Long-distance love? Blanca Martin was smitten via satellite.
"I just talked to him," she says almost reverently. "We just chatted -- 'How's the weather?' It's 38 degrees Celsius over there, he just told me. No rain!"
Martin, 40, presents a photograph of herself and Roy Hunt, 46, of Australia. "It's not," she laments, "a good picture. He's all cut off and everything."
Until a week ago, Martin, who goes by the name Billie, was a "coordinator" with Intelsat, the Washington-based global telecommunications cooperative. Seated before a futuristic panel of phones and screens full of carrier frequency signals, Martin monitored transmission problems with "Earth stations" around the world.
Martin, an attractive, German-born American citizen, does not lack for geniality. In touch on a daily basis with Earth stations around the world, from Venezuela to the Soviet Union, she made many friends.
"You don't have many women" working in the field, she says. Consequently, when men hear her voice, they tend to get satellite-friendly. "I have a problem," she says with studied innocence. "I'm kind of friendly with people. Even Russia. I have a friend there called Alexander . . .
"In South America they're terrible," she continues. " 'Hi, baby,' says Cuba . . . 'I'd like to see your picture.' "
L'affaire microwave started, she says, a year ago when she got a call from Ceduna, an Australian Earth station. "It was just conversation. We talked about different things. He wanted to bring up a TV carrier."
This wasn't just another transworld rake. Roy Hunt, an Australian station technician, asked if she wouldn't mind him writing to her, and offered to send her his picture. "I thought that was very decent."
Another attractive element: "His accent."
Conversations, photographs and letters between Martin and Hunt continued. "We were just friends," she says. But when he invited her to visit, "I said, 'Don't say that if you're not serious.' "
He was. She took a plane to Ceduna in October. "I had my hair done." She'd never had it frosted before, and he didn't recognize her at the airport. "He kept looking and looking. I had a big grin on my face. Then he recognized me and hugged me."
She stayed a month. I'm not going to tell you where he proposed, she says, "but it was early one morning . . . October 17. And that's where everything changed."
She leaves today for Australia. Martin, who divorced last year, says her 15-year-old son, Marlin, and daughter Angela, 18, are supportive of her upcoming marriage. Marlin -- "I think it will be fun and exciting" -- will go with her.
Apprehension about the long-distance appointment? "You can't go thinking, 'If things don't work out I'm coming back,' " says Billie Martin. "Of course it's in the back of my mind . . ."
Ironically, Martin regrets losing the Intelsat job. She had recently been promoted. "It was a fantastic job . . .I met a lot of interesting people around the world."
But Martin intends, she says, to remain in Australia. "I was married more than 20 years the first time. I'd better be married more than 20 years this time."