It was Halloween of 2015 when Courtney Jukich first saw Mik Byskov.
That night, she’d booked a slot to ride the Haunted Vancouver Trolley Tour. Regaled with gruesome tales as they sped past landmarks like the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Stanley Park, and Mountain View Cemetery, Jukich and her best friend spent the evening giggling at the horror stories. Eventually, they pulled up to the last stop—the Vancouver Police Museum morgue. There she caught sight of a “cute pathologist” who would change her life.
“I’d been doing this acting gig with my roommate at the time,” Byskov tells the Straight over coffee, seated opposite Jukich. “We were the final part of the Trolley Tour, and we would perform a 20-minute skit full of terrible puns. One of us would play a doctor and walk the visitors through an autopsy on a dead body. The other person would play the corpse, and we would switch it up to keep it fresh. That night, I was the pathologist.
“I remember seeing this girl, and she seemed really, really excited,” he continues. “A lot of the scene is improv, and she was great at interacting. She was wearing a big hat, and I was talking about spilling blood all over it. There’s a part where I’m meant to scare people, so I leaned over and said: ‘Are you comfortable getting soaked in blood and gore?’ She was just like, ‘Absolutely.’ I remember really wanting to talk to this girl some more, but the act ends with me dying. It was sad, because I was just lying on the floor as everyone walked out. I just thought, ‘Well, that’s the end of that.’ ”
The next day, Jukich placed a three-sentence ad on the Georgia Straight’s I Saw You blog.
“I was the over-enthusiastic girl who jumped at the chance to head into the autopsy,” it read. “You were the cute ‘pathologist’ who lead [sic] the tour. Drinks?”
The Straight’s I Saw You column began running in print in 1993 and is now published online as well as in the paper. The feature gives individuals who felt a romantic spark with a stranger a second chance to connect by logging on to the website and writing when and where they met. If a reader identifies himself or herself as the person in the description, they reply to the post and the two can email back and forth. It remains one of the most popular sections of the Straight.
“The I Saw Yous was the only noncreepy way I could think of contacting him without ringing the Vancouver Police Museum and saying, ‘Hey, who was the cute doctor?’ ” Jukich says with a laugh. “I had no expectations that it would work out, but I felt I just had to put it out there. I wanted to know that I did everything I could to try and reach him.
“I got an email a few days later,” she continues, “and we went out for the first time the next day.”
The pair began their relationship with a date at Merchants on Commercial Drive. It was pouring rain. Byskov was wearing a new pair of shoes and his best jeans, and both were soaked by the time they sat down. He performed a magic trick with a pack of promotional cards that Jukich had picked up, and they drank craft cocktails. They split the bill and he walked her home. They kissed at her door.
Two years later, the couple found themselves ready to take their relationship to the next level.
“With her, I was the happiest I’d ever been,” Byskov says. “It seemed right to propose.”
The actor, a fan of the theatrical, turned once more to the Straight’s I Saw You column. Byskov placed an ad that reversed his girlfriend’s phrasing, and contacted the editorial department to make sure his post ran at the top of the feature.
“You were the over-enthusiastic girl who jumped at the chance to head into the autopsy,” it read. “I was the ‘cute pathologist’ who led the tour. You posted an I Saw You asking to grab a drink. It’s been the best two years of my life. Will you marry me?”
“She made me a really cool photo cube for our one-year anniversary, and one of the sides was the original ad,” Byskov remembers with a smile. “I used it as a reference when I was writing what to say. I liked the idea of the symmetry of the beginning of the relationship and the start of the next step. You always hear about people proposing at the spot where they first met. I felt like it would be a fun way to do it.”
With the post secretly coming out in the paper the next week, the couple took off for a holiday in the Cook Islands. Byskov carried the ring—a piece from a New York jewellery store—on the plane at the bottom of his bag, in a little box tied with a ribbon.
The edition of the Straight came out on the Thursday. He took a screenshot of the ad on his phone and saved it. Together, the pair climbed to the highest point on Aitutaki, an island surrounded by crystal-clear water and white sand, where Jukich and Byskov could see the ocean in panorama. Whales were breaching just beyond the reef.
“I used a GoPro for the trip, and it had a little camera case that came with it,” Byskov recalls. “The ring box was about the same size, so I put it right in the case and zipped it up. I was taking pictures but not really focusing on what I was shooting. I said, ‘Oh, babe, can you grab the cloth for the camera lens from the bag?’
“She went to get it, and in the meantime I was trying to pull up the Straight post sneakily on my phone,” he continues. “Then she goes to the bag and says, ‘It’s not in here.’ I said she should look a bit harder, because she was staring right at the ring box but it just wasn’t registering. So I came up to her and handed her my phone. I said, ‘Oh, look, there’s a pretty cute I Saw You in the Georgia Straight.’ And then it clicked.
“At first she yelled ‘No,’ out of surprise,” he says with a laugh. “Then she said, ‘Yes. Yes, a million times.’ ”
With their wedding date tentatively set for Halloween this year—their three-year anniversary—the pair credit the I Saw You column as a unique way to reach out to individuals across the city.
“I have friends in their offices who read it and they’ll say, ‘I know that guy,’ and pass it on,” Byskov says. “The thing about I Saw You is that you’ve already had that initial interaction before. You see online dating profiles and you wonder whether someone might be catfishing you. When you’ve already had that initial meeting point that you can relate back to, the worry isn’t there.”
“People definitely pick it up,” Jukich says of the Georgia Straight, laughing. “We had about 20 copies of the paper brought to us by our friends and family. Honestly, we’ve collected so many that we don’t really know what to do with them all.”
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSaysMore