I had just stepped into line at immigration when I remembered my laptop left behind on the plane. It kind of pissed me off, but I’d left my phone behind on a plane once before and it had taken security less than 5 minutes to find it, so I stopped a nearby uniform and told him what had happened. He spoke English well and I followed him from immigration through a swipe-access door and into a small office where he lit a cigarette, spoke into a walkie-talkie, and told me we needed to wait. There was a plastic clock hung behind a plastic desk covered with scattered, plastic pens and the plastic hands turned slow, before another uniform crashed through the door and started onto me in Arabic. The first guy I’d spoken to at immigration had been all smiles, but this new guy was pissed. He leant over with his hands spread on the arms of my seat and blew stale cigarettes and B.O into my face as he repeated himself in Arabic.
“I’m sorry, I can’t speak Arabic”.
His tiny, brown eyes stayed trained on me from their perch on my armrests while he asked the other officer to interpret what he wanted to say.
“He wants your passport and boarding pass”.
I passed them over and after a minute of holding them up to my face, the new cop tossed them onto the desk and started shouting at his partner.
“He wants to know what you have in your bag”
“I don’t know. Clothes, books, not my laptop. Why?”
“He says you need to open your bag”.
My eyes flicked between the two guys. While Good cop looked nothing more than a little bemused by his role as translator, Bad cop had his eyes trained on my bag as though by looking hard enough he might be able to see through it. There were a couple of cable ties slipped through the zippers of the main pockets, but before I’d even thought to protest, Bad cop had taken to them with a pocket knife I’d not even seen him produce. Undies, books, condoms and cables were thrown over the office floor without another translated word, and when he couldn’t seem to find what he was after, the knife-happy officer took to stabbing at the lining and examining the blade in between.
“What the hell is he doing? That’s a good backpack”.
“He is looking for cocaine. He says your friends told him you have some”.
“What? I’m travelling alone. I don’t have any friends here. Or any cocaine”.
It appeared that Bad cop didn’t believe me, and went on stabbing at my bag for several minutes before stepping away and scowling at me to clean up my things. They spoke to each other once again and it was translated to me that I needed to lift my shirt up. For what reason I had no clue, but by that point I’d figured it was easier just to cooperate. You hear stories of corrupt officials planting drugs or framing people for crimes they didn’t commit, and I had no intention of spending my 20’s in a Jordanian prison cell. With my things packed away I stood in front of the officers with my shirt up and was subject to the strangest pat down I’d ever received. Bad cop poked around my abdomen for a while before resting his hand on my chest and leaning in as though my heartbeat would spell out in Morse code where I was hiding the drugs.
There was another burst of Arabic and I pulled my shirt back down as Good cop went next door and left me standing alone and confused with only the other asshole for company. It turned out he could speak a little English when he wanted to.
“Where you stay?”
“A hostel downtown. Look”.
I handed him the booking confirmation on my phone but it only confused him further.
“Where 4 people? You have 4 people. Where are you friends?”
My explanation of the email clearly stating I’d booked a single bed in a 4-bed dorm went screaming over his head, so I gave up and suggested we wait for the other officer. At least we agreed on that. He came back and set down a glass of water for me that I downed in one go. My mouth was bone-dry from the flight and the whole situation had taken me by surprise. I explained to Good cop that I was staying by myself in a 4-bed dorm and he translated this to his colleague, but it wouldn’t do. He took my passport back from the table and started flicking through, demanding I explain why I’d been to Madrid 4 times the previous year.
I couldn’t believe what I was being asked and almost started laughing when the question was translated, but I held it together and repeated to the point of exasperation that I simply liked Spain, and despite what he may think, was not an international drug-runner, just a guy that enjoyed travelling. After this he abandoned all pretence and asked me straight out where I’d hidden the drugs. “If you just have some marijuana, it’s OK”, was my favourite line. Bull-fucking-shit it’s OK. I didn’t have anything on me and I could tell that even Good cop was starting to find his partner’s intensity nothing more of a source of mild amusement, so with my confidence up I turned to the guy and tried to level with him.
“Look, I don’t have any drugs. Can you tell him to do whatever it is you need to do so I can get out of here? It’s getting late and I still don’t have my laptop”.
“I will tell him, but I think he knows you are safe because you drank the water”.
“Because I drank the water?”
“Yes. If people have drugs inside, in the stomach, they won’t drink any water”.
Good cop translated to Bad cop but it didn’t go down too well. Bad cop started mouthing off at his friend, while Good cop sort of held a smirk, rolled his eyes, and kept nodding. They finished speaking and locked both doors leading from the room and my heart rate jumped up a notch. The shutters were down and I wondered if maybe the whole thing had just been an act designed to fuck me over. In a way, I was right. After a little more discussion I was told to lift my shirt, drop my pants, turn around and bend over. Bad cop took his sweet time with the glove and lubricant, while I stood, bending away from him and hoping to god he stuck his finger knuckle deep into a pile of shit. I didn’t know how it had come to that point, but by then I just wanted out, so if that’s what it was going to take, so be it.
I grimaced and pulled up my pants while Bad cop he took off his glove. The guy was grasping at straws now and looked desperate to find something on me. He was being made to look a fool in front of his colleague so I could kind of understand, but it’s hard to feel sympathy for a guy after he’s insisted on sticking his finger up your ass. I was sure that would be the end of it, but through Good cop it was translated that I needed to submit to an X-ray to be sure I was clear. Sure, why the fuck not. I’d done just about everything else. Bad cop lead me into the next room and rushed through the X-ray process before kicking me out and bringing his friend in to check over the pictures together. It was almost 2 o’clock in the morning, 3 hours after my flight had landed, and I kept falling asleep in the little plastic chair while waiting to hear the verdict.
They took their time behind the door although I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. The films should have been ready instantaneously, and it would take 2 seconds to see I had no drug-filled condoms hidden inside me. I’d decided to knock on the door to see what the fuss was about, but as I stood the door opened and froze me half-squatting on my way up from the chair. The officers entered and in Good cop’s hand I spotted my laptop, which with a mumbled apology he handed back to me. He unlocked the door back to the terminal and held it open while I gathered my things, then explained the bus system and the best way for me to head into town. With my laptop tucked away I threw my bag over my shoulder and made for the door, until I was turned around by Bad cop calling out behind me. The urge to run was strong, but I was surprised to see a smile creeping up and spreading across his face.
“Welcome to Jordan!” he called out.
There was no way to know if he was being serious or trying to have one final dig at me, so I relented, happy just to smile back and roll my eyes before heading off alone into the night.