I was eleven. It had not been my first time on a plane, but it was my first time out of the country. At least that I can remember. I had been lucky. The flight from California to New York had been long. From New York to Munich, Germany had been longer. But I had been lucky. I had been in First Class.
The flight abroad had been amazing. The flight home?
Not so much.
We were due to fly into JFK. Storms peppered the Eastern Seaboard for miles. The captain came over the intercom and announced we had been diverted. We wouldn’t be landing at JFK. We wouldn’t be going to New York. We’d be landing at Newark.
My mom told me. I was tired. I didn’t know what it meant. I was eleven.
We flew around and saw the clouds and felt the bumps. The flight attendants were nice. They’re always nice to you in First Class. I had been lucky. But still, we’d been on the plane for a long time. The Atlantic Ocean is big. Germany wasn’t close to America. I was tired. I was eleven.
The captain came over the intercom and announced we had been diverted. We wouldn’t be landing at JFK and we wouldn’t be landing at Newark. Too many planes had been backlogged. Diverted. We’d be landing at Dulles.
My mom told me. Washington D.C. HA! Ironic, I said. With my television family I lived in Washington D.C. and yet I’d never been there. Now I was going to Washington D.C. with my real family. Strange that I knew irony at eleven.
The captain landed the plane at Dulles. In the rain. We could see the line of planes parked on the runways. We landed and we stopped but we didn’t make it to the terminal. Too many planes had been diverted.
When we finally left the plane, I had been awake for hours and hours. A day maybe? A full week? It felt like it. We had been sitting and waiting and sitting. Not doing anything can be excruciatingly tiring. But the trip wasn’t over. We were now stranded in a city miles from home.
The unscheduled stop for thousands of people meant crowded counters and crowded waiting areas. There wasn’t anywhere to sit while my mom jockeyed for position amongst the mob to secure a room for the night. I dropped our carry-on luggage at my feet and leaned against a wall and waited.
And fell asleep. Standing up.
The jolt of being awakened had nearly sent me to the floor, but I recovered. Dazed and disoriented but still standing. My mom had found us a room. We would be staying the night in Washington D.C. She had told me I would be warm and in a bed before too long.
I recalled this story last night in bed while I laid there and listened to the rain fall hard onto my roof. I was tired but I could not sleep. Warm and comfortable, listening to the rain, I could only recall the time I had fallen asleep standing up.