Held Up in Morocco
Not everyone likes Canadian diplomats as much as you might think.
Have you ever have one of those days where everything is going just fine? The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and that damn grass is just so green. Like, you don't even know how green. And you're walking along, minding your own business, and then the next thing you know, you're surrounded by armed guards questioning you about the status of your diplomatic immunity.
You know, those days.
Hi, I'm Cole, and I do stupid things in places I shouldn't do stupid things.
Last year I was gallivanting across the wonderful continent of Europe. But after a time, it began to get too cold for me to stay in the northern areas, as I would freeze to death. I was supposed to be couch surfing, thus staying warm, but I'm really bad at couch surfing. So south it was!
I was wearing a traditional Moroccan robe that covered the majority of my body... and my feet. The exact wrong outfit to wear in that exact spot, it turns out.But how far south? Well, somewhere warm, probably. But where is warm?
Dude. Hey dude.
Yes, part of my brain that makes fun but ultimately regrettable decisions?
Deserts are soooo warm, man.
Yes. Yes they are. No one is disputing this fact.
So then you should go desert, man.
"Desert" is not a verb. Brain, you are drunk. Go sleep it off.
But then, when I awoke, I still liked the idea of the desert. So, the only logical thing to do was head off to Morocco. I'll spare you the minute details of my journey, but some back story is necessary to explain the whole "armed guards" thing.
While I was in Tangier I found myself in a train station one night, doing what most Americans do in Moroccan train stations.
"I need to go to Rabat," I told the clerk.
"(Something something Arabic)."
"I know you understand me. Rabat is the same in every language. You know I want a ticket."
"(Something something French)."
"No I will not go out with you. Unless you get me a ticket. Can I just throw money at you and then get on the train?"
This continued for longer than I care to admit. Eventually, however, it was decided that I wanted to go to Rabat, and that I needed to wait three hours to do so, since that was when the next train was leaving.
So in the meantime, I decided to sit around the station and wait, since I had already spent the whole day exploring the town, and decided I would rather not do a whole lot of moving.
But then I noticed something: white people. So I walked over and sat down next to them. (I'm creepy like that.) Fortunately, they turned out to be a group of very nice Canadian missionaries. There were about eight of them and they were all somewhere in their mid-twenties. Very nice people. Well, at least that's how I classify anyone who shares French fries with me.
We all had a good chat, but it turned out we were going to separate destinations and therefore would not be traveling together. But as a parting gift, one of the girls gave me a couple of Canadian flag pins. (Take note kids, this will be important later.) So I pinned them on the front of my robes (I was wearing robes—I looked ridiculous) and went on my merry way.
I pulled into Rabat around three or so in the morning and stumbled around the deserted streets looking for a 24-hour hostel (no, I had not actually planned ahead and looked for one. Yes, I too am amazed that the universe hasn't stricken me down for my stupidity as well), but I couldn't find one, so I just found the least stabby looking place I could to lay down, and went to bed.
The next day I found a hostel and was soon ensconced in the wonder that was Rabat. Nice city, fun market place. I think I may have eaten dog, I'm not sure. Regardless, good times.
So I found myself walking along, no idea where I was going (this was how I had performed the majority of my travels up to this point) and pretty soon I was in a diplomatic district of some kind. Lots of walled compounds, multinational flags, guards, and official-looking vehicles. But there were still civilians walking about so I figured I was fine. I'd just keep going until I got to a less official part of town.
I didn't get that chance.
"(Something something French)," said a guard approaching me.
I had just walked past the front door of some large building with several big glass windows on the front, and one of the guards had apparently taken notice of me.
Crap, I thought to myself. Guess I wasn't allowed here after all.
"Umm, sorry, I'll go now," I said, preparing to back off.
"Speak English?" the guard asked me, putting a hand up to signal me to stop.
"Follow," he said.
I didn't want to, but he was the kind of person I tend to listen to. The kind of person who carries a large gun.
