Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


2 Comments

The Tour Guide Arrives

*Part 5 in The Tour Guide series.  You can read Part 4 here.


May 12th was finally here and I was so excited.  I’d been getting updates about the Tour Guide’s flights from the airline’s website so I knew his arrival would be delayed.  That gave me enough time to finish all my last minute cleaning and sprucing.  The airport is about a three hour drive for me and when his plane took off from his layover in Newark I struck out for Atlanta.  I was to keep my sister, Karen, and my friend, Tessa, informed of my whereabouts, calling them to let them know when I’d left for the airport, when I’d arrived at the airport and when we were in the car headed back home.

Tessa and I had an agreement that I’d keep my phone with me at all times.  If she rang me once and I didn’t answer, she’d ring me again.  If I didn’t answer the second time she was calling 911.  We had set up fairly regular intervals at which we were to call each other to check in.  Keeping in mind that she’d only seen one picture of The Tour Guide and spoken briefly with him on Yahoo!Messenger chat, she was tentatively excited for me.

I arrived at the airport at just about the same time as his plane was supposed to land.  But he hit the tarmac a little earlier than I thought he would. He’d already made it through security and collected his luggage.  Somehow we passed each other.   There I stood at the baggage claim carousel in my green sundress scanning the arrivals board when I heard a voice from behind me.  “Ruth, there you are!”, came the voice with a British accent.  I turned around and there he was.  Taller than I expected.  Slender with dark hair, and big brown eyes.  “Paulie!”  We hugged like we’d known each other forever.  And then we started to chatter nervously on the way to the car.  When The Tour Guide left England it was chilly.  He was wearing navy blue shirt with a sweater(also known as a jumper in England) over it.  He had to shed that sweater; it was hot here.  “Welcome to Georgia, Paulie.”

Safely in the car on the way home I rang Tessa. “The Eagle has landed.”  “Are you okay? You call us if you need any.thing.  Call me when you get home to let me know you got there alright.”  We drove a good ways holding hands.  There was an instant connection.  We’d prepared ourselves for the awkwardness that might accompany our first meeting.  But there was none.

By the time we’d gotten his luggage in the car and driven out of Atlanta it was nearly eleven o’clock.  We were both hungry so we looked for a place to eat.  What is open at that time of night?  Waffle House.  My first date with the tall, handsome British man who flew half-way across the world to see me was at a Waffle House.  But you know something? It was perfect.

We arrived safe and sound at my house around 1:30 a.m. and were both exhausted.


8 Comments

The Tour Guide…Part 4

*You can read Part 3 here.

I should back up a bit here.  When The Tour Guide and I decided that he’d come to visit me, I thought it was probably time to tell my close friends and family about our relationship.  How did that go, you might ask?  Well, there was certainly a mixed reaction. This isn’t exactly “normal”, especially in my neck of the woods. It’s practically unheard of here so I knew that was going to happen.  I expected a certain amount of skepticism.  So did The Tour Guide.  He got the same reactions.

First I told Karen and Thomas.  While they were cautious, they were optimistic about it.  They thought it was fantastic that I’d met someone and that I wasn’t spending my time completely alone.  Then I told my friend, Tessa and her husband, Danny.  They’d been so supportive of me already and had practically adopted me.  They were excited for me, too.  Keeping in mind that they’d never met The Tour Guide, they were a little guarded, but encouraged me to pursue the relationship.  Of course, I had to answer a million questions, but I was more than willing to indulge.  I introduced all of them via Yahoo!Messenger and facebook.  The Tour Guide and I had nothing to hide and we wanted to include my friends and family in what we were doing.

I told Sam, my step-daughter, about it.  At first she seemed okay with it. But when I called her again to confirm the dates and let her know what was going on she read me the riot act.  “You are the last person I would have ever thought would do something like this.  We-don’t-even-know-this-man!-This-must-be-really-serious-if-he’s-coming-all-this-way-to-see-you-You-must-have-already-talked-about-marriage-Have-you-discussed-that-You’re-hiding-behind-that-computer-because-you’re-afraid-to-get-out-in-the-real-world-This-kind-of-thing-is-for-losers!”  I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  Trying to be understanding of the fact that I’d recently divorced her father, I wrote it off to anger.  I didn’t even try to reason with her; I just let her get it off her chest.

