She has asked me a number of times to contribute to the blog, but I thought it best to wait until the "Big Event", our meeting in person for the first time. A sort of parallel view looking in from both sides.
So, finally a date is set: 24th November 2010. The idea being that with Linsey's family together for Thanksgiving, I can do a one stop shop in meeting them all. Now due to work commitments, I was only able to take a few days off, the 24th through to the 29th November, a flying visit as it were.
The tickets had been booked, I was to fly out from Leeds at 6am (GMT) and land in Minneapolis (via Amsterdam) at around 12 noon (CDT), some 12 hrs later. Due to the early start, I had decided that I wouldn't go to bed, I would need to be at the airport at 4am, so I would then need to be up by 3am to allow me get to the airport on time, and check I had everything before leaving the house.
This was going to be a marathon session, and so I asked Linsey to stay online, so keeping me awake, I would then just sleep on the plane - if only I knew at that point how long that marathon would really be!
We both had a great time catching up, and planning on what we would be doing and we were really excited about the next few hours. 3.30am arrived, I had a taxi outside to take me to the airport, and it was T-minus 15hrs to being able to hold each other. I joked that unless she wore a computer monitor over her head, I wouldn't recognise her when I arrived! I said my good byes, the next time we spoke it would be while stood facing each other.
Arriving at the airport, I was pleased to see I was at the front of the queue for check-in, and was keen to get my bags checked and go through to departures.
4.15am: check-in has yet to open (it should have opened at 4am).
4.20am: KLM staff member announces, that unfortunately the flight is cancelled due to a cracked windscreen on the plane. My world drops away, how am I meant to meet my connecting flight in Amsterdam now?
4:30am: I'm directed over to the KLM ticket desk, they inform me that they have arranged an alternative flight for me, but not via Amsterdam. I will now fly - Manchester to London, London to Minneapolis. How the hell am I to get to Manchester, it's 60miles away? KLM will send me in a taxi! Only problem, I will be over 5 hours late into Minneapolis.
I then decide to call Linsey - I told her that my flight had been cancelled, "that's a joke right?". "err, Nope - but I am getting another flight, I won't arrive though until after 5pm CDT!, see you later"
I then have an hours taxi ride to Manchester airport, where I finally check onto my first flight. I now have a 5 hr wait in Manchester, thankfully the airline kindly upgraded my ticket so I have use of a business lounge for that time. I decide to settle in and spend the next 5 hours eating muffins, drinking copious amounts of espresso and reading every newspaper available.
I catch my flight to London, then a very quick dash from terminal 1 to 4 (I only have an hour in London) and I'm finally on my way on a Delta flight to the states! I struggle to sleep on the plane, as I'm now too excited.
As we make landfall, all I can see is white - how much snow is there on the ground? The pilot makes an announcement, the runway is closed, we may have to divert! Then a second announcement, they are going to reopen, but we are in a queue, and may have to wait 40mins. Suddenly 2 mins later, we're told permission has been given to land, I don't think I've ever landed so quickly. The pilot has obviously been told to put down ASAP. The wheels touch down, and I'm on US soil at 5pm CDT, the first thing I do is to text Linsey:
"Just landed - waiting to get off the plane. Can't wait to see you - btw: who ordered all the snow? :)"
She texts me back:
"Yay!!!! I'm Standing to your right as you come down the stairs. And I thought you ordered the snow. It's here and so are you"
I'm so excited, I can't wait to get off the plane. I arrive in immigration, I'm the 2nd in line at the International visitor queue, the US nationals queue is huge, most of the passengers are obviously Americans coming back for the holidays. This is going to be so quick - no more waiting around! I now have an image from Love Actually going though my head, that scene at the end, where couples meet each other at the arrivals gate. Thinking that's how it's going to be!
Immigration is a pain, I get asked so many questions. Do Homeland Security want any tourists to visit the USA?
I finally make it through, and I'm in the baggage claim hall. I wait for my bags, and wait, and wait. I'm finally the only one still stood there and the luggage belt has stopped! I walk over to customs - the very helpful customs official there tells me I can find a luggage claim desk in the next hall (domestic arrivals) and he lets me though with just a smile and a wave.
Right, where's the luggage counter, Ah I can see it, I'm now very tired, pissed off and want to get this over with so I can meet Linsey - she must be wondering by now where I am?
So I'm striding off toward the counter and I hear a shout calling my name. I turn around and don't see anyone I recognise so carry on. I hear a second shout, and this person is running towards me, I suddenly recognise that it's Linsey. For a moment I'm confused, how the hell did she get into the baggage claim area?
I give her a quick hug, and very quickly explain, that I need to find my bags, and practically yank her with me towards the counter - very romantic!
The women at the counter is extremely helpful, and as she's looking for my bags on the computer I finally turnaround to Linsey and say Hi! We have a hug and I try explain more slowly this time what has happened.
I'm then told that my bags are still in London, and will arrive tomorrow, however they will drop them off at Linsey's house. It's time then to leave the airport.
Linsey and I and spoken many times about what we would have done dating wise, if we had lived in the same city. I had mentioned that for our first date, I would have taken her to Starbucks, as I know how much she enjoys going. So it's our first port of call after the airport. I was surprised at the choice on offer and didn't recognise a number of the drinks. In the end I had a salted hazelnut chocolate ( I must admit - I wouldn't have another). But we could finally relax and have a proper conversation after all the madness of the last 24hrs.
The 2nd stop after Starbucks was a haircut for me. I hadn't cut my hair in the previous 11months, so it was getting quite long. Linsey had a friend who I was told was a great hairdresser, so I had purposely waited till then to get it cut. As it turned out, Christine was a great hairdresser and did a brilliant job with my mess of hair. So an hour in from landing, and I had already sampled an American Starbucks and got my hair cut!
We did one last trip, to a K-Mart to get some bits an pieces that I needed - as I had no luggage, and it was off to Linseys house.
It was a relief finally to arrive at her house, a quick tour, an introduction to Lola (her dog) and I could finally sit down and relax, suffice to say, I was that tired, I didn't even finish the beer that Linsey had brought specially for me! We sat and caught up further, did a lot of hugging - it was strange to actually be holding someone you had only seen on a computer screen for 7 months.
So finally after being awake for over 40hrs, my head hit the pillow, and I could look forward to tomorrow and meeting all her family......