Step Out of Line

When I arrived at the Helsinki airport last Monday afternoon, I was pleased to see that Johann was waiting for me. It was a kindness I repaid by haranguing him for waiting in the terminal for the past hour even though I told him my flight was delayed.

“But I didn’t know when you’d get here,” he explained. “So I just came at the original time.”

“That’s why I gave you my flight number,” I said. “So that you could check.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.

“I even told you how to do it,” I continued. “You Google the number and it comes right up. Did you Google it?”

“I didn’t Google it,” he answered.

“Well you should have,” I said. “Then you wouldn’t have been waiting for an hour.”

He sighed. “It’s good to see you, Nova. Really. I missed you.”



I found it hard to believe that Johann missed me, especially since the very next thing I did was cut four people in the line for train tickets. I did it on purpose too because there were two machines and, for whatever reason, people only wanted to use one of them.

“I don’t know why no one is using the other machine,” I complained.

“Because that machine is only for long-distance trains and everyone’s probably going to the city center,” Johann answered.

He was only half right. Both machines sold tickets to the city center. And I knew that for a fact because the same thing happened the first time I visited Helsinki and, having also lost my patience on that occasion, I was familiar with the long distance machine.

“I did this before,” I said as I stepped out of line and began selecting options from the screen. Behind me, I heard Johann make the sound that people always make when I’m about to do something rude, but they still kind of want to see me do it.

What?” I asked, turning back to Johann in line. “I have things to do. Don’t you?”

I punched a few more buttons.

“There,” I said. “See? Helsinki – City Center. First option.”

He stepped out of line and looked over my shoulder as I inserted my credit card.

“Hmm,” was all he managed.

“First time here?” I asked, handing him a ticket. “New in town?”

Incredibly, after watching that transaction take place, the rest of the line remained planted firmly in place, even as the woman at the first machine inserted what could only have been a $50 note and received the change for her $5 ticket in the form of slot machine winnings.

“USE BOTH MACHINES” I yelled as I stepped onto the escalator.

You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the girl.



Despite all that, Johann decided that it was a good idea for me to meet his friends. They were all perfectly lovely, even the one who cornered me in her boyfriend’s kitchen to let me know that Johann is often grumpy and he never brings girls around – two points that I suspect are actually related.

“He’s really picky,” she said matter-of-factly. “So good for you.”

I didn’t share her enthusiasm. “Well there’s plenty wrong with me,” I joked.

“Oh, I’m sure there is,” she answered. “But that’s the thing. He doesn’t seem to care!”

Then, because she had no idea who she was dealing with, she handed me six miniature candles and granted me unsupervised access to a birthday cake. I can only assume she was fresh out of grenades. Later, when I told Johann it was me who placed the candles on the cake, I swear, he walked into the kitchen and glanced around the room half-expecting to see icing on the walls.



All jokes aside, Johann and I had a nice week together – even as it became increasingly clear that there is, in fact, plenty wrong with both of us. But his friend was right about one thing: it doesn’t seem to matter.

Which brings us to the question that everyone probably has: Are you going to see him again? Yes. That’s the plan, at least – though there’s not much of one beyond that, so don’t bother asking any follow up questions. Also, I’d appreciate it if no one explained to me that long distance relationships hardly ever “work” even without the added obstacle of immigration. And don’t lecture me on “being realistic” because I stopped doing that around the time I quit my day job and packed up for South Africa a year ago. My life is one big exercise in shucking expectations and convention. If anyone can do this, it’s me.

But I know a lot of you will think it anyway – and I’ll grant you this: you may very well be right. I might fall flat on my face. In which case, it’s a good thing I know how to work the airport ticket machines.

  1. Long distance relationships can absolutely work. Depends upon what you need in a relationship. Oh, and they are quite fun :)

    • very true! time will tell on this one… until then, you’re quite right – fun is to be had. thanks for reading :)

  2. Enjoy your time together Nova. If it turns into something long term, Mazel Tov! If not, then you will always have wonderful memories. Live in the present, here and now, as it is all anyone ever really has. No one is promised tomorrow and yesterday has come and gone.

    My husband was reading your email and said that you must be my sister from another mister. I could totally relate to your horror at the 2 available ticketing machines with only one being utilized. One of my favorite mantras is “People are sheep.” No one wants to be the herder, be in charge, do the thinking! I need to send you a copy of my FB post from one day this past holiday season. I am sure you will totally relate!

    Happy travels!

    • Oh my god… I laughed out loud over that story! The minivan lanes… Nope, you and I don’t belong in those. Thanks for sharing… I loved it!

