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“I am police give me money”, is not what you expect to hear from a security check at an international airport. He proceeded to give my bag a very thorough check despite the security X-ray operator giving it the all clear. He didn’t find much of interest except my spork, which I always have in my carry-on. He took it and put it in easy reach next to the screen which shows the images from the X-ray machine. He stared at me expecting me to reach for my wallet. I stared back at him with disbelief.
After a moment he stuffed everything back in my bag and closed it. I rested my hands on my bag without moving it, stood up a little bit taller, raised my eyebrows and stared at him. He motioned for me to move along but all I did was blink. With a huff he threw my spoon under the desk into a bus tray that one would expect confiscated goods to go into. His colleague started awkwardly checking the guy after me but I was clearly in the way. My security guy clucked his tongue and shook his finger at me as if to say he was losing his patience as I hadn’t moved an inch. I didn’t even blink but I did hold out my hand effectively saying give the spork back to me. He put the spork back on the table next to the monitor and stared back at me. The ball was in my court. I didn’t move. I was clearly in the way of him getting bribes so he was getting impatient. I still didn’t move. With a big sigh he grudgingly gave it back as he mumbled “check in”. His colleague added I could go back out and ask them to recall my luggage. He too wanted me gone and here was a solution where no one would lose face.
Back at the Ethiopian Air counter I recalled my story with a smile and jokingly stabbed my hand a few times with my spork to show how non-threatening it was. She kindly made a call.
“You realize they think you are really important as they don’t usually call back baggage already checked”, she eventually said. Even the young Ethiopian manager took an interest sighing and shaking his head at my story. “You could pack a bomb and they wouldn’t care if you slipped them a little money”, he said. “The security here is a joke”, he stated waving his hand at the modern airport surrounding him. In Addis they take their security seriously even if the airport does resemble a UN refugee camp. Realizing how much trouble I was causing by asking them to go looking for my checked bag I offered to leave my spork with them but they were determined to finish what I started. Problem solved I steeled myself for another run through the security gauntlet.
Back at immigration I was summoned to a new counter. “Declare your money”, the man said. “I don’t have any”, I replied quickly realizing that sounded ridiculous. I reached for my wallet which looks old and dirty. It is a small thin thing made of Tyvex. I opened it to show him a tiny bit of local cash and bent it between my hands for emphasis to show how pathetically empty it was. A couple hundred US was hidden away in a second compartment but he didn’t need to see that. He waved me on.
I was a little terrified of immigration. My visa looked like a toddler had filled it in and to make it worse the number of days had been crossed out and rewritten. It was the result of a fiasco at the embassy. The consulate had filled in the wrong number of days so our tour leader had insisted he change it. With a lot of groaning he did by crossing it out and writing it again. When the tour leader insisted on a letter to explain why all our visas were in such a shocking state the consulate called the police. The end result was a short hastily written letter which I had a copy of. However I had zero problems.
Back at security I watched a Chinese guy ahead of me have a small bag of medicine confiscated. He clumsily fumbled for his wallet and opened it to allow the security guy to take what he liked. The security guard being no dummy pushed it back saying give me money which the Chinaman did. The search stopped and his pills were returned.
I was lucky enough to get the English speaking security fellow who looked at me and said “You were just here, right?”. I nodded. “Stop wasting our time and move along”, he replied with not even a basic search. I was home free. I watched as the next guy went through. He wasted no time and quickly handed over money ensuring he wasn’t checked at all. Goodness knows what he was carrying.
Ethiopian Airlines being a world class service did its own passenger search before boarding. This time no wallets were opened.
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