He wore his hair to shoulder length. Silver strands somewhat matted and unkempt seemed to fall into line with the ones on his face that burrowed into light pink creases showing both lifelong travels and wisdom. The scarf around his neck matched the cool autumn breeze well, with its checkered pattern of Jack O’ Lantern orange and multicolored earth- tone hues. It fell across an older bright green jacket, the kind prominent from twenty five years prior and worn to Beer League Softball Leagues. It had seen good use. The striped bands at the cuffs felt as worn as the owner’s face. Better days were seen long behind in the shadow of this man’s life. Here he was in front of me, and I was the only one in line to recognize, this time traveling Benjamin Franklin in the flesh, hiding amongst his public, lost in the crowd awaiting a fresh early brew of coffee at Dunkin Donuts.
At least, that’s what my mind was telling me. I eyed him as he nervously stood there, wondering what it must be like to be this man, Founding Father or not, a round, full belly that had seen the delight of many a kruller and fine and not so fine pastries over the course of a lifetime. A figure like this, stands out to me figuratively and literally amongst the throngs, and I could not help but be captive to his uncanny and naturally odd splendor .
My mind leapt forward, thinking of walking out that door coffee and muffin in hand, and posting “witty” Twitter-like puns on my Facebook account in the context of…”…just saw Benjamin Franklin in line at Dunkin Donuts, and though this man may not have in common the invention of the Postal Service, he more than likely shared his contraction of Syphilis.”
On the walk home my fingers flipped feverishly on my phone, Googling “Ben Franklin STD” with little payoff. I searched again, finding an excerpt from an interview on the Washington Post’s website, detailing an interview with an author of a recent Franklin Biography. The momentary search for something frivolous and silly, quickly launched into an as immediate discovery of incredible details into the man’s life that rang with such real and candid jovial moments that sprung breathing character into this otherwise static figure in our country’s history.
“Washington, D.C.: One of my favorite moments in McCullough’s “John Adams” was the story of when, on their way to represent the colonies in Europe, Adams and Franklin shared a bed at an inn one night. Quibbling over whether to leave the window open or shut, one could almost imagine these paragons of American independence fighting over the covers. It still brings a smile to my face.
Walter Isaacson: I love the story of Franklin and Adams fighting over the open window. Franklin won: He explained his theory (which turned out to be correct) that colds were caused not be cold air but by contagion. The “utter humanness” of the Founders is also seen when Adams and Franklin are in Paris. Adams is a prude. Franklin a flirt. Adams is appalled. Franklin plays chess in the bathroom of a girlfriend while she soaks in a tub. We have to remember these were flesh and blood people!”
A small moment such as this discovery made me feel not only entertained, but enlightened in some way. Eyes sharpened by the norm of the abnormal helped me realize a deeper appreciation for a figure humanized to me in the time it takes for fingers to dance upon technology in such a modest and amazing way. This makes me wonder whether or not I should have told that old man what my thoughts were of his grizzled visage. His gaze towards me as I exited that Church of Fried Dough told me in some way that maybe, just maybe, he already knew.