Asia Taboo


What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever stolen? 

Theft has different strains of appreciation and contempt across the world, but there are common threads. One of these is that perhaps nothing belongs to anyone anyway. Another is that it is punishable. And one of these is that a woman caught stealing doesn’t face the same consequence as a man. I’ll admit I’ve taken advantage of this in many ways. Hearken to my story of female privilege.

My morality kicks in at stealing from individuals. I don’t feel comfortable with it. I’ve been stolen from, multiple times. House broken into, cars broken into, mugged, extorted, bribed. The violation is hard to swallow. I don’t wish it on anyone else.

I only steal from the collective.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever stolen?

Like many little girls growing up in the USA, I went through a shoplifting phase as a rite of passage. Cosmetics, earrings, clothing. Whatever I could get away with. Later in my 20’s It became a ritual I’d carry out against The Man, stealing from big box stores figuring, I’m sure incorrectly, that they could afford it and I was doing the world a service by taking profit from them. Once I realized it impacts employees most I stopped.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever stolen?

After 9/11 airports stop allowing water to be taken through security, and it’s sold for exorbitant prices in the airport. I ain’t buying that bullshit. No one notices if you walk off with water in an airport anyway. This is the first of my air travel thieving.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever stolen?

Dusty bottles of alcohol that no one was ever going to buy anyway.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever stolen?

Over a year I steal 13 floatation vests from flights. Then later when wondering what on earth to do with them, I have the idea to use them for performance art at Burning Man. We play survivors who have just crash landed there. It is brilliant, with one of my friends using the extra vest for the hairdresser head that he brought with him, cradling it and the vest in his arm, petting it and cooing

“It’s just a flesh wound. You’ll be okay honey. You’re going to pull through.”

The habit dies hard. I feel I’m owed more than I paid for. But then travel gets cheaper and cheaper. This is the second of my air travel thieving.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever stolen?

Your public transportation works on the honor system? Come on.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever stolen?

Yet later, I began stealing meals from fancy hotels around the world. USAmerican owned establishments outside of USAmerica. 

The Hilton Conrad comes to mind. My partner-in-crime at the desk asking for dinner reservations. Giving the room number of a room we’ve already scoped out. They confirm the name and if it’s female he points to me. And then I sign that name to our $600 bill of Black River Caviar and lobster and all the cheeses and desserts. We trundle ourselves stuffed overfull out of that hotel lobby into the light rain as fast as we can. And get away with it.

I’ve gotten away with all of it. 

What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever stolen?

I didn’t mean to steal anything. Having glimpsed the world of true consequences I don’t take those risks anymore at all and wasn’t intending to do anything of the sort. 

Instead I am working for an average living online on my laptop in the brand new Istanbul airport, and noting that none of the chairs near the gate have the wiring run through them that would cause the outlets to function. I am running low on battery.

I don’t like the new airport. Ataturk was a favorite of mine, and I loved the intersection of the world that passed through it. Somehow, this feels different. The fancy new squat toilets. The high ceilings. I check social media and my friend informed me that the strange vibes I am feeling in the airport checked out, that it had been rushed to completion and over 100 deaths were involved. It feels icky.

I love Turkey, it’s where I met and married DH and began married life with him. It was the only country in the world that would easily, quickly, and cheaply let an Iranian and an American marry. 

I love Turkish men because they are often the most predictable of men. The sweetest of hearts and the strongest of tempers.

When they call the flight to board, they ask me for my visa. I’d read that it was cheaper to obtain on arrival and tell them that I plan to do this. They then claim that I cannot. An argument ensues with me showing them all the evidence that I can, and them reverting back to the computer screen in front of them stating that USAmerican passports can only fly straight through to Azerbaijan from JFK in NYC, or else they need a visa.

A sweet Turkish man who is boarding leans into me and says “The rush visas take 3 hours. You can apply online.”

I thank him for his random kindness. 

They take my boarding pass and remove me from the flight. They tell me where I can pick up my luggage, and give my back my boarding pass to show as proof. Another USAmerican is standing by, he also is taken off the flight. He is asking them if he can go into the plane to please tell his travel partner what happened, at least. 

I do not go to retrieve my luggage. The airline staff is busy with the other USAmerican. I instead enter the neighboring airgate going in the wrong direction. At the bend in the gangway, I turn around and exit with a throng of other passengers, coming from behind the gate agent for the flight I want to be on. 

I see a crowd of airline personnel there now, all male, all facing away from me. There is one woman. Facing me. Wearing a maintenance uniform. They are all joking together in Turkish. 

I immediately beeline onto the jetway I want, holding her eyes the whole time. She sends me a slight smile. Thank you sister. #KadınCinayetleriPolitiktir

On the jetway I run into the Turkish man who told me about the rush visa. 

“Did you get everything worked out?” he asks. I smile and place one finger over my lips. He smiles back.

I know that the flight is two hours and forty-five minutes so waste no time looking up the website. While trying to fill it out I am boarding, and realize that there’s a chance I’ll lose internet on the plane, or that something won’t submit easily and I won’t have time, and I can’t take that chance.

I take the seat printed on my boarding pass, crossing my fingers that it was not, at the very last minute, given away to someone else. I’m seated next to a big fat Turkish guy who makes the wrong noises when he breathes. I am sad there are no hot Azeris or Turks in my row.

I call my partner-in-crime and ask for help. He is available. I text him all of the information and he has completed the application for the visa and sent me the confirmation number before the flight takes off.

When I land in Baku, there are kind immigration employees, ambassadors, who stand in front of immigration who ask if anyone needs anything. I explain that it has been just over three hours since my visa application went through, and that I am waiting. 

“Let’s do all of the immigration process we can for you now, so that when it comes through all you have to do is walk through these gates.” he says, smiling broadly. And so we do, and then he brings me a glass of water.

Half an hour later, I’m walking through those gates into Azerbaijan.

My luggage arrives the next day. I obtain a refund for the leg of the flight I was denied. Smiling, I tell everyone I can about the possibly fictional time I stowed away on a commercial flight, even though I know it’s a shitty privileged thing to have done. I didn’t create the way the world works, I just ride it.

This is the third of my air travel thieving. Being a stowaway on a commercial flight?

That’s the biggest thing I’ve ever stolen.

Like stories about close calls with law enforcement? Here’s more:

1: Bribery in Uganda

2: Pink Taser

3. Homeland Security

4. Stowaway

5: Bodymore


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