In my previous post, I detailed my mental journey about how I have come to regard my “online” friends as equals to my “real life” friends. In both domains, I have been making an attempt to be more open and flexible with my friends as of late. Do not get me wrong– I do not have trouble making friends or often get into disagreements with them either. I do however recognize that I am sometimes a little more retentive in terms of speaking with my friends about certain things or a little bit inflexible in terms of accommodating them into my already busy schedule. Just because my undergraduate college years are ending and because the prospect of going to professional school seems like the beginning of the end, I have made it an imperative to cut loose and enjoy my free time with friends. I knew that this Summer would give me a lot of free time and I planned to go to A-Kon (the huge Dallas anime convention) with my entire group of friends. Despite already looking forward to that, imagine my surprise when my online-friend “Balance” informed me that he was looking to visit one of his online friends in real life, and wanted to visit me if I would allow it.
The actual series of events that led to Balance wanting to visit me happened in a very short period of time. Balance and I had always messaged each other frequently on Google Talk due to the versatility of each others’ availabilities. One day during a particularly slow day in the laboratory where I work, I decided to download Skype and check out what its appeal was to some of my friends. I had never held a video chat with anyone before, but for some reason (perhaps the late night shift lowered my inhibitions) I decided to talk to Balance over a video call. What surprised the both of us was how… easily we were able to talk to each other over the stream. The initial few seconds were a little surprising of course, but the conversations we had were very natural and… expected. I have always tried my best to accurately express my person through text, and having talked to Balance in this manner so much made it such that the video conversation did not really present any surprises.
In order to cut costs, I suggested that Balance volunteer at the anime convention on June 1st since they would provide a place to sleep for him. Once his application was accepted (despite it being done at the last minute), planning the rest of the trip was simple bookkeeping and coordination. I recall that Balance’s original plan involved him flying to Houston then taking a bus for Dallas– a plan that I did not understand at all. He ended up fixing the ticket so that he would fly straight to Dallas, but the switch in plans necessitated a place to stay until he would be let into the volunteer rooms. While the original plan was for him to sleep on a park bench in a sleeping bag (haha!), I ended up finding him a cheap motel 9 minutes from my apartment.
The day Balance was supposed to fly in (30 May), I woke up to heavy rain. As I went to my morning class, I realized I was going to be late but honestly did not care since it was the first class of the session. Despite arriving 10 minutes late, I noticed that the professor was not in the room. At 10:30, someone finally called her and found out that she thought that her class started at 11:00 AM, when in actuality the class ends at 11:20 AM. By the time she arrived, the time was 10:45 AM and all she could do was to frantically rush through the syllabus.
As soon as class was finished, I went straight to work since I had to be trained to use a new instrument in our facilities. The training was brief because the professor was busy so I ended up walking back to my desk to eat lunch. At this point, the rain was clamoring enough that it momentarily caused the laboratory to lose power, a feat that set off a number of warning alarms on the machinery. When I finished lunch and took care of all of my errands, I briefly talked to my supervisor about my impending unavailability and left for DFW Airport. I had never been to the Irving side of Dallas before so I was relying on my GPS to guide me. Sadly, the GPS directed me past the administrative offices, behind the hangars, and near the airplane salvage area. While this was kind of cool, I was rather annoyed since the road essentially led to a dead end and I had to go all the way back to find the Terminals.
At long last I found the entry for Terminal E15… Too bad I drove past it. Circling back around, I finally saw Balance’s figure waiting patiently (now 2-3 hours) for my arrival. Because of the rushed system at the pick-up area, I could not really get out of my car. However, just as our Skype conversations played out in such a natural manner, so did our meetup. The meeting and the car ride took place with such social ease that it was a little mystifying really. I think the enormity of what we had done only really started to sink in when we reached the Days Inn Balance was staying at and we had a chance to stand next to each other in his room. It was strange to believe that a few hours ago, he was only a face that I had known online who lived miles away in Washington. It was equally that strange that I could now reach out and touch this person.
At any rate, I gave Balance a little Kud figure (from Little Busters!) as a little welcoming present and he ended up giving me an Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog DVD. Afterwards, I left to let him have a chance to unwind and take care of some research work. Because I had organized my schedule to account for a few days of doing nothing (30 May – 03 June), the few errands I had to take care of finished quickly and I texted Balance to ask whether he would like to spend some time at my campus while I did a few research tasks.
While Balance and I walked around, I was rather surprised how quickly the rain from earlier had evaporated from the walkways. Since my experiment needed me to sonicate samples at 30 minute intervals, I would place a vial in the sonicator and then show Balance around the campus. The weather was not bad that night so it was relaxing to go around showing him parts of my daily life. After about an hour, we left for Wal-mart to get some supplies and food for Balance. As we were leaving however, the thunderstorm flared up really bad. While we managed to get to my car while the rain slowed for about 3 seconds, the drive back to Balance’s motel was a rough ride. To give an idea about how intense the storm was, there was a lightning strike-down about every 30-50 seconds. The atmosphere in the car was also strangely reflective of our situation as I had a jazz station playing for ambiance whose songs just so happened to change to reflect the manner in which the thunder was propagating. In short, the drive was impressive enough that Balance tried to make a video.
The end of the day was exhausting for me, but the next few days were going to be even more exhausting due to the sheer fun and sensory overload. The beginning of a great weekend!