Moment of Serenity at O’Hare

I am literally in the safest place right now. Let me explain. The entire bus ride to the airport I’m nervous that I’m going to have the shittiest costume at the Halloween party, and being Muslim at an airport, its a sealed deal. But my parents worked really hard on my costume so I can’t changto I opted to ride the bus by the way for environmental reasons. I ended up being the only passenger. I had a whole bus to myself. I might as well have kicked mother earth in the balls. The driver and I talked on the second leg of the trip about work and women, and I got to feel like I had the common touch a la Barton Fink. She was Puerto Rican, and basically said take your kids to church AND give them real talk about sex.

As I arrive at the initial security checkpoint, I am nervous. And let’s be real, it’s because the TSA is another blue uniform to me. The terror of a bully in blue is a simple one. If I do not comply, my life my freedom is over, erased, gone like a fart in the wind. I have no intention on suicide by cop, so I need to comply by all costs. But what are my orders? I don’t know the procedure, I just have a vague idea–this is my first time flying alone by the way. So I do what I think I’m supposed to do with the commands given. Thank God the officer only yelled at me for messing up and asking questions. I collect my belongings from the conveyor belt and move aside after the three-point check, as to keep the nonexistent line moving (it was around 10:30pm, crowds were sparse). This moment kinda feels like the ALDI checkout where after they have your money, you just have to move your chaos cart out of the way, and take a second to gather yourself as a human being, and process what just happened. By the time you have your shoes in your hand feeling like you should have made the investment in a pair of OdorEaters, the next person is already done judging you hard on your feet that smell like sadness.

So I’m done. I just take a second, shoes still off, in the nearest chair that’s far away from where I just got my feelings hurt by mean TSA man, luggage scattered in messy orbit, I breathe. I text my parents. I decide to pray. What a wrong decision.

The mind is a mosque. I can pray anywhere I damn please, but for me personally to feel respectful/mindful to all, the first step of prayer, I like to secure a space instead of assuming like own it and just going for it. I check the info guide boards, ask around for the chapel. It’s in an inaccessible area post-TSA. No good. I see a Yoga Room available in my terminal. That space will do. Namaz and yoga are the same thing; body contortions with the aim of god consciousness. When I start asking around for the Yoga Room, literally every employee I asked had no clue there even was a Yoga Room! My favorite was the guy at the information desk. When I asked him, he took out one ear bud and said, “Aww, man. I’m just waiting to punch out.” I started laughing because that’s so refreshing and honest. It’s exactly how I feel about life sometimes. He pointed me to the TSA guys, and I decided not to use the guys watching out for our safety as customer service and just called customer service. It turns out the Yoga Room is also in a inaccessible place, post-TSA.

I didn’t get upset, I just kinda accepted with a half smile that there are far more places to eat and shop and consume than to practice spirituality in America.

By the way, when I am in town and its prayer time, I don’t go home. I’m on my bike, how can I? I just stop by the nearest church and ask for a space and a bathroom, and the two out of two different churches have been chill. Small towns, huh, who knew? But walking in that door is nerve racking. I wish there was like an interfaith pray space symbol that could reduce my anxiety. I’ll get Eboo Patel on it. That dude shook the President’s hand. And the President touched his butt with that have. Therefore, Eboo Patel shook the President’s butt.

I had to turn to churches, by the way, after the library turned me away, and god bless them for doing so. I’m pretty serious about keeping secular ground given the infringement factor when neutral territory isn’t held, but as a result I didn’t pray in my public high school because I couldn’t. The time infrastructure didn’t accommodate it. How about frequent dedicated free time where students can just mess around and some can pray by choice, others can make art by choice, and everyone just does what they want before they go back to doing what they have to do. Micro-recess. Speaking to my own life, when my want-to-do and need-to-do balance were off, I was just an unmindful garbage human being because my heart wasn’t in it. I still am human garbage, but I struggling to be aware of it now.

So yeah, after a failed search at a prayer space in the secured section of the airport, I retired to the food court– undefeated, because I used all my internal resources. Its about midnight now and I just can’t do McDonald’s, a late night choice. My tongue wants to, but my heart just knows that labor is hell for someone, because it was hell for me. But I’ll cover my post-college career in another post, remind me. So I go to the only other late night place, Dunkin Donuts. The lady is so far from giving a shit it could be measured in lightyears. ‘How can I help you?’ Oh god, that question. I don’t know who she is so how would I know how she can help me? So I treat her like a fucking robot of the economy. I ask for decaf, she turns to the empty pot behind her, and tells me no decaf. I’m not going to not drink decaf, so I ask her to make some. She does a two step procedure, pushes a button, BOOM. There’s decaf. Where were her internal resources? I asked for decaf, why didn’t she make that happen right away, why did I have to ask, like she’s my servant? Why others do anything is always up for speculation, but I sense it was because I treated her like a robot, she acted like a robot. ERROR PC LOAD LETTER, not IBM’s Watson kind of robot. The lady looked like she could be my auntie, and I wanted to ask her where to pray, but instead I just got some garbage coffee and a roll. That’s how she helped me.

So I’m here in the gate waiting for my flight, Indian Classical on Pandora. Super mellow. And when I finally have a moment to just kick it, I realize I am in the safest place America has to offer. There are no drugs, no weapons, no evil people, just assholes (and assholes are assholes because they are rushing). All that was weeded out. No one is looking at me different, like back home in Valpo…because I passed. And I just needed the time to take in the serenity of airports.


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