By Greg Gelpi
With his attaché case of assorted rags and his squirt bottle made from a Dasani water bottle, Bruce Raslin, 52, keeps his eyes turned to the ground as planes fly over head.
"If the shoes look bad, you look bad," said Raslin, a Mableton resident who shines shoes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. "The shoes cannot detract from the outfit."
Since the age of 10, he's taken to the profession, one he calls an art, and for the last three years he's shined shoes at the airport, impressing everyone from the everyday business traveler to big names, such as Evander Holyfield.
"You have shoe-shiners, then you have shoeshine artists," Raslin said. "I'm an artist."
His art brought back Gene Terry, a Boca Raton, Fla., businessman, who passed up an opportunity for a shine in a Florida airport to get one from Raslin.
"A good one is done by someone who has been doing it for a long time," Terry, 66, said. "They take pride in what they do. I can almost see my face in my shoes."
A good shine shows that a person takes pride in himself or herself and demonstrates a particular attention to detail, Raslin said.
"I came here before and remembered him," Terry said. "The real shoe-shiners are a dying breed."
To which Raslin replied, "Seriously, I think I'm one of the best in the world."
Raslin recalled shining the ostrich-skin shoes of Holyfield. When the heavy-weight boxer handed him a $100 bill, he nonchalantly went back to shining shoes, but noticed that Holyfield was still there.
"I said, 'Champ, I see your feet, and they're not moving,'" Raslin said with a smile on his face.
The turn of a line and quick wit only enhances the shoeshine experience, Terry said.
Meeting Holyfield, though, didn't provide as much punch as some events he's witnessed from his shoeshine station.
A woman dashed around the corner and ducked behind his chair, he recalled.
Asked what she was doing, she told Raslin that she was watching as her millionaire husband was booking a flight with his "much younger, much thinner" girlfriend.
Raslin said it wasn't easy getting a job when he was 10, so he picked up shining shoes. When he became a teen-ager, he dabbled in traditional teen jobs, but never found anything that fit him.
He then took his shoe-shining to a new level by joining the Army.
"I took a three-year hiatus to join the Army," he said. "That helped my shoe-shining abilities."
Shoeshines at the airport are $5 for shoes and $6 for boots. Shoe-shiners are located in the North and South terminals and concourses A and B.