He was a portly man, wearing a dark business suit, and he looked like a thousand other travelers at the airport at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday. He looked hassled and harried and perhaps a few years older than he really is. He was talking on a cell phone—who wasn't?— but then it became clear that he wasn't talking about management strategies or business plans or sales meetings.
When I first noticed him, he had his back to the gate and his face to the concourse. A group of women then walked by him, noticed what he was doing and laughed—more at him than with him. He glared and then promptly turned his back to the crowd, tucked himself near an ARRIVAL monitor, and continued to read with great emotion:
Then, out of the boxI looked at his hand and discovered he wore no wedding band. Was he, like me, a single father-- or did he simply not wear a ring? Was he trying to squeeze a precious moment of love and intimacy out of an impersonal day on the road? Had he lost a bet to one of his youngest ones? What made him think of reading Dr. Suess at Gate B39? Did he do it often? And to whom was he reading? A child who had kissed him goodbye that very morning? Or a kid he hadn't seen in a few days or weeks?
Came Thing Two and Thing One!
And they ran to us fast.
They said, "How do you do?
Would you like to shake hands
With Thing One and Thing Two?
I would like to say that I regret not asking him these questions but that wouldn't be true. I watched him straight on for a few minutes and then realized that it was not the time for such an intrusion. And, even after he was done, he seemed unwilling to want to share with a stranger like me the reasons for his thoughtful parenting. I left him alone and I don't even know if he noticed me staring at him—or would have cared anyway.
Those of us who have kids know how hard business travel can be on them—and on us. But this guy, this nondescript guy in the middle of a terminal, had figured out one simple way to ease the guilt, the separation, the loneliness. And then I thought of the children on the other end of the line and hoped that they would, in time, appreciate how lucky they were to have a dad who cared enough about them to brave the ridicule of the airport masses in order to fill them in on how Thing One and Thing Two ultimately saved the day.