The security agent at the Delta gate for the flight to Boston turned out to be American.  Not knowing this I replied to his questions in French. I think this may have annoyed him.

He asked where I was living (Boston) and where I came from (Abidjan). What had I done in Abidjan (I switch to English, understanding he is not a native French speaker. I work in public health). What does that mean? (me: I train doctors and nurses in management and leadership). What does that mean? I explain. He interrupts me, Madam you don’t have to answer my question but you wouldn’t be allowed on the plane (me: excuse me sir but I think I am answering your questions). So what does that mean, training in management? (I cite the 6 pillars of health systems work of the WHO). So then what happens? (me: we hope that the services improve). What services? (me, increasingly flummoxed, of health care). But they are doctors! Me: yes and many can’t manage themselves out of a paper bag, they never learned this in med school. He: and so then what happens?  I am even more flummoxed, feeling like I am speaking to a five year old. Me: Like when people who are sick need medicines, they are more likely to get the services and medicines they need.

He repeats, more agitated now, Madam, you don’t have to answer my questions and I will have to go over there (points to a bunch of uniformed people). I wonder, is his supervisor among them? That would be just fine as I am about to lodge a complaint. And then suddenly he closes my passport and waves me along.

I am immediately rewarded for my patience with the security man when the nice Delta employee who scans my boarding pass exchanges it for one with the seat number 1D. The universe is watching. Once comfortably seated in my seat 1D the pilot, through the PA system, apologizes to everyone on the plane for the security procedure. I was obviously not the only one. Whatever else happened to other people with other security personnel delayed our boarding. I ask for champagne and toast to the security man, wishing him to get better at securing our safety.

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July 2017
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