My friend, Paul, has a collection of Starbucks coffee mugs from places where work has taken him, beginning at Seattle, from the Pike Place Market, where Starbucks started, and continuing throughout China, with names of cities on the mugs that only he at Sunday supper can pronounce – all made in China, of course.
One of my goals on pilgrimage to the Holy Land was to bring back for him a Starbucks mug from somewhere in the Middle East. There are no Starbucks in Israel or in Palestine. So, my best bet was Jordan.
Our pilgrim group was taken to a mall in Amman, Jordan, to kill some time, for we were ahead of schedule, and too early for our next appointment on the itinerary, which was not, believe me, a frequent occurrence for us. The mall was huge.
And there it was, right inside the entrance: Starbucks.
The mug was easy to buy. My American Express card didn’t care if the purchase were in Jordanian dinars or in U.S. dollars. Plastic is plastic, money is money, and it knew it could add a foreign transaction fee to the statement at the end of the month.
But the taking of a photo was not as easy.
As I came out of the store, delighting in my perfect gift for Paul, and pointed my camera at the English and Arabic sign under which I had just walked, two security guards came at me waving their arms, as if I had just pointed a gun at someone. The best I could understand was that photos were not permitted. They seemed satisfied, when they saw me putting my camera away. But our Jordanian guide, approaching out of nowhere in some sort of rescue operation, was not so satisfied.
For us English-speaking Americans, it always seems that the Arabs are arguing, whenever they are speaking to each other, so fast and animated are their words and the movements of their arms. After a time of watching their argument, I mean, conversation, during which I was feeling more than a bit foreign and uneasy, “Give me your camera,” insisted the guide. I asked what the problem was. He quickly explained that they said they wanted to protect the privacy of everyone who came into the mall, and that pictures were not allowed. “Give me your camera, and go stand over there.” Apparently, he either won the argument or was refusing to admit that they had won. Maybe he convinced them that he was not taking anyone else’s picture, just mine, and that the store just happened to be behind me.
I was just happy when the whole thing was over.