He was an Iranian diplomat and he was in a hurry.
His trip to Tehran -- half a world and millions of harsh diplomatic words away -- was beginning from Dulles Airport within two hours. Ismail Jamshad, first secretary of the Iranian Embassy staff here, was packing hastily after two and a half years in America.
Most of the country may rail at the Ayatolla Khomeini, or seethe with indignation over the fate of the American hostages. But there was none of that yesterday among the residents of a quiet Falls Church cul-de-sac as one of their neighbors, a friendly fellow they had grown to like, prepared to leave.
Jamshad, a slight bachelor, with a neatly trimmed mustache and a likeness to Peter Sellers, showed little emotion as he closed up his two-story brick home on Valley Lane.
"These things are normal," Jamshad said. "If I weren't leaving today, I'd be leaving perhaps in a few months anyway. When you are in the foreign service, you have to be ready for these things."
Jamshad was one of the diplomats here who had been ordered out of the country by midnight last night.
"It has happened at other times and in other countries," he said, "but we don't feel bad because we are leaving . . ."
Outside Jamshad's home, an ABC TV cameraman checked his watch and waited for Jamshad to carry his bags to a green Buick with diplomatic license plates. Two boys, Karim Mohanadi, 14, and his brother Cyrus, 11, sons of the real estate agent who had sold Jamshad his house and was inside, kicked a soccer ball on the lawn beside two holly trees.
"It was a bit of a short notice," said Karim, an Oakton High School ninth grader whose family had befriended the diplomat. "Mom said that Carter announced he was sending the diplomats back at midnight tonight. He didn't have much time to pack."
"Inside, the Iranian had folded away his clothes and his memories, tucking them into six brown leather bags that were placed at the foot of his brass bed. A leather briefcase rested on an orange quilt, with a wallet full of credit cards, a sign of the American way, nearby.
It was hard to decipher the Iranian's mood, as he played out his final hand in this country with a poker face.
He had no hard feelings, he said. He had made many friends in America, spending winter weekends skiing in the mountains of Pennsylvania. His skis were wrapped in plastic and ready to go to Iran, too.
"The Iranian and American people don't have anything against each other, it is the policy of the government that is sending us away," he said.
In the living room, a handful of friends and neighbors sipped coffee in silence. No one wanted to talk.
"They don't want to talk to you," said Jamshad. "You can write: 'He had nice friends who were helping him to the end.'"
Across the street, neighbors Rich Wilson, a mortgage banker, and his wife, Nancy, watched a mechanic tune up their car and said they'd hate to see Jamshad go.
They'd been to his house "for peanuts and beer," said Wilson, 34. "He spends a lot of time at the embassy, and at night, when we were going to the car, he'd be coming home and we'd wave. He's good people. We hate to see him leave."
Close by, another diplomat, Ataollah Shafii, one of the embassy's two third secretaries, was leaving his home at the Skyline Center. FBI agent Fred Kingston had just turned Shafii's key over to the front desk, his "last effects," said the agent.
Shafii, 30, a Tehran-trained lawyer and the main link between Iranian students in the United States and the embassy, had spent months working out the legal and immigration problems the diplomatic crisis had caused the students. Six days into the crisis he had phoned D.C. attorney Michael Maggio to seek his counsel on how to deal with U.S. immigration officials.
"We only had one day to pack but it's not so tough to leave," said Shafii as he slipped into the back seat next to the agent. Another FBI man gripped the wheel.
"He's got a plane to catch," said the driver. And the brown FBI limousine roared off into the night.