Later I tried to discuss it with her again, at which time she let me know that she didn’t want to talk about it at all.  “I think you must have been having an inappropriate relationship with The Tour Guide before you decided to leave dad.  I realize that dad wasn’t all he should’ve been, but at the end I don’t think you were either.”  My calm reply, “I’m sorry you feel that way.  If that’s what you think there’s probably not much I’m going to be able to say to change your mind about that.  For what it’s worth, that’s not what happened and if you ever do want to know the truth you are more than welcome to ask me, but I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you.  Somehow I don’t think it will do much good, anyway.” Sam retorted, “You’re right.  I don’t want to talk about it.”  With that we changed the subject.  I left her house deflated and hurt but still trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Ugh!  That went well.

Last, but not least, I told my dear friend Grace. We went out to lunch.  I went armed with a picture of my romantic interest and lots of details because I knew she’d ask lots of questions.  I thought she’d be somewhat skeptical, but overall supportive.  So I just put it all out there.  “I met The Tour Guide online, he lives in England, he’s divorced, he has two children, both girls.  Most of all he has an interest in me; getting to know me, what I like, what I want out of life, what my interests are, how I like my eggs and my opinion on everything from religion to politics to well, you name it.”  Her reply, “I’m so happy you’re having these feelings.  I’m glad you’ve met someone who is interested in who you are and what you like. When will he be here?”  This was on Monday.  I got a call from her on Friday afternoon.  “Can I come sit with you for a bit?  I really need to talk to you about something.”  “Sure, come on over.  I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”

We sat on my sofa for more than four hours with her asking me questions: “How did you meet him again?” “Playing a silly game online.”  “When did you meet him?” “Well, I guess I met him sometime around September playing that game, but we didn’t really get to know each other that well until February.  I can remember because it was around Valentine’s Day.” “Are you sure this wasn’t going on before you left Charles?” “I’m not sure what you’re implying here but I know what I’ve done and God knows what I’ve done.  Come on, Grace. Does it make any sense that I would leave my husband for a man that lives in England?  Do you think I had this planned?” “Is he a Christian?” “He believes there’s a God, but he’s not so sure about Jesus being the Messiah.”  Crying by this point she says, “I had a really terrible dream.  I’m not even going to tell you what it was. I’m just really afraid for you.  What if he’s a bad person?  What if, well, what if something really bad happens to you, what if you turn up in a body bag?” “Have you spoken to anyone in his family?” “Not yet.”  “Have you talked to his ex-wife?” “Yeah, right. Look, I appreciate that you’re concerned for me, I really do.  I realize you’ve never met The Tour Guide so you don’t know everything that’s happened.  But I really like him.  And no, I don’t think he’s an axe-murderer.  I realize this is unorthodox but just because he’s from another country and you don’t know him doesn’t mean he’s a bad person.”  “Are you really that serious about this man?”, she asked.  “I’m that serious about meeting him.  I’m that serious about finding out where this is going.”  “Alright”, she said, “but you need to understand if you pursue this there will be opposition.”  And she left.

Opposition? This isn’t an election.  He’s not a political candidate.  This isn’t war.  What opposition?  At that point I thought, “Well, I’m the one who has to lay their head down with this at night. I have to live with whatever decisions I make. ”  The thing was, for me at the time, I really did appreciate the concern.  I knew I wasn’t immune to making bad decisions.  I’d just gone through one of the worst events in my life. It’s not even as if I didn’t understand their concern. If someone else was telling me this I’d think it was weird, too. But I also knew I had to stop worrying so much what other people thought about me, too.  This was my life.  Was I going to allow the negative reaction of a couple of people ruin a potentially fantastic thing?  So, not really in a defiant way, but more in a “I’ve got to become my own person and stop letting other people run my life way” I decided to make myself happy for once.  To hell with what everybody else thought of it.


