So when I left you last time I had just decided where to for my first semester abroad – Costa Rica. Since I got back I’ve been working like a busy little bee to make that a reality, and it’s coming along quite well! However, there are many more stories to tell about my winter trip, including a near-death experience and probably the biggest mistake I’ve made in my life so far. No, they were not the same incident.
First, though, more family time with the Stubbinses. We’d already done dinner, bowling, a wild goose chase across Zanesville and a sports match on tv – it was time to hit up Easton for a spot of shopping! Easton is a gorgeous half-indoor, half-outdoor shopping mall in Columbus, where we ate lunch at a seafood restaurant, looked at travel books in Barnes & Noble, and hopped into Anthropologie, which Mrs. Stubbins was sure I would like. She was right – it was an adorable store with everything a girly girl could ask for – not unlike Edinburgh’s Studio One which I recently visited, by the way. Grant stopped in to a scuba and paintball shop on the ride home to get something done to one of Blake’s compressed air tanks – a tank which we borrowed the next day to go play paintball in the woods outside the house. I was ready to go all-out in camo gear – I even snuck out some hairpins for pinning leaves to my clothes – but as soon as we got out there he launched into battle mode. He’s something of a pro, is my Grant. I did manage to secure a win in the first round, but apparently only because of the sheer volumes of paintballs I shot his way, because by the time the second one was well underway, I ran out of paintballs and was, quite simply, owned. Grant beat me a third time before we called it quits (because of the handicap I just invented for myself this second) and headed off to Blake’s basketball game.
As for the score of this one, I can’t even remember; this is because the events that proceeded it overshadowed the whole thing. (This is the near-death experience I’m talking about now). As we were trying to leave after the game, it was snowing really heavily and we were being advised not to drive home until the bad weather subsided, as the hill down to the interstate from the school is very steep and they’d already had two wrecks at the bottom. We queued up for ages, trying to get out of the car park, and finally Grant drove up to one of the guys who said that since the Jeep has a four-wheel drive, he could try an alternative route involving going UP the hill and round a longer way which meets the interstate at a gentler slope. However, as Grant was unfamiliar with the random backroads we were travelling, the SatNav was acting up and all the street signs were obscured by snow, following the man’s vague instructions was not easy and we were quickly lost. When we did find a way back to the interstate, it was still a fairly steep hill and Grant’s car began to skid on the way down, while some van at the bottom of the hill was manoeuvring about in the middle of the road, apparently unaware that we were accelerating towards it with only a small degree of control of the vehicle. Amanda, in the back of the car, began getting quite nervous, and Grant later confessed that he hadn’t been sure at the time that he could pull the car out of the skid; but I just sat there and declared it would all be fine. Whether this was because I trust Grant and his driving 110%, or because I know nothing about driving in icy conditions and was oblivious to the severity of the situation, I couldn’t say.
But Grant is a very good driver.
Even better than me, in fact.
Anyway, I was right to trust him because, ever-calm in a crisis, Grant pulled the Jeep out of its skid and cruised it safely to the bottom of the hill, past the crazy van guy who never stopped reversing back and forth across the breadth of the road, and drove us home.
So that was the near-death experience. I realise it doesn’t really sound like it – probably because I didn’t think it was at the time, although I was later told that we could easily have wrecked in one of three or four different ways – but apparently it was a big deal. That leaves the biggest, stupidest mistake I’ve ever made. My ‘last’ couple of days in Ohio were spend running errands, eating Mark Pi’s (Chinese food) with Grant’s grandma, watching more American football, and watching freaky movies like Black Swan. Grant was on the verge of bodily removing me from the cinema because I was so distressed. I lived through that too though, and lived to see Bonnie Scotland once more.
Just not as soon as I’d expected.
On Sunday morning, the day of my flight home, we were glad to be able to take it easy for a change. Generally, my flights home are in the morning, so my departure time of 5:30pm was a blessing. And seeing as I arrived in Edinburgh at 7:30am the next day local time, at 9 hours it was going to be a remarkably short journey. Suspiciously short, in fact.
This was what was going through my mind as I was brushing my teeth at midday. Grant was heading off to put petrol in the car as I finished up packing, and I was about to start when I decided I should check my flight time again, just to be sure I’d got the times right. Even for a two-leg journey as opposed to the normal three, that was incredibly short. I went to check my emails for my flight schedule.
Then I panicked – I’d misread my flight times, and my plane was in fact due to leave at 2pm. With an hour’s drive to Columbus, a half-packed suitcase and probably at least 45 minutes of security checks ahead of me, I ran to get Grant before he drove off for petrol, and just caught him.
His face, when I breathlessly told him what I’d done, was not angry, or scary, or mean. He looked blank, then surprised, and then he began to help me. I ran downstairs to his room and saw all my crap lying on the floor instead of packed up and ready to go; I just stood there, frozen, before bursting into tears. I knew I was clumsy, forgetful, hopeless sometimes, but this was easily the worst I had ever screwed up. From then on, I was in a daze, running around lost as the family pulled together to try and gather up my things and get me in the car. Crying, hysterical, I ran out to the garage, replying with a sniffy “Yes, it’s in my bag” when Mr. Stubbins asked me if I had my ID. I briefly hugged both parents goodbye and apologised for the nth time as Grant pulled out of the driveway and whisked me off to the airport.
