The place: Airport bathroom in the D Terminal in Atlanta, a place that prides itself on airport bathrooms–so much so that it places feedback stations by the exit doors to each. You can choose one of three buttons: a big smiley face, a sort of indifferent line face, or a frowny face. I won’t press any button, though, because, like I said, they are right outside the bathrooms. I’ll smile now. If I hit the smile there, I would have to go back in, wash my hands again, press smile again, and get stuck in an endless loop.
A tall, regally slim man in his late twenties to mid thirties steps back from the sink. His hair is all one length, reaching the nape of his neck. It is slicked straight back from his forehead. The hair is so dark and healthy that I imagine heads like his being caged and kept alive to make coats. But then that image doesn’t make sense at all. That hair so purposefully combed back with what I imagine is a single confident gesture cannot be imprisoned. (I can see a hand motion like a bull rider makes with his free hand, but more smoothly executed.) Hair free. Free hair by birthright, though, rather than by consequence of rebellious action.
His aquiline nose adds to his royal appearance. Has he taken off his crown so he can travel incognito? But it isn’t just his features that make me think he stepped out of a gilded fame in the darkened hallway of a European castle; it is the way he carries himself. So calmly confident. So decidedly un-American.
As he turns from the sink to begin his exit, his travel is immediately impeded by a man and son walking too quickly from the toilets. They seem to flail and move in extra dimensions, unaware they are sharing space with others in public and not in their own basement man-and-son cave. I imagine they would be horrible upstairs neighbors. All I see is sport team t-shirts and hats and arms as they rush toward the sink as a single, though lopsided, four-footed beast and nearly collide with their exact opposite, the calm prince of the Atlanta toilet.
He pauses, and without even the slightest indication of irritations or even shock, he subtly gestures for them to pass. That same hand that combs the hair after removing the crown rotated ever so slightly upward and outward to allow the great unwashed the right of way. A kind smile of forbearance took over his countenance (and few can have a countenance). I was reminded of a Pope blessing his followers from the high balcony with reserve or a royal rider in the back of a carriage whose gloved hand reaches out ever so slightly to signal the lowly merchant to pass.
So effortless his grace, it had to be situated very deeply in his DNA. He was constitutionally as unable to be gross and rude as he was to fly. Though, float he just might.
The father-son never noticed the gesture or the man or anyone for that matter, being so totally focused on putting forth as little effort as possible to pretend wash their hands before exiting and yoking themselves to the front of mother’s wagon.