I'm at the Nashville airport, hunkered down here at the Coffee Beanery with a latte and a bagel and nothing important to do. On the wall in front of me is a TV showing country music videos, with the sound turned off. This is oddly engaging. Maybe because of the singer?
That's Shania Twain, correct? Yes, I'm pretty sure it is. It's probably pathetic, cultural-awareness-wise, that I even question this, but country music is not my genre, so I'm on shaky ground. One thing I'm sure of: She is the most beautiful woman on the planet. My goodness! I find myself so mesmerized by her that I barely notice the drip of a guy swaying next to her, poor soul. Where did they get him? They couldn't find a guy who could dance? Maybe he's more engaging with the sound turned on . . .
And so this is the reverie into which I sink, suspended here in time at an airport Coffee Beanery. I'm thinking: But they don't match! He's a mere twig of a male. She's a beautiful peacock and he's a common . . . chicken. Soon I'm interrupted by a voice just over my left shoulder. It's the sound of a guy talking on a cell phone. "This is kinda weird," the guy says. "I'm standing here watching myself on TV."
For a second I think maybe there's one of those security monitors overhead and that perhaps that's what the guy is referring to. But no, there is only one TV screen in sight.
With that, I whip my head around, as anyone would. It's him! In the flesh! The drip! The twig! The chicken! Oh my God! I whip my head back around again, as anyone would, and wonder if I saw right.
Okay, hang on a second. There is much to sort out. First of all, I wish country music were my genre, because for all I know I could right now be in the presence of a Really Famous Person. And let's suppose I am. What is the etiquette? Just what are the rules of behavior for when you bump into a famous person?
I find myself compelled to look at him again. I want to get another peek, just to make sure he's who I think he is, even though I have no idea who he is, even if he is who I think he is. Oh, I'm so flustered! What is that about? Why do we, the regular people, get flustered when we bump into people we normally see only on TV? Even people we don't like? Moments ago, I was having many uncharitable thoughts about Mr. Drip here. (And don't I feel awful? I'm sure the guy has many gifts. Hey, stand me next to Shania Twain and let's see what people say. )
Okay, here goes. I peek again. Oh, that's him, all right. He's got a guitar case strapped over his back. He's wearing khaki shorts, a T-shirt, flip-flops. He is standing just a few feet away from me, watching himself dance with Shania Twain on TV, and he's ever so slightly bopping his head.
Am I staring?
He sees me staring. For a millisecond we make actual eye contact. Oh my God! I whip my head back around, as anyone would, and look down into my latte.
Well, that was slick. Was that bad? Was he annoyed? Was he flattered? When you are in the same room as a famous person, what is rude and what is polite? There are no other customers here in the Coffee Beanery. He might be waiting for me to ask for his autograph or something. Isn't that what famous people want? They are, after all, famous. (Is he? And if he's not, am I to assume he wants to be? And does that place a special burden on me to somehow help?)
He doesn't appear to have a bodyguard, or an entourage, so I suspect he's not super famous. Also, since country music is not my genre, don't I get some sort of special dispensation? It would be like bumping into the most famous singer in all of Latvia. I would have no way of knowing, so therefore I would have no responsibility at all. Correct?
Maybe. But I'm in Nashville. And the guy behind me made a video with Shania Twain, and he knows I know it. There is a relationship between a famous person and his fans; he really can't exist without them. And right now, in this awkward moment, I'm all this one has got. I feel called to duty.
I stand up. I take the last sip of my latte and jiggle the cup, as if, ho-hum, I'm just headed to the trash can. I take a step toward him and . . . freeze. Um. Er. Ugh. "Hey!" I say, finally, and motion toward the TV. "Wow!" And, "Yeah!" Followed by, "Well, wow!" He smiles a generous smile, as if trying to relieve me of my embarrassment. And so I zoom away, pulling my little suitcase behind.
That went well. Speechless in front of a (maybe) famous person. I feel like an idiot. I think it was the right thing to do.
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is email@example.com.