Monday, March 09, 2009

Root beer, hugs, and overseas visitors

Meeting someone online is meeting someone backwards. You get to see inside their head first, then maybe you get a bit of their voice over the phone, and then you eventually get to see a face, or maybe just a photo. The first person I ever met this way was from Melbourne. When I did eventually pick him up at the train station, it was by finding who was left on the platform looking lost; I hadn't seen a photo.

As it turned out, the restaurant I'd planned to visit was closed, and the train was about an hour late (trains are one thing we don't do especially well here), so I ended up taking him straight home. I think he was almost as nervous about the arrangement as I was. We'd all heard bad things about meeting people from online, but that's the way it worked out, so we did it anyway.

I was busy cooking some spaghetti that I hadn't planned on cooking that night when he asked whether he could have something to drink. I hadn't even realized I hadn't offered. One of the few things I knew about him was that he liked root beer and couldn't readily get it in Australia. So he opened the fridge and there in the middle of the top shelf were a couple of cans of A&W root beer I had put there with him in mind. I don't know if "swooned" is quite the right word for what he did then, but that's what it looked like to me, and both cans were quite empty before the night was through.

He's a very spontaneous traveler, and one thing he doesn't schedule ahead of time is lodging. I had a spare room empty because my roommate was gone for the summer, so he stayed a couple of nights, sleeping better than he'd been managing at hostels and on trains, and I showed him some of the area. I also got to know him a bit.

At the end of his stay here, I dropped him off in San Francisco. We walked out onto the Golden Gate Bridge, had some pretty good hamburgers at some little restaurant I couldn't name now, and I left him at the hostel where he'd spend the next night or two before flying further north. That was the point where I finally got around to hugging him (or vice versa, but no matter), and I haven't seen him since.

We've kept in touch, at least intermittently, since then. I've sent him a couple of different boxes. One contained, among other things, a big souvenir A&W mug and a can of root beer. They can't air mail soda, apparently, so it took 2 months to arrive by ship. When it did arrive, I managed, eventually, to convince him to pour the root beer over some ice cream. He was taking it on faith that this was a desirable thing to do with only one can of root beer at hand, but I think he liked it.

One thing I've never figured out how to mail, though, is a hug. That very first visitor is why I insist on getting hugs (and frequently also serving the peculiar American beverage root beer) when I meet people from online.

I heard just in the past few days that he'll be in California again in a few weeks. I don't know if we'll have time for quite the same adventures as last time, but I'm planning to have the root beer and the hugs all ready to go.


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01 February, 2010 16:20  

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