relented, at which point I said I was only (half) joking. He bought me a juice anyway. By then I’d also found the words to make fun of the man who’d called the cops on me: “Help! Help! Police! Police! I’m scared! There’s a…” The commander laughed and finished my sentence for me: “…there’s a strange woman in the street.” We both laughed. They then dropped me back off at the traffic circle (which still had me retracing some of my steps, but not too badly). My women escorts definitely were happy to get rid of me, but the guys all seemed to think the whole thing was amusing. I’d created a rapport with them through my teasing and they’d “gotten” it.

The first thing I did was stop and get some falafel—I actually had been hungry. While I was eating, Waffa’s brother found me and asked me what had happened (this is all in Arabic by the way—only the important-looking commandant spoke any English). I told him my “Help! Help!…” story about the grocer next to the salon and he and the guys in the falafel place laughed as well. When I was finished writing this all down in my journal, I took off to the grocer who’d called them on me and gave him my now well-rehearsed version of him calling the cops on me. He wasn’t amused.

But all’s well that end’s well, I guess. I then got a ride to the road south and before I knew it I was asked to lunch again.