Violator

On our way home to Jordan, we re-entered the Middle East, interestingly enough, not in Amman, but in Chicago, while boarding our Chicago-Amman direct flight. Probably 98% of the passengers were Arab, so we all abandoned any semblance of a queue when boarding and instead did it the Arab way -- box out.

I smiled inwardly as I threw an elbow at a veiled elderly woman and she stepped on my foot in revenge while we jockeyed for position. "Ahhh," thought I. "I'm almost home." A mother in a jogging suit was lead blocking for her zitty adolescent, trying to work closer to the front of the crowd. I stuck out my knee to preserve our position while using the stroller to ward off a fat man attempting to slide through behind me with his two little kids. What's so great about it is that there are never hard feelings. When you put a nice block on someone trying to cut, they kind of give you the respectful, "What can I say? Nice block," look.

Although we enjoyed Taco Bell, driving in our own lanes, and litter-free public spaces during our vacation in America, it felt good descend over the unbroken brown desert around Amman and to feel like we were home. Even Savannah, who slams Jordan almost any chance she gets ("It's not green," she whines. "It's not beautiful, and that's why I hate it." Yet she likes me, and I'm not green. But then again, perhaps I'm beautiful enough to make up for not being green. And I've got a green shirt with a horse on it, so that's like 3 points for me), squirmed with excitement in her airplane seat as we circled the Queen Alia airport for landing.

I knew for certain I was home when I shoved my way up to the baggage carousel and the mustached man, half an inch in front of me, turned and blew a lung-full of cigarette smoke in my face. Ahhh! How I had missed the pungent scent of second-hand tobacco being blown up my nostrils and permeating my clothes!

My joy at arriving home only grew when I body checked a woman with a baby who was going for the same stray luggage cart as me. Hey, you know what the Bible says -- it stinks to be carrying a baby in the last days.

Then, just to complete our reunion with the Arab world, we hitchhiked home from the airport. We didn't really mean to; the guy from the embassy who was supposed to pick us up just kind of... didn't. So we first tried to hail a taxi, then, after 10 minutes of not seeing a taxi, we tried to hail a minibus.

Minibuses are funny here in Jordan. In Syria, minibuses are a cheap and reliable form of public transportation. They run on regular routes and have smallish signs atop the cab indicating which route that particular bus is running. Here in Jordan, I think there are also minibuses that act as public transportation, but I'm not sure. Even if there are, they're unmarked, and I don't know how to use them.

So, I hailed this minibus as it was passing, and the guy pulled over, threw our luggage in the back, and said it would cost X amount of money to get home. The cost was appropriate, so we jumped in. Smiling, the guy tells me his name is Firas and that, if anyone asks, he's not charging us. When I ask why, he explains that it's illegal for him to be taking us home from the airport, because he's just a guy with a minibus and he just dropped his friend at the airport and is on his way home. So... he's not a public transit driver. And I just hitchhiked. With my wife and kids.

Firas, true to his word, got us home though (after we lied our way through a police checkpoint: "He's my friend," Firas laughed to the guard, casually motioning at me, when the guard suspiciously asked who I was and why Firas was transporting me. "We go way back," I offered. Unconvinced, the guard asked how long we'd known each other. "Like, a month," I replied breezily. Equally easily, Firas waved his hand and said, "You don't need to see my papers. These aren't the droids you're looking for." Or, maybe he said something else. I don't understand Arabic very well. Then, Firas and the guard starting talking really fast Arabic and I got more lost than usual, but tried really hard to look unconcerned. I whistled a Depeche Mode song. Eventually, the guard lost interest in us when a cute young Arab woman approached in an SUV. He quickly made up a law, determined she'd broken it, and moved on from us to greener pastures.)

The moral of the story? Whistle Depeche Mode songs whenever you hitchhike. Or, point out cute girls to cops.)