Love at first flight: A baggage-claim connection
Jason Lifton and Jenna Steinberger made a lasting connection in January 2013 while waiting for their luggage at Reagan National Airport’s baggage claim.
Jason first noticed Jenna and her older sister, Jess, back in Palm Beach, Fla., at the gate waiting to board the same U. S. Airways flight. They had all spent the winter holidays with their families at vacation homes in southern Florida and were headed back to Washington.
He recalls thinking: “Two cute girls on the plane, yes! I hope I can sit next to one of them.” Instead, to his disappointment, he was seated in a faraway section next to a not-as-cute neighbor.
After the flight, Jason noticed the pair again at baggage claim. Realizing this would probably be his last chance to strike up a conversation, he walked over and asked whether they knew at which baggage carousel their luggage would be arriving.
“No idea,” Jenna cheerfully replied. She noticed that the friendly, outgoing stranger was wearing a George Washington University sweatshirt. Her interest was piqued; she was a GWU doctoral graduate and physical therapist at GWU Hospital. She queried him and learned he also was a graduate and then-chief of staff to one of the university’s associate provosts.
When their bags arrived, the two were still rapt in conversation, discussing work, family and friends. “He was really cute and really dorky. I liked it,” Jenna says. “They say you should never talk to strangers, but this time it paid off,” quips Jason, a development analyst for Urban Investment Partners in Washington.
Jenna was hoping he would ask for her number. Although he was interested, given their short visit, he simply parted with “I’ll see you around at the Whole Foods!”
“I have no game, clearly,” he says now with a laugh.
That night, they both Googled each other. Jason was unsuccessful, but Jenna found him on Facebook. When she saw that his main photo featured another girl (who she would later learn was his sister), she decided to let it go.
But Jason was still determined. The next day, over dinner with a friend, he lamented the fact that he hadn’t asked for Jenna’s number. “Imet this really cute Jewish doctor at baggage claim, but I didn’t even get her number,” he said. Turns out, his friend was headed to a physical therapy appointment at GWU the next morning and offered to track Jenna down.
Sure enough, his friend’s physical therapist was a colleague of Jenna’s. As Jenna recalls, “She called me in the middle of the day and said, ‘Did you meet a guy at the airport yesterday?’ I stopped dead inmy tracks and turned bright red. All my colleagues were staring at me.” She passed along her number, and Jason called the next day.
For their first date a week later, they planned to squeeze in drinks at Lincoln restaurant in downtown Washington before Jason had to meet friends at a GWU basketball game. The date went so well that he skipped the game and the two talked for nearly five hours.
“Ihada gut feeling that thiswas going to work on our first date,” Jenna says. “It was just really fun and comfortable. We were so compatible.”
Two weeks later, on their third date, Jason felt a similar instinct. He offered to cook Jenna chicken Parmesan at his home in Foggy Bottom. Everything was going well until he opened an expired can of pasta sauce, which exploded and left Jenna covered head to toe in sauce. “When she laughed about it and didn’t flip out, I thought, ‘ This is a good sign. . . . This [one] may be a keeper,” Jason says.
A relationship quickly developed over the next several weeks, and the two moved in together in December. It didn’t take long before they were discussing marriage.
In August 2014, on a beach trip to Margate, N. J., Jason surprised Jenna with a proposal at the Margate Dairy Bar Ice Cream Shop. “Ice cream, the beach and diamonds [are] three of Jenna’s favorite things,” he says. “So I figured the chances of her saying yes with those things present would be pretty good.”
Jason’s mom had snuck over to the parlor early and tipped them off to her son’s plan. She requested that they make whatever dessert Jenna ordered massive. “Her ice cream sundae was at least two feet tall,” Jason says, laughing.
Distracted by her Hulk-size treat, she didn’t notice that Jason had tiptoed behind her and dropped to a knee. He tapped her on the back, she turned around and he asked: “Would you be interested in more than just some ice cream?” She was.
Jenna Steinberger, 30, and Jason Lifton, 26, exchanged vows May 30 before 250 friends and family members at the St. Clair Country Club in Upper St. Clair, Pa. “I got very caught up in the ceremony,” Jason recalls. “When the rabbi said, ‘Do you, Jason . . .’ I jumped in [early] andsaid, ‘I do!’ ”
At the reception, guests dined on a breakfast buffet and, instead of wedding cake, burnt-almond torte and mini milkshakes. The couple spent their honeymoon in French Polynesia and, upon their return, made sure to snap a photo at National Airport’s baggage claim — “where it all began,” Jason says.
“I love telling people the story of how we first met,” Jenna said after the wedding. “I’ve always wished my life was like a romantic movie or a musical, and now I feel like it is.”
“I had a gut feeling that this was going to work on our first date.”
Jenna Steinberger and Jason Lifton were married May 30 in Upper St. Clair, Pa. They first sparked a conversation while waiting for their bags at Reagan National Airport.