Trapped inside for days.
Schools across the state are canceled.
Coming up with interesting new recipes to eat what’s left in the house.
No electricity due to downed powerlines.
Living with my parents in rural Oklahoma. No electricity means no water.
That was the situation nine years ago. Very similar to the current state of the state, except that ice equals no electricity and major snow equals no travel.
Thankfully, after a few days, my youngest sister, my friend from college and I were able to get out of the house. The powerlines had been cleared from the roads, my brother in Stillwater had electricity at his apartment and off we went. Leaving behind my mother and her beloved (Pete the dog–my dad was staying in town at my grandparent’s so he could get to work) cuddled up near the fireplace.
I remember taking a nice, long, hot shower when we arrived at Patrick’s apartment. We went out to eat and filled up on warm food and conversations with people other than those we had been stranded with for the previous few days. Slowly, his apartment filled with other travelers from across the state. My siblings arrived from college with a few friends. I remember we really wanted to play a game that had just come out–Cranium. It was not to be found in any of the stores in town.
At some point, my mature 24 year old self retreated to the extra bedroom to escape the silliness of the college crowd that had gathered. It was not unusual for me to be online in those days. Sometimes chatting with friends, sometimes with strangers. Occasionally I visited Yahoo chatrooms, but often popped in and out quickly due to the nature of chatrooms. Eventually I ended up in an Oklahoma chat room. I thought it might be fun to see what everyone else was doing to ride out that crazy ice storm. I remember looking at a few profiles of the people in the chatroom. I’m sure I looked at one called steel_blue_eyes, and then quickly dismissed the divorced 36 year old.
Suddenly a new private message window opened up on my screen. It was none other than ol’ steel blue eyes himself. We began chatting, and as is (was?..I don’t really do this anymore) customary he asked me where I was from. My usual vague answer was “a small town near Enid” but I also added that I was in Stillwater due to the ice storm. At this point, he didn’t know my name (I used the very classy screen name hunnybee0777) or where I lived and I figured it didn’t matter if I told him I happened to be in Stillwater visiting my brother. My 6’7″ brother who loves me and will not let anything happen to me, brother.
Until he said…
Awesome. I’m in Stillwater, too!
And I thought…
Crap. I just told an internet stranger where I am and he’s already stalking me.
But I said…
Cool. What do you do there?
And he said…
I’m the assistant principal at the middle school.
(and I guess at some point we had exchanged names)
So I quickly went to Stillwater Public School’s website, found the middle school page, clicked on administration and found a guy with the same name and the same face as the person I was chatting with.
And I thought,
Ok, I’m either really chatting with the assistant principal or some crazy dude that is pretending to be the assistant principal.
And so we continued chatting. I told him I was baking brownies for my brothers and sisters and their friends, he thought that was sweet. He told me he drove to Tulsa 2 nights a week to see his boys, I thought that was sweet. He wanted to know what my siblings would think about me going to Eskimo Joe’s to meet him for some cheese fries, I told him they’d think I was crazy. He asked about bringing them with me, I told him he was crazy. He wanted to know who I was rooting for in the Superbowl the next day, I told him I didn’t know who was playing. It was then that I got my first lesson on the awesomeness of the St. Louis Rams and the inspiring story of Kurt Warner. He had plans to watch the game with people from work, but asked if I might be interested in getting together after the game.
I had recently obtained my own cell phone. For you young readers, it may come as a surprise that I was 24 before I had my own cell phone. Times were different back then, they were different I tell you! But really, until just a few days before, I had a phone on my parents’ very limited local plan. I had ventured out on my own in the big city and got my own phone plan through AT&T and hardly anyone had my new number. I figured even if this was a crazy principal-impersonating dude, or simply a crazy principal–I could change my number and go back to my obscure small town life. So we exchanged phone numbers and made tentative plans to meet up after the game.
Sunday morning I went to mass at St. John’s in Stillwater with my family and he went to Eagle Heights Baptist Church. I remember we chatted a little later that morning. During the first half of the game I graded papers in my brother’s living room and tried to pay enough attention to have an intelligent conversation later. I skipped halftime to take a shower. I spent the second half fixing my hair and makeup. Thank goodness I packed some cute clothes when I left my parents’ house days before…I would have never guessed I’d be getting dressed for a date.
Sure enough, after the game I got a phone call. We decided to meet at Joe’s. I had my own phone, my own car and I’d given his information to my siblings. I promised to be home by a certain time, promised to call if my plans changed and they had permission to call me whenever they wanted to check on me. As I pulled up to Joe’s, I realized it was closed. Apparently I’m not much of a bar hopper, so I didn’t know they closed early on Sundays. I spotted a tall guy in a Rams jersey. I pulled up alongside him and rolled down my window. He suggested we go to Applebee’s and I agreed to follow him. I called my siblings to tell them my change of plans.
The restaurant was nearly empty and we sat at a booth. He ordered iced tea and I had lemonade. We talked and talked and talked. He showed me pictures of his three sons. I wore my tall boots. We stayed until closing time and he walked me to my car. I gave him a hug and he opened my car door. I called my siblings to tell them I was on my way back and called friend to talk about this new guy I met.
36 year old, divorced, Baptist guy meets 24 year old, single, Catholic girl.
Best first date ever.