“They took my peanut butter!”
“What?” laughed my partner Tom.
From a quiet corner beyond security, I complained by cell phone about the confiscation of several carry-on items. The guard taking me aside wasn’t worrisome. I bristled, though, when he took away the suntan lotion and hand sanitizer. He explained that the volumes listed on the containers exceeded the 100-milliliter limit. I protested by pointing to the sanitizer’s less-than-half-full level.
“Do you have a problem with this, Ma’am?”
“Yes I do! I tried to follow your rules, and measured these contents.”
Then my linchpin disintegrated as he unwrapped the jar of crunchy peanut butter, and placed it next to my skin protector and germ fighter. Peanut butter is one of my comfort foods from the States, and I recently discovered this crunchy brand near the village where I’ve lived for six months. The agent informed me that if the jar wasn’t open, I could have taken it.
“I hope you enjoy peanut butter.”
The agent declined, “It’s not for me.”
“Well I hope you find someone who likes it, because it’s one of my favorite things.”
In a final gesture of disgust I tossed a leaking bag of shampoo to the booty pile.
“And you better take this, since its volume isn’t marked.”
The agent pinched the moist bag with latex gloves as I collected my things.
Thirty minutes after phoning Tom and buying a tiny tea – about which the barista confirmed, “Yes that’s the only size we have” – I stood at gate thirty-two for departure to London. I pulled out the boarding pass nestled in my passport and gasped, “Oh my god!” My national identity card, which I showed to customs before security, was missing. Riffling through my handbag and pockets did not produce the document of residence, an especially valued trophy after navigating Belgian bureaucracy.
I asked the gate attendant, “How much time do I have?”
“For what?” she skeptically replied.
“My identity card is missing.”
She gave a fifteen-minute cut-off, and I backtracked as far as the bathroom stall visited after ordering tea. Defeated, I faced the gate attendant and wanted to phone “someone.”
“Who?” she shrugged incredulously.
“I don’t know… someone to report my card missing.”
A second attendant made a suggestion in Dutch to the first, and soon I spoke with a police officer by phone, stifling tears of shame.
He instructed me to file a report upon returning to Belgium.
In my window seat, the tears stopped as I scratched a journal entry and realized … What a speedy karmic kick in the ass! The English phrase “get the best of you” captured the situation: I had given that security guard the worst of myself while doing my “best” to ruin his day.
I considered myself as the source of discord, reflected how attachment to things fosters hostility, how antipathy toward authority dehumanizes individuals. My disdain for arbitrary policies that feign safety is no excuse for treating a person as the anonymous monstrous “They.” I defaced a person, which I call out others for doing.
So, a two-sided lesson began to unfold: accept responsibility/ don’t blame others…