Is it possible to make a wedding at 5 pm when you’re over 4700 miles away and you can’t start until 9:40 am?
Sure, thanks to time difference.
Months ago when I received an invitation to Winnie’s wedding, I realized that there would be potential conflict. I had just applied to go to St. Petersburg for work and would have to wait a couple more weeks to see if I would be approved. If I went, I was contractually obliged to not leave before August 3rd. I couldn’t leave St. Petersburg until August 3rd (the date of her wedding), but I check the flights. Although I would miss the wedding ceremony itself, I could make the reception. Freshman came to NY to visit me. We hatched a plan to tell Winnie that I wouldn’t be able to make her wedding because I would be in St. Petersburg and Freshman would tell her that she was bringing a date.
Winnie was naturally disappointed at my absence. Freshman and I kept up the pretense for several weeks and we even kept it a secret from our other college friends.
On Aug 2nd, Freshman flew to Durham, NC and got our hotel and rental car. On Aug 3rd, I got on a flight from St. Petersburg to Reykjavik, departing at 9:40 am and arriving at 9:40 am. The four hour flight was offset by the four hour time difference. At Reykjavik I had a 50-min layover. I think Iceland doesn’t trust the security in Russia because I had to go through another security check when I de-planed. There was a bit of a problem when I tried to get on my next leg of the trip because I hadn’t gone through the US passport control. There were no signs or announcements that US-bound passengers were required to exit the gate area to go through the passport control.
Finally I was on my flight to JFK. I landed at 12:35 pm. I had hoped that somehow we would land earlier so that I could catch the earlier 12:50 flight to RDU (Raleigh-Durham), but landing at 12:35 put a damper on that hope. I turned on my phone and found a text from Ben asking me to text him back when I landed. He informed me that I will be able to make the 12:50 flight because it was delayed by an hour. With that info, I raced to domestic terminal to try to switch flights.
I successfully switched to the earlier flight, which meant that I would land at 4 pm and have time to go to the hotel to shower and change. I updated Freshman and we made plans that she would pick me up at the hotel.
At 5pm we arrived at the reception. Freshman revealed our little secret to one of our college friends, but not others, so I had tons of fun surprising everyone. They distracted people so I could sneak up on them. One friend’s reaction was priceless. She stared past me, then at me in stunned silence, and almost fell over backwards in shock at my sudden appearance. She swung me up and we hugged for a long time. It had been a long time since we saw each other. It was great catching up with her and talking about our work (and boring everyone else with our nerdy, jargon-filled gibberish).
My next big surprise was Winnie’s mother. She didn’t recognize me because it had been several years since she saw me. Once I uttered my name, she got really excited and started yelling on top her lungs, “You’re not supposed to be here! You’re not supposed to be here!” She was utterly delighted that I made the reception and was even more excited to be a part of surprising Winnie.
Winnie and her new husband walked down courtyard to greet everyone. I stood at the end of the line. She didn’t see me at first because she was distracted. I tapped her on her arm. She turned around to acknowledge my presence. Then she did a double-take and we leaped into each other arms to hug. She sobbed, “What are you doing here? I thought you couldn’t come.” I hugged her tight and whispered, “Of course, I would come. How could I not come?” Her husband was a bit confused at this point because all he saw was his bride crying.
After a while we were able to regain our composure and she introduced me to her husband. We were both happy to meet each other finally.
I had a wonderful time at the reception. It was like a mini-college reunion because I got to see many of my college friends all at once. We ate, drank, laughed ,and retold old stories of our days together. Long forgotten memories bubbled back up to the surface to be relished and cherished.
The next day many of us were still there, so we all went out to brunch at Foster’s Market. I highly recommend eating there if you’re in Durham. The portion sizes are huge and the food is absolutely delicious. I had a farmer’s breakfast (2 perfectly-made scrambled eggs, two slices of homemade country sausage, cheesy grits, and a HUGE cheddar biscuit for $8) The best part is that there’s plenty of outdoor seating.
It was a wonderful weekend celebrating a special time in a dear friend’s life. Winnie’s mother told me that the wedding was so wonderful, but my surprise was “just a little sprinkle that makes it even more special.” I’m so happy that I was able to make it and share in it.