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Weekend at Hartsfield 

A half-naked man. Two honeymoons. A 48-hour journey to nowhere.

Page 6 of 7

I point to the shop behind him and say, "If he'd come down this way a little further he could've gone, um, Duty Free."

At a quarter to midnight, I am back on Concourse A, between A-11 and A-13. The chairs there are cushiony and there are no armrests separating the seats. You can stretch out. I pull out my pillow and a flimsy blue fleece blanket. The concourse has, for the most part, emptied. I shut my eyes. I cover my head with a magazine. A segment on the CNN airport channel blares "Taps."

It's a little before 6 a.m. in a men's room on Concourse A and I'm washing my hair in the sink.

I've slept four or five hours. Hospital-patient sleep, a wink here, an hour there.

In the restroom, I pull out a bath towel, my shaving kit, deodorant. I'm in jeans and an undershirt. I hunch over the sink and begin coaxing splurts of auto-sensor water from the spigot and plooks of soap from the auto-dispenser. I lather my hair with hand soap just as the security announcement about reporting "any suspicious activity" comes on. I shadow box with the spigot, gradually divining enough water to rinse. I feel like a fugitive altering his appearance. A few men walk in. None of them pays me any attention.

After using the towel to dry my hair, I slip into a handicap stall and change into fresh clothes. Back at the sink I brush my teeth, and when I'm done, heading toward the north end of the concourse, I feel remarkably refreshed. The airport is just yawning to life.

At 6:42 on this Sunday morning, a lady at a credit-card-promoting booth is already in full come-on mode, a carnival barker minus the squirt-gun game.

"Hello, sir, come over and earn a free flight with Delta," she tells someone who ignores her. She resorts to the conversational-ambush tactic: "Hello, sir," she says to one guy, "what time is your flight today?" The guy, apparently thinking she may have some news about his trip, tells her 8 a.m. "Well you have time to come over and ... ." The guy waves her off. Still, amazingly, she smiles. She is in her 40s, frumpy, sad eyes. Even if hers is a corporate-generated grin, kind of sheepish with teeth together, it is a Sunday-morning affirmation that we are human.

I approach the woman, whose name tag reads "Karen," and ask about her job.

"I just stand here all day and smile and talk to people," she says. "Some are nice and some are weird and some are nasty. Maybe I'll write a book one day, A Day in the Life at the Airport."

Then she pitches me.

Her: "Where you going today?"

Me: "Nowhere."

Her: "So you're just hanging out in the airport all day?"

Me: "Uh-huh."

It started raining overnight and is still drizzling.

By 7:15 the foot traffic on Concourse A is well on its way to heavy volume, a drag strip in two directions.

I grab a $5 breakfast — a banana and some orange juice — and, after reading the morning paper at the gate for a flight to Salt Lake City, I walk out to Concourse E to see the flight-attendant fashion show.

I'm early by a couple of hours. I lounge at the Korean Air departure gate then blow some time down at the food court. I spot the honeymooners. They're groggy. I overhear the man tell the person behind the counter at Caribou Coffee that they just got married. He has on a Falcons cap. I say, "Big game today, eh?" The Birds are playing at New Orleans this afternoon.

The guy isn't feeling it. "I'll find out what happened a week from today when we get back," he says. He and his bride are Jamaica-bound. He seems either wedding-night hungover or supremely whipped. What guy worth his Falcons hat can resist a "go team" encounter even if it is the first morning of married life?

Then I notice what is printed in small white letters across the front of his black T-shirt: "I Love My Wife." I also notice his wife's brown T-shirt with pink letters spelling out, "I Love My Husband."

I take a seat and await the march of the stewardesses.

The fuss has been over nothing.

Yes, the Korean Air pixies do arrive in dapper outfits, in sky-meets-mountain-lake-blue. They could pass for the marching-band flag corps of a private high school. But they aren't strutting in formation or turning heads or in any way defying gravity on their amble down the airport corridor.

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12/11/2014

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