he said it was love at first flight

May 15, 2011 § 64 Comments

This is a story about my travels.  It is also a story about my love.

Last Sunday night, one week ago, was yet another of those recurring drives from the airport.  I watched O.T. disappear past the security gates of BUF Buffalo Niagara International Airport.  He flew home to California after eight elated days in Toronto.  This time, our parting was rife with optimism.  It was only eight days before when I picked him up at the arrival gate and the course of our lives became clear.

For every cheerful hello and tearful goodbye we’ve exchanged at various airports across North America, we were bound to arrive where we are today.  In over two and a half years of traveling between two coasts, we boarded many planes and parted through many clouds.  Our cloud has a silver lining.

The day we met. My aunt took a picture of me before checking in at SFO, moments before meeting O.T. Then on my way from Minneapolis to Toronto, a beautiful sight of lenticular clouds.

Back in 2008, I was half asleep at SFO San Francisco International Airport’s Gate 45A, awaiting my morning flight.  The guy beside me spoke.  A query: “Are you going to Michigan?”.  I was groggy and a little baffled, but the question didn’t register as anything unusual.  The fact is, my parents live in Michigan and this is a question I am often asked.  I replied, “No.  I’m going to Toronto, but I have a transfer in Minneapolis”, assuming he was not familiar with the airport code and meant to ask about Minneapolis.  Yes, he, too, was on his way somewhere with a transfer in Minneapolis.  A conversation ensued about our past travels.

Half an hour later, our boarding call.  He uttered, “Maybe I’ll see you on the plane.”  I mused, boarding pass in hand.  We were quick to notice the seats on our respective boarding passes.  He was assigned 46-A and I, 47-A.  “Well, what are the chances? We will see each other on the plane.”

And so, we boarded that flight together.  The lady at 47-B was happy to exchange her seat for his, a window seat.  He and I sat together through the duration of a three hour flight, absorbed in candid conversation without a minute of pause.  He, in show-and-tell fashion, kept me amused with pictures on his iPhone — his latest visit to a San Francisco art gallery, a recent hiking experience in the red woods, and an Anderson Silva fight.  I was fascinated.  His interests aren’t so random.  My minor in Fine Arts history and annual wilderness camping experiences and the occasional UFC Pay-Per-View viewings with friends just paved a sense of accord and appreciation in those three short hours.

We disembarked at MSP Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.   He asked if I would like to eat lunch.  We had our first meal together.  We shared sushi.  We exchanged contact information and parted amicably.  He shook my hand.

The following day, he called me when he landed.  He was visiting Istanbul.  I was at home in Toronto.  I was surprised he called, despite expecting him to.  I picked up the phone amidst a cleaning frenzy.  I told him I was selling my piano and a potential buyer was on the way.  He asked, “Can you play one last time on your piano before it is sold?”.  “What would you like to hear?” .  “Elton John.”  “I don’t know any Elton John off the top of my head.”  I played him my favorite, Sun and Moon from Miss Saigon.  The door bell rang.  I made a request, “Do you mind calling back in half an hour?  I’m home alone and the buyer is male.”  He agreed.

The buyer came in, a young electrical engineering student from the University of Toronto, my own alma mater.  He tested out the keys.  I asked him to give it all he’s got and play what comes to mind.  He played Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight and purchased my piano.  I was astonished.

What are the chances that Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight would be played by a random buyer in my home within minutes that I was asked to play Elton John by the random stranger living in California, calling me from Istanbul, and who I met at the airport whose plane seat was randomly one away from mine?

Well, things aren’t so random.

Back at SFO, moments before meeting O.T., the airport personnel responsible for checking me in was named Romulo — my father’s name and not a common name.  I had a short conversation with Romulo.  I noticed his nametag as he noticed my birthplace on my passport.  Butuan.  It turns out the hometown of Romulo at the check-in desk was Butuan — a not-too-significant city in one of the southern islands of the Philippines.  A city I haven’t seen since I was ten months old.  This man who hailed from the city of my birth, this man who has the same unique name as my father, was the man responsible for checking me into the flight where I would soon meet my husband-to-be.

Are things ever truly random?

The piano buyer, who unbeknownst played Elton John without request, was completing a degree in electrical engineering.  Why wasn’t the piano buyer pursuing a more common degree like business administration or psychology or biology?  Before pursuing his Masters and PhD in computer engineering, O.T. completed his undergraduate in electrical engineering.

What are the chances?

O.T. called me back within half an hour, as promised.  O.T. called every night ever since.  There was never a single day since we met that he didn’t call.

A few weeks later, O.T. and I found ourselves at LAS Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, this time not so randomly.  We met, planned.  We shared our first kiss, unplanned, by the baggage carousel.

Sometime later, we found ourselves at SFO once again, where I love you’s were exchanged for the first time.

Last summer, on our way to IST, we found ourselves at the same gate at SFO and decided to reenact the day we met two years prior in the very same seats at Gate45A.

In the past two and a half years, we have shared many blissful and tearful moments in airports across North America like YYZ Pearson International Airport in Toronto, JFK International Airport in New York, DTW Detroit Wayne International Airport, and as far away as FCO Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome and IST Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul.

Two weeks ago, he surprised me with a request to pick him up at BUF for a late night flight.  I drove in from Toronto listening to Buffalo’s Joy FM station.  As I approached the airport parking, the radio played Can You Feel The Love Tonight.  I cried.

At the airport, by the baggage carousel, an orange suitcase caught my attention.   I could use an orange suitcase.  We were waiting for his red suitcase which never made its way around the carousel.  He said, “Well, maybe we should check out the orange suitcase since you like it so much.”  He pulled it off the carousel and I thought he lost his mind.  “This suitcase is for you”.  It was tied with a bow.  The crafter that I am, I said gaily, “I love this ribbon, I saw it at Michaels”.  I laughed.  I opened the suitcase.  It was loosely packed with two heart-shaped Will You Marry Me balloons.  He dropped on bended knee.  My eyes were fogged.  He asked the question.  I said yes.  People clapped.  Two elderly ladies standing beside us started taking pictures.

One of the ladies said, “This man sat beside me on the plane and he told us what he was about to do tonight.  I’m so happy to share in this beautiful moment in your life.  I have been married to my husband for sixty years and wish you the same happiness I’ve had in my life.”

What a wonderful lady he sat beside on the plane on the night he proposed to a woman he met on a plane.  What are the chances?

The passport to our future is stamped.  I am soaring on cloud nine.  I know I am truly blessed.

Last Sunday before O.T. disappeared into the security gates at BUF.

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