4 Comments

The Tour Guide…Part 3

*You can read Part 2 here.

We definitely had to meet.  The Tour Guide and I talked at length about it.  I really wanted to visit England.  It’s a place I’d always wanted to go and he’d been to the states before.  He’d told me in one of our many conversations that he had been to Orlando. He wasn’t crazy about it and didn’t care to go back there.  Said he met more Brits there than he did Americans.  In the end we decided on him coming here to visit me.  If we still liked each other after the week was over I could always go to England later.  It made him uncomfortable to think about me traveling that far alone as I’d never even flown before. Plus chivalry isn’t completely dead.  He wanted to meet my family and put them at ease that he had only the best of intentions.  Well, that and he wanted them all to know he wasn’t an axe-murderer.  So we booked a flight.

When I told my older sister, Karen, and her husband, Thomas, that he was coming here for a visit they suggested I have a background check done.  Not very romantic, but it seemed like practical advice.  A girl can never be too careful, you know.  I mentioned it to The Tour Guide and he said, “Sure, have one done.  You really need to do that and I have nothing to hide.”  In fact, he gave me his parents’ phone number, his sister’s phone number and his ex-wife’s phone number.  Heck, he even gave me his National Insurance Number. “Do all the checking you like”, he said.

Having a background check done on someone from the UK isn’t quite the same as having one done here. It nearly takes an act of Parliament.  My brother-in-law works in law enforcement, so I thought maybe he could help.  He made a few calls but came up with a dead end and a suggestion to check with the International Police.  Turns out the only way I could get a background check was to either hire a pricey private investigator or get The Tour Guide to send me a letter giving his permission for me to get a background check from the Metropolitan Police.  That’s not terribly expensive.  The next problem I ran into is this:  you can’t call and speak to someone at the Metropolitan Police.  They give information online about how to obtain a background check.  Once The Tour Guide sent me permission I had to write a letter requesting the background check along with payment and his written permission and send it all to the Met Police.  They perform the background check when they get around to it, not on any particular time-frame, and mail the results back.  This could take a while and The Tour Guide’s flight was about a month away on a non-refundable ticket. Ugh!

I decided to forgo the background check.  I trusted Paulie.  His flight was scheduled for May 12, 2010.  We were about to run into one more teeny tiny problem.  Iceland’s Eyjafjalla volcano.  We kept our fingers crossed that his flight wouldn’t be cancelled.  Earlier in the week Heathrow Airport had been closed  because of the ash.  He boarded the plane and took the long way around. The flight that should have landed at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta at 5:25 p.m. finally arrived at around 8:20 p.m.  And I was there to pick him up.

We were both so nervous.  We’d prepared ourselves as best we could for all the possibilities.  Even though we’d hit it off so well on the phone and online there was a very real possibility that we might not like each other so much in person.  We made an agreement before he came that if that was the case we’d be honest about it; no stringing each other along.   


5 Comments

The Tour Guide…Part 2

*You can read Part 1 here.The Tour Guide and I decided that if we were going to give a relationship a go we should have some ground rules.  Rule number one: Always, always be honest and upfront about ourselves.  We both acknowledged how easy it would be to put on airs and pretend to be something we weren’t.  In the end that serves no purpose if a person’s desire is for a real relationship.  Eventually you’ll be found out if you aren’t what you claim to be.  Rule number two:  If, at any point, this wasn’t working for one of us we’d say so.  Both of us were giddy, but we also knew we had to keep a sense of realism.  After all there is a five hour time difference and thirty-five hundred miles between us.

