My boyfriend (Jonathan) and I filled our backpacks up with nothing but a few perfectly rolled pairs of clothes (thanks Rick Steves) and a few baggies of trail mix. I was 20 years old and jetting off to Nice, France for a semester abroad. My ponytail-wearing boyfriend was headed to Tanzania, Africa to provide medical care to a small village.
A few days before I was scheduled to leave Nice and backpack on my own throughout Europe, my mom told me I HAD to stay because I had a package coming from Jonathan all the way from Africa. My friends assumed it was a ring; a few even guessed it would be him. It wouldn't be him - I had these grand plans of seeing him for the first time when I landed, wearing my oh-so-French tunic dress and giant hat. Somehow my hair would have grown, lightened and look like those Pantene commercials and I would have grown a few inches in height and looked like a sophisticated 30-something Frenchwoman.
July in southern France is hot and muggy. My dorm room had no A.C. and I was stuck in my room waiting for this mysterious package to arrive. Sitting there wearing barely anything, soaked in sweat, I heard a knock at my door. YES! This is my package! I opened it up and there stood Jonathan. Covered in sweat and dirt and panting from the heat, he was there. He had flown to Paris, trained overnight to Nice and had to navigate his way (long before google maps and Siri) through Nice to find my tiny dorm room - all while speaking zero French.
My university congratulated us on our engagement and treated us to the fanciest dinner we'd ever eaten (It's still the fanciest) overlooking the Mediterranean. I politely corrected them; he was just my boyfriend, but I instantly assumed it was coming. I started day-dreaming about where he would propose. The Eiffel Tower? The Louvre? The Colleseum? On a gondola in Venice? Any of those places would be a dream. After our welcome champagne (perfect place #1) and incredibly romantic dinner (#2), we walked along the beach (#3), watching the locals kiss under the stars and break another baguette over a midnight dinner (#4). We finally made it back to my dorm where I quickly changed into my pj's since the proposal was obviously not happening tonight... I turned around and Jonathan was on his knee. In my cramped, sweaty and stale-air dorm, he was proposing and it couldn't have been more perfect. :) Except for the fact that he mixed up my shoe size with my ring size (I wear a size 10 shoe). After I put the ring around my wrist, he told me he had added himself (with the help of my detective mom) to my Europe itinerary, even down to sitting next to me on the plane. The next morning we left for 2 1/2 weeks of backpacking through Europe together.
yada yada yada - We're in London. Now, this is where it gets interesting.
We had an 8am flight back home from Heathrow Airport, so being the frugal travelers we were (and still are), we slept in the airport. We found a comfortable little area with a few families also sleeping. At one point, I woke up and saw an armed guard - great! I felt really secure! About 2am, I woke up to a line of about 20 armed guards along the wall, all staring down a suspicious-looking fellow by himself (not sleeping and looking nervous) sitting with us. I turned to a dad who was also watching this go down (who's family was asleep) and asked him "this isn't normal, is it?" He, of course tells me no, but in typical dad fashion, tells me that he's sure it's totally fine.
We get up at 5am, walk upstairs to the terminal to check in and see a line so long, it wraps around the walls. Airport security was everywhere and we were each given a clear plastic bag where we put all of our belongings, saving cash, our ticket and passport. Rumors were spreading like wildfire through the line until a woman turns to us and says "oh yeah, there are terrorists plotting to blow up a plane to Chicago". Jonathan and I looked at each other realizing that THAT is our plane. Fear set in immediately, but before we could cancel our flight, we were ushered through countless security checks and herded into our gate. It was like all the Lifetime movies that I had watched with my mom growing up. A group of young students traveling together, a young family, an old couple and our newly engaged selves. We watched the blaring TV in disbelief, reading IMMINENT attack in bright red letters, over and over again. We looked through the window and saw at least a dozen police and Airport personnel combing through every inch of our airplane. We sat and waited for what felt like 2 straight days (6 hours) before our plane was cleared and we finally boarded.
After 7 straight hours of panically praying over the Atlantic ocean, we touched done in Chicago, which is exactly when Jonathan started panicking. We sprinted through the Chicago airport to catch our connection only to find that only one of us had a seat. Naturally, I started crying obscenities at the gate crew and threw an 8 year old out of his seat on the plane, but I was NOT missing this flight.
We landed in St. Louis 12 hours later, disheveled, exhausted and so thankful to be going home to a lazy afternoon on the couch. Jonathan's romantic nature couldn't stop him from surprising me with a limo that took us to an engagement party with our most favorite people - who had all waited and prayed for 12 straight hours. More excitement than we had planned for, but it's a story we'll never forget.
And that, my friends, is why there was an airplane liquid ban.