Eat @ Joe's By Ralph Raffio
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My Twelve Days of Jet Lag
Thursday, May 24, 2018 -- I'll never understand people who actually enjoy long-haul travel. The jet lag is just too brutal.
I recently returned from a week in Hong Kong and it took twelve whole days for me to get right.
Seriously, these were the worst twelve days of my life. For the first three days after arriving back home I got a total seven hours' sleep. And that's not including the virtually sleepless 36-hour stretch that started on my last morning in Kowloon, moved to a nonstop flight of around 15 hours to Boston and ended with my head hitting my own pillow in Maine.
The more days that passed the more irritable, and the less myself, I became. We're talking serious middle-aged-zombie-walking-around-without-a-clue, folks. Really, really, really bad stuff.
A friend of mine with quite a bit of experience in long-haul flights--let's call him Lou, even though his name is Joe--had the gall to blame me for not recovering from my Asia-to-America jet lag sooner.
"Lean into it, man," he chided, parroting the meaningless chatter employed by charlatans, motivational speakers and cheesy marketing geniuses. "Listen to your body and sleep when it tells you to sleep, no matter what."
Lou, it appears, did not hear me speak of nodding off at my desk for ten minutes here or five there. He surely missed my mention of waking from a 20-minute nap on the sofa with a half-eaten tuna sandwich crushed between my thighs.
After a week of dangerously insufficient and extremely poor-quality sleep, Lou then upped the ante in his cruelty.
"It's your own fault," he barked. "You're fighting it too hard."
This was right after my wife had to come rescue me in the middle of my regular morning walk. Around the 45-minute mark my body had simply given out. Never have I been unable or unwilling to complete my 90-minute or so daily stroll, not in rain, snow, anything. Yet jet lag did me in.
I decided to stop talking to Lou, at least until after I was back to normal, presuming that would ever happen.
On the twelfth day, I rose from my bed at around 5 a.m. This is normal for me, as were the six or so hours of uninterrupted sleep I'd just experienced. After arriving home from Hong Kong my overnights had gone from zero hours to a high of three, so waking up on the Twelfth Day of Jet Lag fully rested and feeling myself was an absolute joy. I truly was giddy.
Then I saw a story in my morning news feed about how they are building all these new aircraft to fly even longer distances than they do now. Airbus, it seems, will soon deliver a new "ultra-long-range" plane to Singapore Airlines that will do a 19-hour Singapore-to-New York run. Qantas of Australia wants planes that travel even farther and are capable of flying Sydney-to-London or Sydney-to-New York nonstop.
Are you kidding me? The idea of being on a plane that long is about as appealing to me as being boiled in a big vat of hot oil or having all of my flesh eaten away by a school of hungry piranha.
I mean, really. A seven-night vacation to Hong Kong had already turned into a 19-day commitment, once you tack on the additional Twelve Days of Jet Lag.
Now they want me to fly even longer? Not. Gonna. Happen.
I know all about that mumbo-jumbo where they say they're trying to make long-distance air travel easier on passengers. The airlines claim to be consulting with psychologists, nutritionists and sleep experts, looking at things like adjusting the colors and intensity of cabin lights, testing various cabin temperatures, even fiddling with meals that might help make us all sleep better onboard. And, of course, there's the spate of apps and devices that are supposed to help, offering palliatives like white noise, sleep-inducing lights, even acupressure.
I don't blame these people for trying. I wish them a lot of luck, actually. Really, I do. But the odds of me choosing to board one of these nearly day-long flights--with or without a newfangled aid--are practically nil.
Actually, they are precisely nil.
Up until The Twelve Days of Jet Lag my circadian rhythm was perfectly fine, thank you very much. It was better than fine, in fact. I don't mean to brag, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a better sleeper than me--or a more regular human specimen when it comes to things like eating habits, digestive cycle, all that kind of stuff.
Being on a plane for 15 hours turned me into a completely different person for almost two weeks. There is no telling what an even longer flight would do to me, no matter how many shrinks and nutritionists the airlines consult and no matter how many apps and gadgets they try and sell us to lend an assist.
Maybe my friend Lou will give it a try. It'll serve him right.
A note from the editor of JoeSentMe: I feel compelled--I mean, Lou does--to note that Mr. Raffio was warned to prepare for jet lag. In fact, on the morning after Mr. Raffio returned from Hong Kong and called to crow that he was "feeling fine" with no sign of jet lag, I--I mean, Lou--begged him to prepare for a hard crash. And I've--I mean, Lou has--already flown nonstop between Singapore and New York. Four times, in fact.
This column is Copyright © 2018 by Ralph Raffio. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Ralph Raffio. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.