      • hi! in case Linda doesn’t get this comment, i’ve emailed her and asked her to share the story. it’s so good :)

        • hi there… so linda doesn’t have this posted publicly but she said I could post it in full here:

          File under “Yes, Linda, there is a Santa Claus.” I hardly ever travel anywhere during the week as I am usually chained to my desk. Today I ventured out to do a simple little errand and this happened. I really need to not leave my house. Like ever.

          Officer Friendly: Good afternoon Miss (versus Ma’am so my defensive attitude immediately dissipates and I actually kinda already like him…) do you know why I am stopping you?

          Little Miss Me: Santa is watching. I’ve been on my best behavior, so I can’t even imagine.

          OF: You were traveling in the passing line faster than the legal limit at 84 miles an hour. Were either of these on your naughty list? (And that is verbatim)

          LMM: Two infractions?! I’m only seeing one – the speeding.

          OF: Traveling in the passing lane is the other, but we’ll get back to that.

          LMM: If I drive 75 to 80, the car vibrates because of a dented rim, which annoys me, so if I go faster than 80 it stops and I am happy again.

          OF: He’s just standing there looking at me, like he’s waiting for me to say more.

          LMM: What? That’s really the truth. I’m not making it up. If you want to get in, I can show you.

          OF: What happens if you keep it at 70 or, heaven forbid, you actually drive the posted limit of 65?

          LMM: How would I know? I was in the left lane. The cars behind me wouldn’t be too happy about that.

          OF: You could move over into one of the other two lanes.

          LMM: Aren’t those for minivans?

          OF (wanting to laugh but knows he shouldn’t so being politically correct he says): Yes, those lanes would be good choices for a minivan. They are also where cars that are not in the process of passing should travel. So that would be you, since you were cruising along in the passing lane.

          LMM: But I WAS passing.

          OF: I watched you for over a half mile. You didn’t pass anyone.

          LMM: Did too! (said in my most indignant voice ever). I was passing everyone who was in the middle lane. And in order to pass people, you need to go faster than they are.

          OF: That’s not how passing works Miss (I thought for sure he was gonna call me Dear, in which case his likability rating was going to nosedive).

          LMM: Maybe it’s hereditary then. As a kid, I remember my mother always yelling at my father on car trips because of his lead foot.

          Right after I say that, a Partridge Family song starts to play on the radio.

          OF: Another childhood memory?

          LMM: Yup, and I know all the words.

          OF (who is like my BFF now): There is so much wrong here I don’t know where to begin. You really should be locked up and I don’t mean in a prison. But, as a gift, I’m only going to give you a verbal warning. And you might want to think about asking Santa for some psychotherapy sessions.

          LMM: Don’t you need to see my license and registration?

          OF: No, I already have too much information about you.

          LMM: Thank you officer. Merry Christmas.

          OF: Same to you DEAR. Be safe.

  3. Girl, Woman. Whatever.

    Give a BIG New York middle finger to the haters, glam it up, and STRUT.

    At least thats how I shut down my critics.

    Never any real consequences. Or at least ones I care about.

  4. Girl, you can do it. If it’s meant to happen, it will!
    I keep reminding myself to disregard people’s opinions, because while they may be well-intentioned, they are usually useless. I mean, who can put themselves into your shoes? Very few people. You’re on a unique, beautiful path, and you just keep doing what feels right. It will all work out.

    • I completely agree!
      You have to walk a fine line on others’ opinions. They’re usually useless… but if everyone is saying the same thing, it’s probably worth a listen. But thank you for the vote of confidence. I like this path :) Also, I like your blog!

  5. This may seem totally unrelated but I’m quitting my job and am terrified of 1)no health insurance and 2)no retirement plan. I’m going to be working for a small business that doesn’t offer either and will be significantly less money, but I’m going to be so much happier. Do you stress about stuff like that? I’m not a youngster either – in my 40’s.

    • Oh my god… you must have read my mind! My post this week is 21-questions theme about all the common things I get asked. So stay tuned for full detail… but in short: sure, everyone would stress about taking a pay cut – that’s normal. but if you like your life better you probably won’t mind in the long run. speaking of the long run, though, health insurance and a retirement plan are worth stressing about… because even if you’re happier now, that won’t pay the bills later. I’m lucky that my employer still covers me on both, but if that was not the case, I’d definitely need to make other arrangements.

      • Thanks! Can’t wait to read this week’s post. I’m already researching insurance plans and will work on the retirement part. I have a 401K from my current job so I can just add to it at some point once I get my budget set and am making a little more money. And like you said, I will love my new life! No more offices…

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