Tabada: Different


HOW many types of “friendly” are out there?

Crisscrossing Manila and Cebu, I picked up a new word: “checkpoint friendly.” I had to Google to understand why airport inspection personnel have shifted their interest from my clothing to my gadgets.

A laptop can hide a bomb, confirms the search. The Transportation Security Administration advises that carrying laptops in a “checkpoint friendly bag” with a “butterfly style, tri fold style, or sleeve style” speeds up the airport checking process.

Just when I choose shoes that are easy to slip on and refrain from using a belt, airport security personnel no longer demand that I remove my jacket, shoes and belt before undergoing the electronic and manual checks.

Recently, I had to take out a laptop and notebook from a tote and put these in separate trays. On another occasion, the person manning the scanner and a colleague discussed lengthily the image of the same tote before the latter requested me to open the bag and remove for closer inspection two pouches containing the gadgets’ accessories.

Peering at my purple MacBook Air power cord, the officer asked me what it was. Irony is the last thing I expect from the bureaucracy. I answered: my friend crocheted this for me, referring to the yarn in shifting shades of purple that Y. devoted her weekend to in covering the white-coated loops.

Both men looked back at me. Crochet hooks or knitting needles? I wondered suddenly, seeing Y. work with her hands: driving motorcycles, cleaning them, painting, cleaning her brushes, crocheting...

Then I remembered that Y. loops and ties the yarn by hand. She joked then I was so obsessed with keeping my year-old cord white and clean, she would make it easier when I reentered the university as a graduate student.

Indeed, in the library where other students’ cords of white and black are snaking on the floor, mine is the only purple serpent. An undergraduate once asked me where I purchased my cord. Because this was a library and not an airport and I was facing a fellow admirer of art and not security authorities, I smiled and remembered Y.’s hands and their movements as she sent me off with waves of purple.

“they taught me different is wrong,” Ani DiFranco sings in her poem, “My IQ.” In the airport, I took another look again inside my bag and saw the notebooks and pens I bought as gifts to encourage two friends to write.

“‘cause silence/ is violence/ in women and poor people,” writes DiFranco in the same poem. “‘cause every tool is a weapon -/ if you hold it right.”


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