The Urban Impact: The Security Apparatus & Public Safety
A Western Migrant & Jordanian Hosts’ Experiences with Security
While walking along University Street, my [Charles’] Jordanian friend noticed two very young Syrian toddlers attempting to cross a busy highway. He pulled them aside as cars whizzed past and asked them where their family was. They didn’t know. He walked them hand in hand to the front of an eyeglass repair shop. One girl’s face was wet with tears, and neither spoke. Suddenly, we were approached by a man in a button-down shirt and jeans who asked what was going on. My friend explained the situation, and the man replied that he was in fact a police officer. After exchanging tribal names to verify identity, my friend proceeded with the plainclothes officer to take the two young girls back to their home, having calmed them down to the point where they could guide us, turn by turn to their apartment building.
The two girls led us inside, and the police officer knocked on the first apartment door, gruffly. The girls’ father came down the stairwell at the noise, and the officer began disparaging him, going on and on about his irresponsibility. The father was embarrassed, but his face also conveyed disdain at the officer, that he felt he was being talked down to. He tried to explain that the girls’ grandfather had just died, and their mother was overwhelmed trying to keep track of not only their two girls, but all of the other children in building while their parents were away at work. After several more minutes of scolding, an old man who had gathered in the hallway began gently patting the arm of the officer, “aasef, we’re sorry, we’re sorry.”
Having made his point, the officer left, with my friend and I in tow. My friend and the officer slapped hands in the alleyway, proud of their good deed, and we went our separate ways. Back at the eyeglass repair shop, my friend had left his sunglasses for a Syrian employee to tighten the hinge screws. “I’m sorry my sister,” he said, explaining our sudden departure and the incident with the two girls. At the mention of “police” the Syrian woman’s posture straightened. Finishing the story, my friend transitioned, “What do I owe you [for the sunglass repair]?” “Nothing, nothing,” she said in a flat tone, “how could I ask for payment after such kindness.”
My friend was very proud. From his vantage, this was just another incident of Jordanian hospitality, and Syrian deference for the security Jordanians had endowed upon them.