On a flight from New York City to Fort Lauderdale, I had the pleasure of being asked if I spoke Arabic. I say “pleasure” because my father was asked the same question in a similar situation. Also, our next target country to visit is Egypt (among others) so this implies that I will be learning the language prior to our visit; same as when we traveled to Italy.
The Arab gentleman was traveling with his family. He sat in the aisle seat while I sat in the middle seat of a three seat row. When the cabin doors closed, he ask, in a very soft-spoken manner, if I spoke Arabic. Not sure if it was giddiness at the prospect of this being some kind of omen or not, but I replied, like a little kid, “No, but I really want to learn!” He signaled that the seat to my right was empty and that I could take it to make room for both of us (we are known as “portly people”, for your information).
Shortly after take off, we were served Biscoff cookies and coffee (at least, that’s what we ordered). He started eating both cookies in the pack at once. After his first bite, he turned to his family and signaled, emphatically, that the cookies were a good choice. Apparently, he was a Biscoff noob.
So why the giddiness? Well, this wasn’t the first encountered where I was mistakenly identified as Arab. A few years ago, Carline and I stopped at a Barnes & Noble bookstore so that I could pick up my monthly photography magazines. This gentleman (I use the term again because his demeanor was, in fact, gentle) approached me and started asking questions about which camera to use for astrophotography (an unusual request for me). We talked for about an hour and a half, while standing in front the photography section of the periodicals. Carline waited patiently on a bench, watching us talk.
This man, who, unfortunately, I forgot his name, told me a bit of his background. He was a highly skilled technician who worked on sensitive electronics and that now, in the US, he has been reduced to a toll collector.
He told me I looked Arab and asked if my ancestry included it. I told him I was Puerto Rican and he said that Puerto Ricans and Arabs have a common ancestry. He then paused as if listening to something divine and then told me that I will be very successful because of my kindness and creativity. In conclusion to our conversation, I extended my hand to him which he looked at with his hands clasped behind his back. He contemplated something and a few seconds later, briefly shook my hand.
About a year later, I met him again, but his time, at his toll booth. He didn’t recognize me. Instead, he, boorishly, told me to move along as I stood looking up at him from my car, about to ask if he remembered me. I simply thanked him and drove off.
[NOTE: This entry was written with the WordPress app for iPhone while in flight. All photos and photo post were done using the Snapseed iPhone app]