Now you have to know that Pei is pretty clever – it’s pretty difficult to pull a surprise on her, mostly because she is a trained interrogator (comes with the territory with her job), and no secret is safe from her if she has an inkling. But she’s met her match with Fran, who takes all that secrets stuff on the MPRE really seriously.
First, buying the ring without her figuring out was pretty hard. All of the research had to be done online, as any papers lying around would give everything away really fast. Second, Fran couldn’t just get any Cracker Jack ring, because at some point Pei would end up showing the ring to her aunts in Malaysia who are in the jewelry business, and he needed something that would past muster. Third, he had to get the measurements right somehow.
The answer in this kind of situation is to call in an expert, which in this case was a friend’s mom who is in the business in New York, and to snag another ring of hers to guesstimate her ring size.
The next task was what to do with the ring. Leaving it lying around wasn’t an option, and keeping it on my person wasn’t either. The obvious thing was to put it in a safe deposit box.
Then of course, where would be the right place to propose? Before I had set the date, Pei came up with the idea to go to Hong Kong for the Dragon Boat Festival, and I thought that was the perfect place to do it. I was hoping for some scenic locale and tried to time it for as soon as we got there, because I didn’t want to be holding on to the ring any longer than necessary.
So on May 24, 2006, Pei and her friends Amanda and Carol have a night-before ramen dinner at Menkui Tei with me, and while Pei is in the rest room, I give them the heads-up that I would be proposing, and I am so hoping that they don’t blow the secret. Later on that night, they’re on the phone with Pei insisting that Pei call them as soon as she gets into Hong Kong, which means I’m going to have to do it as soon as we get there.
Here’s a quote from something I wrote just afterwards, on May 26th:
1 PM Thursday: general mayhem getting things packed; we leave.
T-2.5 hours: After 3 trains, get the right A train to JFK
T-1.5 hours: Get in time for CX check-in, wondering where is everybody. Apparently, everyone had already checked in 2 hours ago and were at the gate. But I had done on-line check-in, so it wasn’t a problem
T-1 hour: P wants ice cream, so we make a stop – she gets a vanilla-chocolate swirl which was more like chocolate with a swish of white and syrup. I get an Immunity smoothy. She also picks up a few magazines.
T-30 minutes: a family of 5 boards business class. Two of the kids are in this double stroller which looks a heck of a lot like a rickshaw.
T-0: We take off on time. Channel 54 on the CX non-stop is wing-cam – a video camera feed from directly behind the front landing gear. Every plane should have one – I can watch it all day.
T+1: Snack. Roasted peanuts, selection of drinks. My general policy is no alcohol in flight, because it gives me headaches and screws up my appreciation of the meal, but they had a selection of complementary scotches and sherry or wines.
T+1.5: The in-flight entertainment system, StudioCX, had some bizarre news video from some British show about the origin of the words idiot, imbilcile, and moron (apparently “moron” was invented in New Jersey, and “idiot” originally meant a selfish person).
T+3: “Lunch”, actually dinner. We opted with the beef with bok choy on white rice, smoked trout on apple celery salad, a square of “souffle” cheesecake, and Pepperidge Farms cookies. Very credible for airline food.
T+4.5: Brokeback Mountain was playing (saw it in the theater with Pei so didn’t bother). Also, Disney’s Pocahantas was on. Pocahantas was the first movie I saw in a Hong Kong theatre – I thought it was very interesting at the time, because the Native American/English encounters depicted in the movie provided an indirect analogy to the British/Chinese situation. Of course, Lea Solonga is always a good reason to listen to a movie.
T-6: Started a 6 hour game of Civilization IV. Finally had a decent score – in the 7100’s, aka Henry VIII.
T-12: “Breakfast” was served – Abalone and clam Congee, fruit salad, blueberry muffin. The congee was fantastic, and actually had three slices of abalone. The best – even P was impressed.
T-15: Landing at HKG. We were so sore that we were using the neck pillows that we brought as ring cushions to bring relief to our brokeback butts. Other than the seat comfort, Cathay Pacific shows what good in-flight service is all about.
T-16: Crossed customs, got onto the Airport Express to Kowloon Station.
T-17 (8:30 PM local time): Got on to a shuttle-bus to where we were staying.
9:30 PM: checked in. I’m trying to convince P to go somewhere, anywhere. Instead, she just wants to shower and go to sleep
10:00 PM: showered, trying to get the Internet working. Needs an account from downstairs.
10:30 PM: The hotel staff shows up with the password. We get it working, only to learn that Skype is screened out. Drat, will have to get a SIM card for my phone.
11:00 PM: Giving up on the romantic outdoor event and running out of the appointed 2 hour window, I settle for the harbor view from our room. I take out the ring and propose to P. And she says yes! Then she proceeds to put the ring on, and it’s too loose. But wait, she put it on her right hand. Switching to the left hand, the circle of platinium fits perfectly. Sigh of relief!
11:30 PM-1 AM Saturday (1 PM EDT): We get stuff at 7-Eleven, walk up Nathan Road, made a left at Jordan Road, swing by the place where my dad’s old apartment was, walked the length of the Temple Street Market, then caught the last MTR train back to Tsim Sha Tsui.
Then, like Jack Bauer, we live happily ever after, until the next 24 hours.