Michael Beard, aging Nobel laureate and wholesale curmudgeon, arrives at Heathrow after spending some time in Berlin:
He had reached the place where the amorphous overlapping ten queues narrowed down to three in order to line up for the immigration desks. And here he came, a gaunt parchment-faced fellow in a loden coat (Beard had always despised the style) sliding in from the left, trying to use his height to squirm ahead, angling his oversized briefcase at knee height to use as a wedge. Abruptly, driven by shameless rectitude, Beard stepped forward to deny the man space and felt the briefcase bang against his knee. At that moment Beard turned and sought out the man’s gaze and said politely, though his heart beat a little harder, “Terribly sorry.”
A rebuke poorly disguised as an apology, pretending manners to a man he would rather at that moment kill. It was good to be back in England.
From Solar, by Ian McEwan (published 2010).