The Tahrir sit-in continues as do my experiences with tafteesh, which are especially lovely in the morning. After I wake
up, it usually takes me about an hour to feel like I’m not underwater and appreciate that the things happening around me are, in fact, real. Since I woke up a mere 10 minutes before leaving for school this morning, I had the distinct feeling of being in an aquarium while walking out into the haze of the humid Cairo day. The sensation was intensified by the fact that the metro was unusually moist, the air within the women’s car as warm and embracing as kisses from grandma, though much less pleasant (love you, grandma).
Before surfacing in Tahrir square, I and the other CASA students I had swum into on the way to the metro made our way through the ladies-only tafteesh, conducted by a female trainee no older than fifteen who doubtless has a crush on Robert Redford or whoever the kids like nowadays. There are anywhere from one to two steps in the tafteesh process: 1) exhibit ID 2) submit bag to be searched. The steps occur sometimes in this order, sometimes without the bag search, and sometimes with additional mandatory small talk. The bag search process can be a hassle especially when the girl doing the searching has no idea what a weapon looks like but knows what people searching for weapons looks like, carefully examining everything with equal care, pens, pencils, pocket sized notebooks, ribbon wands, etc. It is also a hassle when one has an American-style, million pocket adventure backpack, each pocket of which must be searched.
One of the girls I was with had such a backpack, which was large and full of things a student uses: books, pencils, and sandwich in a sandwich box. Out of everything that could have aroused suspicion, Ms. Tafteesh was most captivated by the encased sandwich, which looked as American as an apple pie playing baseball, complete with wheat, not white bread, in the sliced loaf style that we so adore. In the amount of time tafteesh girl took to examine the sandwich, I could have clubbed her with my water bottle, grabbed the sandwich, run up the stairs, and been apprehended instantly by other security personnel, who I would have attacked by smearing the contents of the sandwich on their faces. All this to say I think her focus could have been better spent elsewhere.
I have not been able to stop thinking about the girl and the sandwich all day. Though I realize the shape must have been slightly strange for her, I wonder what kind of weapon she thought it could be. Did it signal the presence of a spy? Could it contain some sort of bomb or knife? Did it remind her of a family member? Could it be planted somewhere and cause a strange sensation for someone when stepping on it barefoot? Could it be planted somewhere and explode?
Maybe I’ll never know what was going through Ms. Tafteesh’s mind as she pondered the sandwich. But I did think of something strange later on: I have never actually seen said student eat her sandwich. I have, on the other hand, seen her lurking around campus and hiding her sandwiches under desks and in trash cans. Maybe that girl at the tafteesh station was onto something.