Let me count the ways.
Before Nook and I scheduled the exact date and time of our first meeting, we both ran through all sorts of scenarios. Locations, how we’d be sure to make each other feel comfortable, how we would signal that we’re having a good time, or the opposite...
Keeping in mind that both Nook and I are intelligent, rational, and I’d like to think not particularly naive people, we knew that an initial meeting could easily burst a bubble, strip off the rose-tinted glasses, or simply confront us with a reality that was too much for either of us to bear.
Being so much older than Nook, and the years having taken their toll, I tended to be perhaps slightly more pessimistic about what our initial meeting would be like than Nook was. Her optimism continues to counter and balance my cynicism and realism - another sign that we fit well.
In one of my emails to Nook I made it clear that I had no expectations whatsoever regarding this initial meeting. I suggested we meet at a cafe or wine bar or somewhere else public, where we can simply be two friends having a drink. Or even just meet for coffee.
Once again fate would intervene somewhat against that simple meeting. The plan was that I’d arrive in Nook’s area in the evening and she’d meet up for me after work for a drink. As I have already mentioned, Nook works more than one job, and a few days before my departure to meet her, she found out she was scheduled to work the evening that we had planned to met. Argh. Big argh.
Nook does not like to let down her employers, and so rather than trying to re-schedule her work hours, I changed my travel plans. At around 0200 on a Sunday morning, two days before travelling. Thankfully, the travel agent I had booked with, and the hotel I was staying at, had 24 hour service and I was able to adjust my trip to stay longer, take different flights, etc. I did this because, in essence, Nook and I had “lost a day” on this planned trip, and I didn’t want to rush anything into a shorter amount of time.
Anyway, the title of this section is “let me count the ways” and deserves a bit of explanation.
When thinking about that first meeting, my cynics’s mind came up with six likely scenarios that would play out, six situations which had the greatest chances of being fulfilled. They are as follows:
- I arrive at the location, and wait. Nook never shows up. She never communicates with me again, the realism of the situation being too much for her and it’s all over.
- I arrive, but, Nook sends an SMS or email saying, in effect: “changed my mind, sorry.”
- I arrive, and Nook makes it nearly there, sees me waiting before I see her, and changes her mind. Possibly with or without a final goodbye.
- We meet at the appointed location, but, as soon as Nook arrives she says “I’m sorry, I’ve changed my mind, but I did want to tell you face to face.”
- We meet and the reception is slightly warmer. Perhaps even a brief hug. A cup of coffee or a single glass of wine, followed by: “I can’t stay, I’m sorry. But nice to meet you. Have a nice life.”
- We meet and get along well, we have a pleasant evening of laughs, stories, and enjoy each other’s company. But at the end, Nook would say: “This has been great, and I’m glad we did it, but we need to go back to our separate lives” or something else along those lines.
So those are the most likely scenarios I was anticipating. We joked somewhat about scenario 7, or 10, which were the ones where things would get much more interesting, and complicated.
I suppose my seeing things this way was part of my process of managing my own expectations. I did not want to disrupt Nook’s life more than I already was and any scenario other than those six would mean some level of disruption.
With those scenarios in mind, and with the schedule disruption of not being able to meet in the evening after work in place, we had to begin to formulate a plan for actually meeting. We decided that coffee in the morning would be the best idea, and Nook volunteered to bring coffee.
The actual meeting was still some time away, but we had agreed upon something which we both felt would be comfortable and give us both a chance to feel at ease with each other.
With the plan more or less sorted out, we decided that we needed some way to express to each other how things were going, without actually blurting it out. We both believe in strong and open communication, but this situation was going to be difficult enough as it was, and so I suggested that we come up with some code words which could make it clear, without being overly blunt, what we were thinking.
Nook and I have a huge amount in common when it comes to likes and dislikes. One of our mutual dislikes is Pepsi. As a result, we agreed that if one of us asked the other: “Would you like something to drink?” and the answer was “Pepsi” then things were not going to go any further. Game over, player one. Wokka-wokka-wokka-boom.
We also came up with a word for the opposite scenario, but I’m not going to share that. And no, it’s not Coca-Cola (but, yes, Nook and I are in agreement that Coke is better than Pepsi).
We joked a lot about the various scenarios for several days. We both felt and wanted us to click once we met in person, but there were many reasons why that might not happen.
The more interesting and complicated scenarios were also the most difficult to plan for. If this happened, if “we” happened, then there would be fallout, of nuclear proportions, that would come from it.
But Nook and I weren’t afraid of this. We talked openly about the issues, and even though I think we were both a bit nervous, we knew that we had to at least meet, this story couldn’t end over email.