I didn't think they were keeping me prisoner or anything. There were no handcuffs. Maybe arrests work on the honor system around here?Note, here is where it is important for me to explain the way I was dressed. I was wearing a traditional Moroccan robe that covered the majority of my body... and my feet. Also, in my hand I carried a nice leather satchel bag (it was given to me in exchange for stripping on stage—don't ask) that lent the otherwise odd-looking (for a white guy, at least) outfit a professional air. Mix that in with the two Canadian flag pins I had received before (see, told ya they were all foreshadowy) and you had my outfit. The exact wrong outfit to wear in that exact spot, it turns out.
So I followed the guard to the door. He pushed a button on the side and it opened.
He motioned for me to go inside.
I motioned that heck no, I wanted to get away from there, please don't shoot me.
It's a complicated motion, though, and I don't think he understood it, as he pointed again, and said something into his radio.
Great. Here we go.
So I stepped inside, and was quite pleased to find out that it wasn't a rape warehouse, but a fairly nice lobby, not unlike an office of some sort. The only real difference was the large metal detector and X-ray machine blocking off half of the room. And the guys with guns. They really threw off the whole homey vibe going on in there.
"Wait," the guard said, walking around the metal detector without even giving me a chance to respond.
I stood there, smiling to the stony faced guards who returned my gesture by staring into my very soul.
It was less than comfortable.
There were chairs against one of the walls, and my legs where a little wobbly from the massive bouts of impossibly uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing. I pointed to one of them while looking at a guard, as if to ask, "Can I sit there?"
He looked at it in confusion for a moment, nodding slightly to himself, as if to signify, "Yes. Yes, that is a chair."
And then he didn't make eye contact with me anymore.
I decided to keep standing.
The thought of just walking out crossed my mind. I mean, I didn't think they were keeping me prisoner or anything. There were no handcuffs. Maybe arrests work on the honor system around here?
After several minutes of standing around (among the most uncomfortable minutes of my life), the original guard returned, this time followed by another man. The new guard seemed friendlier then the others, but that might have just been because he didn't have a gun. Really makes an impression.
"(Something something in French)," the new man in the suit said.
"(Something something in Arabic)," the guard said.
Suit guard nodded thoughtfully.
"I understand that you speak English?" he asked, with only a slight trace of an accent.
"Yes. Only English."
"I was told you would speak French," he said, seeming oddly curious.
"I didn't speak French outside. I learned very little walking from there to here."
He looked at me for a moment. "You are younger than I thought."
"I don't know what that guy told you (I motioned to the guard who found me), but me and him just met. He knows very little about me. I don't know who he thinks I am, but I don't think I'm that person."
Everyone looked pretty confused for a second. I was considering pissing myself. Just a little bit though. This is when things started making sense.
They asked me my name, and it was a little less diplomatic than they thought it was going to be, because they thought I was some sort of diplomat. Or ambassador. Or friggin' something. I never quite got what they thought I was, but I wasn't that thing. I was just an idiot. (Full disclosure: Recent studies suggest that I am still, in fact, an idiot.)
It turns out they had been expecting this diplomat fellow (yes, from Canada) to stop by today for a meeting (the purpose was never explained to me) and when they saw me walk by, they thought that I was the diplomat. I sure looked the part: white guy trying to show appreciation for the local culture (the robes), the official air about me (the satchel bag) and those goddamn, bullshit Canadian pins (those goddamn, bullshit Canadian pins). All of this combined to form the ultimate shitstorm of bullshit circumstances, on the exact right day, for me to get stuck in a room of armed guards.
After they checked my passport and confirmed I had no outstanding warrants out for my arrest, I was calmly told to leave and carry on with my day, and then offered one of the quickest and least sincere sounding apologies I had ever heard in restitution.
So I went outside and walked as quickly as I could away from there.
Thinking about it later at a coffee shop, I decided that this was a stupid day.
And thus we conclude the adventures of Cole F.M., Professional: "Oh, hahaha, really man? That happened? Oh man, it must suck to be you."
My business cards are huge.
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