This date can be summarized in two words: Ferret. Expo.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?
About 17.9 months ago, give or take a few weeks, I set up an online account on a popular Mormon dating site. I logged in for a few weeks to see who was checking me out, and to remind myself that,
among those with less discerning taste in some parts of the world, I still garner interest. I never bothered to get a paid account, so I couldn’t actually read, much less respond to, the messages people wrote. I just had fun watching people watch my profile.
Fast forward to my quest for 50 First Dates. I always intended to respond to everyone who wrote to me on the dating sites; I just forgot I was on them for a while. So, when I logged in for the first time in over a year, I had about 15 messages to address. One of them was the man who would become lucky first date number seven. I activated a paid account and started writing.
I apologized for not replying sooner, and explained I’d not been active on the site for several months. He replied a few days later, and said that he, too, had stopped using the site shortly after he wrote to me, and had only recently logged back on. I know what you are thinking, and you are right… We do sound perfect for each other.
Even better than that was the fact the the did not inundate me with texts and messages prior to our first date. He seemed as laid back about it as I was. We set a weekend for me to fly out to meet him, and then we checked in with each other about every week or so until then. It was so easy… not like some of my first dates that require near-constant communication. In the iconic words of Ms. Sweet Brown: Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Getting to the point where I could actually meet first date number seven; however, turned out to be a little more challenging than it was lucky. Enter Air Traffic Control in Newark, New Jersey.
At midnight the night before my flight, I received a notification that my connecting flight out of Newark was cancelled and I’d been rebooked on a later flight. The new flight meant I would have a four-hour layover in Newark, just long enough to be too long, and just short enough to make adventures in The City too risky. Upon landing; however, my four-hour layover was now seven. Plenty of time for adventuring.
I sat down at the first diner I found (it’s Jersey, diners are a moral imperative), and briefly considered asking a fellow traveler to join me and making an impromptu first date out of the layover. Instead, I posted about my plight on Facebook and found a willing partner-in-crime, so I inhaled my food, paid my check, and went in search of a hoodie since I’d left mine in my parked car at the Tampa airport.
To make a long story short(er), my connecting flight was eventually cancelled. I bought a hoodie from a guy named Jason at America! who asked me out for sushi when he found out I was on a quest for first dates, but reneged when it became apparent to him that I was actually up for such a thing. [Seriously? I’m flying to Ohio to meet someone. You think I won’t take you up on an offer in New Jersey if you’re already standing in front of me and asking?] I left him my number lest he change his mind, but I knew he wouldn’t.
My friend’s aunt picked me up at the airport and drove me across the bridge to meet up with my friend and a few more members of his family. During the drive, as I explained my purpose in traveling to Ohio, his aunt informed me that I make her look good because, in her words, “People say I’m crazy, but YOU’RE CRAZY!” And apparently, according to his other aunt, if that aunt says I’m crazy, I’m probably certifiably so.
My unplanned layover turned out to be a lot of fun! It was enough fun that I started to worry that maybe Ohio wasn’t going to live up to my cancelled flight. I ate some great Indian food for dinner (and although we asked them to make both dishes India spicy, mine wound up America spicy). I learned how to tune a piano… at two o’clock in the morning. [Look out Mr. Opporknockity… competition is on its way.] For breakfast on the way to the airport, we stopped for some NY bagels the size of my head!
I can think of far worse things to happen to a person than that layover. My friend’s aunt even offered to set me up on several first dates if I come back to town and spend a few days. Of course, I still didn’t find any bodies in the street [not for lack of trying], so once again, it appears as though Law & Order lied to me.
I arrived late Saturday morning in Ohio to find my luggage waiting peacefully for me, as I hoped I would. My date picked me up, dropped me off at the hotel so I could quickly shower and change clothes and then we were off to the fairgrounds for the Ferret Expo!
Neither of us knew much about ferrets before we got there; it was just something different to do on a Saturday in Columbus. It did not disappoint. The people watching might have been better than the ferrets (although ferret races can be entertaining in their own right). Ferret people are crazy! Especially ferret rescue people. I learned all about ferrets (intact males smell “musky” [read eye and nostril burn-inducing awful] and get to be about twice the size of the spayed and neutered ferrets). Ferrets steal things. Socks mostly, apparently.
We didn’t stay long, because there was so much more to do. We:
- Went to an artisan food market [North Market] for lunch [Hey! What do you know? Indian food again? I’ll take one of each, please. Yum. And some Eggplant Neapolitan, too, thank you.]
- Walked around downtown Columbus [Did you know there is an exact replica of the Santa Maria in the river? I would be disinclined to cross an ocean in it; that thing is tiny!]
- Toured the Short North
- Briefly attended Mayfest – which is like Oktoberfest except dull and not worth five minutes of time – we stayed less than two
- Ate the best ice cream I’ve ever had!*
- Walked through German Village, and attempted to watch a Shakespeare-in-the-Park production of Hamlet, only it was cancelled on account of heavy rains earlier in the day
- Saw an OSU champion Biltmore Ash in the same park [you know it’s a champion tree because it has a sign – well, not a sign, more of a placard really]. It was a nice piece of ash.
- Got lost in a 32-room bookstore for about three hours. [I love book stores! And I especially loved this book store. Each room had its own music playing that coincided with the genre. We may have reshuffled a few books to new homes on the shelves because it was funnier that way. The book of German short stories might have made its way to the shelf next to Germophobia.]
After our bookstore shenanigans, we made our way back to the part of the city where my hotel was located and took ourselves to see the late showing of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. You would not believe the hoops we jumped through to make sure we had a charged phone with Shazaam on it for the closing credits sequence, only to be rather disappointed when it was less epic than the internets would have had us believe.
All in all, it was a fantastic first date! He was a lot of fun and very intelligent, but also full of practical skills. He likes Tom Waits. And geeking out. I knew before I went on this date that it was going to be a good one, and it was. Sometimes you just know. I knew the way you know about a good melon.
*A word on ice cream. If you are ever in Columbus, you must stop at Jeni’s. It’s easy because they are everywhere. There was one at North Market, we passed two on our walking tour, there was one in the Short North, one at Mayfest, and one in German Village. I ate a triple: Salty Vanilla, Oregon Fir (yes, you read that right), and Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet. I taste-tested, and would gladly have consumed: Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, Bangkok Peanut (oh, the sweet-hot, delicious burn), Salty Caramel, and Banana French Toast.
Also, you would not be remiss to read this blog post about Philly Cheese Steak Ice Cream. It was made with one of Jeni’s recipes as the base. And now I want to celebrate Rambocky X. Who’s with me?
Big shout out to Mike, the hotel shuttle driver who took me to the airport in style, and became the newest Hitchhiker here at The Stubby Thumb! Thanks for the lift! Enjoy your stay!
Stay tuned, Hitchhikers! I’ve got some fun things planned for the next first date; it’s going to be: