Step Onto The Hug Rug
I always make sure I stay hydrated when flying. This means lots of liquids throughout the flight, pretty much whatever I can get my hands on. I also happen to dislike airplane toilets and only use them when I’m busting. Thus, on this particular day, having flown from Vancouver to Winnipeg with a short stopover in Calgary, the flight was just long enough for me to intake as many liquids as possible without using the airplane can.
I had just gone around the world. This was the last leg of my journey to make that statement 100% true. I spent a couple of dreamy days in Vancouver with some very special high school friends, the kind who make it seem like no time has passed at all, with whom we can pick up right where we left off, and there is never any awkwardness or judging. Just happy-to-see-you’s and hugs and lots of chatter.
Vancouver was a nice way to round off my RTW trip, to take a moment to be reintroduced to Canada, to get used to hearing English, seeing Tim Hortons everywhere and understanding the currency. At this stage of reintegration, I was getting antsy to go home. Saj and I have been in a long distance relationship for a year now, and the longest amount of uninterrupted time we’ve had together since has been no more than 3 weeks. Having just travelled through Russia, Siberia, Mongolia and Hong Kong for almost 6 weeks, I was happy I would be seeing my guy again so soon.
Saj and I have an airport arrival & pick up tradition, and it makes coming home that much sweeter. While my parents are happy to come get me from the airport if need be, they do the drive-by and hop-in-the-car. There is no ceremony or real celebration. Once upon a time, they used to come in to the airport and take photos with me and my backpack before I embarked on a long journey. Now, they are so used to my leaving that if they can’t take me to the airport, I just ask someone else. I find this amusing and endearing of my parents to just be like, “K, see you in a couple months, we’re going to the lake.”
But Saj is always there at the airport, waiting for me. I know the column he stands by, and he usually has a coffee and is almost always holding flowers. I always take the escalator because I am too nervous that if I take the stairs, I will trip in my excitement and roll the rest of the way down with all my bags and their contents spilling out dramatically. Saj even takes time off work if he has to in order to come and get me; that’s how important these reunions are to him and to us. After 6 weeks apart, I could envision our reunion clearly.
This day was a bit different. In getting off the plane with a full bladder, I tried to remain calm as I went to the ladies’ washroom, where the Winnipeg Airport cleverly has enormous bathroom stalls (the best I’ve ever seen!) to allow for luggage to fit in the stall with you. After I was done, and I walked toward the escalator, knowing what was waiting for me past the glass walls, I saw a camera crew, and they seemed to be looking at me. “Get over yourself, Colleen,” I had a little chat with myself. “They aren’t looking at you. They are probably here for some news story, or some celebrity sighting. Maybe one of the Jets is doing something here today.”
Then as I rounded the corner and stepped onto the escalator, I looked down, spotting even more cameras. I reminded myself that there was some important news happening that day and looked around for Saj. When I spotted him, I almost couldn’t stand myself, I was smiling so much. I covered my face with my scarf, and the escalator carried me closer to him. He stepped forward and waited for me.
When I finally approached him, and our long awaited hug became a reality, one of the cameras swooped in and began circling us. I was elated, overjoyed, laughing, shaking, and then completely confused.
“What’s with the cameras?” I said, burying my face in his arms and chest.
He laughed and said, “We’re going to be on YouTube.”
I thought he was kidding, but once we had satisfied our hugging needs, a lady with a clipboard and pen approached me and asked me to sign a release form, so that they could use the footage of us. Saj told me that he had been reluctant to sign in the first place because he wanted our moment to be ours, but he sympathised with the people who were working so hard to get the footage. I signed my name and asked if they were creating a Love Actually type of montage, and they said that they were, in a sense. Then Saj and I went to collect my bags.
He told me later that they had in fact noted my arrival. He had given them a description of me (petite brunette, mid-20’s, probably wearing a dress and a jean jacket). I wondered if they had watched me sneak off to the toilet, and I chuckled about this. Then, as I had approached the escalator, Saj could hear them communicating to each other via walkie-talkie, “Flower guy’s girlfriend. 20 seconds to flower guy’s girlfriend,” and there he waited, knowing I was coming before he could see me. They told him to stand on the hug rug, and when he tried to go off the hug rug to greet me at the bottom of the escalator they instructed him to “Stay on the hug rug!” This was all very hilarious to us as we relived what had just happened.
A few days ago, I found the video that the Winnipeg Airport Authority had made. I appear three times in the video, and our hug gets shown from 2 different angles. I was happy that they used our footage. Little do they know how special that hug was to us, that it had been 6 weeks since we’d seen each other, and that they were capturing my arrival home after making a loop around the world.