We continued chatting on Yahoo!Messenger by type for a few weeks, asking each other all kinds of questions and talking about everything under the sun. Every day. For hours. During some point of those conversations The Tour Guide asked me for my telephone number.  I remember that first phone call.  It had been a while since he’d asked for my number and we were chatting away on Messenger when my phone rang.  I was so surprised when I said, “Hello” and he was on the other end saying, “Ello”.  We only spoke briefly but we giggled like teenagers.  I could hardly breathe I was so nervous.  That was the sexiest voice I’d ever heard on the other end of the line. I’m smiling now…he said I sounded like Penelope Pitstop. It was nice to finally have a voice to go with a picture of a face behind the personality.

I don’t think my southern accent is quite that pronounced, but I’m sure I sounded that way to him.

He rang me several times after that and I set my phone up so that I could make international calls, too.  We began calling each other for brief chats for a few minutes each day.  One of those brief chats turned into a six-hour phone call. And another for three-hours and another and another.  We were learning all kinds of things about each other, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company.

I think it’s safe to say we were both smitten. We weren’t just exploring anymore. It had gone beyond that to something more cozy.  We had to meet…


10 Comments

The Tour Guide…Part 1

Not having a lot of friends is a hellacious thing when you’re going through a divorce.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a couple and they were hugely supportive.  But for whatever reason I found it really difficult to tell the details of my marriage to people who knew me, people who I’d have to look at and face all the time.  At the time I was really embarrassed and I blamed myself for much of what happened.  If I had only done this or if I had done that differently.

I had no interest in going out to bars and partying.  I have no single friends to speak of and didn’t really know where to meet any.  I met The Tour Guide during that time.  We were both playing a silly little interactive game on facebook.  You could chat and find out where people were from and what they did for a living, whether they were married or single, if they had children.  During the course of playing the game I met quite a few people besides The Tour Guide that I hit it off with and we’ve become friends, though I’ve never laid eyes on them.

The Tour Guide and I started asking each other questions and having long, pointed discussions.  He asked me one day, “Do you have faith?”  And I didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes”, and proceed to tell him exactly what I had faith in.  I honestly thought I’d never lay eyes on him since he lives in the UK.  I came to a point where I began confiding things in him because I had no one else I felt comfortable turning to.  This was sort of anonymous.  I could get things off my chest and never have to deal with any awkwardness, he was three thousand five hundred miles away.  He confided some things in me about a relationship he was hopeful about.  And that was that, so I thought.  We gave each other advice.  Mostly him encouraging me to work things out with my husband, and me encouraging him that there was someone out there for him.  We were iFriends. Nothing more, nothing less.

We talked about everything from faith to music to family. We ditched the silly little game and started chatting on Yahoo!Messenger.  He hit a little glitch and went offline for about three weeks.  When he did resurface he was a little cool and guarded.  I wasn’t sure why but didn’t think much of it, really.  We spoke infrequently for the next two or three weeks.  During the time he was offline I had officially filed for divorce and was trying to sort that out.  He had been divorced for about a year and a half and he was still sorting some things out with that and thinking about his future and what he wanted to do with it.  Divorce does that.  You have to rethink everything, and you’re starting over from scratch.

I changed my facebook profile picture from a picture of my husband and me to one of just me.  I was beginning to emerge as an individual person.  Suddenly The Tour Guide began warming back up.  “Wow, I like your new profile picture!  Who are you trying to impress?”  “Awww, nobody in particular.  I’ve got nobody to impress.  I just thought it was time for a change.”  Nothing much else was said for a few days.  Just friendly chatter like we’d always done.

Then one day he asked me, “Would you ever consider exploring the possibility of a relationship with me?”  I thought he was just kidding. “Paul Jones, are you hitting on me?” He replied, “How does it make you feel for a man to call you babe?”  I said, “Depends on who it is. Sometimes it can be creepy, sometimes it can be condescending and sometimes it can be endearing.”  He came back with, “How would it make you feel if I called you babe, babe?”  He was as serious as a heart attack.  He was asking me about a relationship.  I wasn’t ready for anything heavy.  I wasn’t even sure I was ready to go out on a date.  I thought, “From thirty-five hundred miles away, what would be the big deal?  This’ll fizzle out in a month’s time.”  “Sure”, I said. “Why not?”