After discovering on March 17th that our team didn’t make the playoffs and our season was over I realized something. I could be home, in America, for my 27th birthday?
It doesn’t sound strange to many, really, but I have spent every birthday starting with my 23rd in Europe. It just became a part of the job until I found out this year could be different. And, it certainly was. I did so many things I have never done before on my birthday this year.
First of all, I couldn’t make plans for my birthday because I found out on March 24th that I would be flying home the next day (my birthday). My flight would leave at 6am from Hamburg (an hour drive from where I live) AND Germany would be participating in daylight savings time that same night. So I decided to just go out to dinner in Hamburg, celebrate a little at midnight, and then get dropped off at the airport. “What’s three hours in an empty airport and staying awake straight through the night?” I thought.
Well, after enjoying a free birthday sundae and being serenaded with an interesting English/German rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ from the workers and customers at the Hard Rock Café, my teammate and two coaches had a midnight shot.
Everyone assumes that the airport is open 24 hours a day and it is, but at 1:30am I had to sit in the arrivals lobby because the departures area is actually closed at that time. About 70 other people sat quietly with me: some napping, some reading, and a cute elderly couple were people watching. I brushed my teeth, put on some sweats, and tried, unsuccessfully, to nap.
I had visions of receiving first class upgrades on this special birthday trip overseas. I pictured everyone knowing it was my birthday and getting a lot of smiles and well wishes (does this happen in the movies?) but nothing of the sort happened. I don’t know what I was thinking but the highlight of my birthday trip was a “congratulations” (the German way of happy birthday) from the customs guy at the Amsterdam airport.
Even knowing I was landing in America didn’t bring out the “crazy chick smiling to herself” as often as it usually does. I was extremely tired (have I mentioned I can’t sleep on planes?) and found it hard to think about anything other than sleep.
Crazy smile did make a brief appearance at Portland International Jetport as I passed my favorite “Welcome Home” Lobster sign in the ramp to the arrivals area. Another one popped up when I saw my mom holding a “Happy Birthday” balloon (yes, I did say I turned 27).
I guess there are just a couple things that came from this birthday trip that I can say I’ve done:
Spent the night in an airport
Been in three different countries on one birthday
Had a 29 hour birthday
And being in America is enough of a gift and America, you know I love you, and as soon as I get over this jetlag I will tell you just how much!