That time my real life was the plot of ‘Home Alone’
It was winter break during my sophomore year of college, and I couldn’t be more excited. After having an amazing Christmas at home with my family, we were about to head on a tropical vacation for New Year’s Day. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it. After a long winter, hanging out with my family far away from snowy New England weather sounded like just what I needed. I was so excited I even made sure that every present I gave me family was vacation themed, down to the cute luggage tags I gave everyone as stocking stuffers. My parents followed suit—every gift was practical and vacation themed: bathing suits, sunscreen, and travel bags. We all had vacation on the brain.
But as soon as we started to pack and think about our vacation more practically, we hit a bump in the road. My parents had insisted on hanging onto my passport for ‘safety’. ‘Safety’ meant sitting unseen in a locked metal box in the hall closet for years. And sitting unseen in the hall closet for years meant that we didn’t notice that my passport was expired until we opened the box, right before we were supposed to catch our plane. Since everyone else’s was completely fine, and I was 21 and technically able to take care of myself, my family decided to stick to their plans and head out without me. I, the industrious young adult that I was, was going to spend the next day back in NYC going in person to the passport office. It was annoying and pricey, but totally possible for me to renew my passport on such short notice. Luckily we were able to cancel my flight and roll over my ticket to a later flight, so I could meet everyone in paradise a few days later. I was incredibly bummed out, but determined to make it work.
My parents dropped me off at the train as they left for the airport. I waved them goodbye, certain I’d see them soon on some beautiful beach below the equator. But as I drew nearer and nearer to NYC, it was apparent that the weather was getting really bad. Feet and feet of snow were getting dumped all over the east coast. In fact it was the first time I ever saw the term ‘snowpacalypse’ used in weather report. Getting out of the train in NYC, I fell over several times trying to walk down the street to my apartment. All the while thick, fat snowflakes were still raining down like there was no tomorrow. My family’s flight had made it out okay, but other flights were getting cancelled left and right, and I was starting to worry that I wouldn’t be able to make it even if I got my passport expedited. I knew I had to try though. So I trudged up the stairs to my empty apartment, left my bags unpacked on the floor, and called it a night. My roommate was gone for holiday break, so everything was completely silent. I was truly on my own.
I checked the website and the passport office was still open, so I left first thing in the morning. I could barely open the door there was so much snow blocking it shut. Nevertheless, I was determined. I started making the snowy trek, even though it was freezing, or that I could barely walk or see, and even though everything I passed on the way was definitely closed because of the terrible weather. Finally the passport office was in my sight. I stumbled up to the door, and tried to open it. It wouldn’t budge. Thinking it was just the snowing jamming it, I tried again. But then I noticed there was a hastily scribbled note taped to the door. It just said ‘closed’. Not when or for how long, just ‘closed’. I wanted to scream, but it was way too cold for that, so I just hobbled over to the nearest/only open coffee shop and thawed out there instead. My parents called me and I had to explain that I wasn’t going to be able to make it. It was the day before New Years, so the office was going to be closed anyway, even if the snow let up. Besides that, all the flights going out of NY were being cancelled. I had to accept it was going to be literally impossible for me to join them on vacation. They sounded sad on the phone, but they totally understood. I had tried my best, but I had to accept it. The New England snow gods did not want me to spend New Years with my family.
I started to think about heading home to Connecticut. I would have stayed in NYC, except all my college friends had already gone home for the break. If I stayed in NYC I’d be spending New Year’s Eve by myself, which was not something I was interested in doing. At the time I had a boyfriend in Connecticut, so I decided to try to make it to his place. I packed up my bags and headed back to the train station. However my adventure wasn’t nearly over yet. Turns out flights weren’t the only things getting cancelled, trains were too! Everyone was getting bumped off their respective trains, and the station was getting crowded. Suddenly the cheerful Christmas decorations were beginning to seem more like a trap than an allusion to a happy, joyful holiday.
Finally, after waiting around for hours, the MTA was able to pull together one train that would make all the local stops on my line. The train was packed to the gills, and I stood up the entire way home since there was no room to sit, let alone move. And to top it all off, at the last second the conductor announced that it wasn’t going to go all the way to my local stop, but had to stop early because there was too much snow on the tracks. So I got off the train at a strange station, completely stranded and not near any friends or family that could rescue me. I had been quite the trooper up until this point, but that’s where I really lost it. I was trying so hard to just get towards people I cared about to spend the holiday with, but every way I tried seemed to be conspiring against me. I was starting to wonder if I wanted to maybe build a snow fort in the parking lot and settle in for the New Year.
I called my then boyfriend to basically sob at the unfairness and intricacies of the universe, when he gave me the best holiday present of all: he simply got in his car and drove to go get me. I didn’t even have to ask. Finally, through all the snow and delays and ‘nos’ I finally got a plain and simple ‘yes’. We drove to his mom’s house and almost immediately started watching TV on couch. I basically didn’t move until my family got back from their vacation a few days later. I was just so thankful to be with people I cared about and not standing in a snow bank with an expired passport, I had no interest in moving or traveling for the rest of my holiday break. My family and I went on to have many more successful vacations after that, but one things for sure: I’m in charge of my own passport for now.
[Image via 20th Century Fox]