“This is not how I wanted to say goodbye,” I kept repeating.
He comforted me, told me everyone makes mistakes, assured me that airlines have ways of dealing with this and that in a couple of weeks time I’d laugh about it. None of it got through to me. All I could think of was that my dad had bought me this flight, paid an awful lot of money for it, and now I was going to have to tell him I’d missed it. How was I going to survive if I spent all my remaining money on a flight home? If I had no money I’d never be able to visit Grant again – and the last time I ever saw him would be a hysterical and hurried goodbye and we wouldn’t even know that it’d be the last time… and I would never, ever forgive myself.
I think he thought I was overreacting. Maybe he was right. But to me it really was the end of the world. ‘We could still make it though,’ he said, ‘just start getting your things together while we’re driving’. He was right – the traffic wasn’t bad, we were making good time and if the lines at security were short enough I could still make my flight; and all the while I was on hold to the airline, waiting to beg them to hold the plane and that I was on my way…
And then I began to realise. My handbag – my handbag wasn’t here. In amongst the boxes and suitcases and clothes and craft supplies, I was looking for my bag which had my keys, my purse, and yes, my passport. Which I’d told Mr. Stubbins I had. (You probably noticed, I didn’t put that line of dialogue in my account for nothing!). “It’s in my bag,” I’d said as I blustered past, too desperate to get out of the house and onto the road to notice that my bag wasn’t on my shoulder at all but lying instead in the middle of Grant’s bedroom floor, where it still was when Grant, finally beginning to show signs of exasperation with me, hung up the call to the airline and called home to confirm that he’d have to turn the car around. Twenty minutes later we were back in Zanesville and he was hopping back into the car with my bag in his hand and I was crying once again. I called the airline back on the way back out to Columbus, with an hour left until my flight departed, and as we reached Neward for the second time a British woman answered the phone and I explained that I didn’t think I was going to be there on time.
“Oh ok,” she said, “I can put you on one tomorrow at 8:40 am if that’s suitable?”
I said fine but how much would I have to pay for the transfer. She said there was no fee.
I was confused for a second. What did she mean, no transfer fee? She meant I could get Grant to turn the car around for the third time, return to Zanesville and hang out with his family for dinner, finish packing and go to bed, ready to wake up early the next day and fly away. Without paying a penny for the privilege of spending another night in Ohio with my boyfriend!
When I received my new flight details in an email later that day – yes, I triple-checked the times – I realised I would have a 9-hour layover in Newark Liberty International, NJ. I barely even cared. But I cared a little – so I got in touch with Vinnie, one of my friend from Grant’s lot, and asked if he fancied taking me to lunch in New York City. It’s right across the water from Newark and I had some time to kill (conveniently, my layover was between 10am and 7pm), and thankfully he didn’t have plans so he picked me up, showed me around a little and we had lunch and kaw-fey. It was really good to see Vinnie again, and kind of confusing. It’s hard to imagine all the people I knew from Edinburgh, living somewhere else; and especially to bear in mind that that is their ‘real’, home, environment. It was also cool to see Central Park (we just sort of stood at the edge and looked at it, rather than venturing in – seven hours isn’t THAT long!), Trump Tower, Times Square and the Met (again, we just went into the lobby as Vinnie had been lying about it being free). I bought Grant a New York t-shirt, a biscotti and a pink ‘I <3 NY’ bumper sticker, too, with the last of my dollars, and then I couldn’t pay Vinnie my share of the parking :S He drove me back to Liberty International at like 4:15, even though that was three hours before my flight, because it was a Monday and if we hit rush hour on the way out of New York I’d miss my flight again – AND I’d be stranded in New Jersey. Better safe than double-sorry, eh? We parted ways at the airport drop-off, and I assured him that Grant and I would come visit some time, and we’d spend some proper time together.
Then I came home.
My dad drove me back to my flat at 7:35 am on the 10th of January, 2011.
And I made it to class at 10am.
It seems crazy that that was at the beginning of Semester 2. My exams were over long ago, my year abroad is looming ever closer, and I am so sick of linguistics it feels like I’ve been doing it forever. But at the point in my life that I’m narrating, I hadn’t even started my 2nd-year linguistics course (Structure and history of the western European languages), nor had I even begun to realise how long and painful the process of obtaining a Costa Rican visa would be. Stay tuned for all that stuff some other time: I actually have the whole next episode written out in my new notebook, I just haven’t typed it up yet. That’s not to say it’ll happen any time soon! But hopefully it will. My posting pattern is random and unpredictable.
That’s a lie. It’s totally predictable. I won’t post again for another couple of months, you’ll see.
Anyway, over and out for now; stay classy, folks ; )
P.S. I slept through all my classes on Tuesday : /