1993 Pulitzer nominee Travel

Jet Lag Strikes the Occidental Tourist

Mirthology column, 1st run Thursday 15 October 1992 in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By Ben S. Pollock
Copyright 1992 Ben S. Pollock

Having experienced jet lag, a condition some hard-hearts believe to be psychosomatic, I now can verify that it causes misery, having made my first overseas trip. And to think I was once was a skeptic.

The malady arises from your body traveling at a faster speed than it’s accustomed to and your circadian rhythms lagging behind in arriving at wherever all of you are going.

Jet lag affects both arrival and departure and said to be is much worse on one end than the other. Which one seems to depend on whether the direction is west or east, or maybe clockwise or its reverse, from a solar point of view.

Advice on how to quickly counter the affliction regrettably is inconsistent.

Some suggestions are impractical in their delivery. For example, you can study the scientific approach in a full-scale book. But, as for other ailments, time-saving personal advice abounds.

Despite the drawback of quite possibly being wrong, companions’ tips seem tempting while you’re simultaneously revising your flight schedule (for the umpteenth time), packing six sets of clothes in a two-suiter grip, reading two “concise” 600-page travel guides, and trying to remember what safe place in your flat you had chosen to hide your passport.

Friendly Tip A: Schedule nothing for two days after you land, and rest.

Friendly Tip B: While high over the ocean, down a tranquilizer with some wine.

Both hints must be discounted. Vacations are short enough as it is without laying about the room, either by choice or by hangover.

Thus the first sound suggestion is to avoid any sedatives before or during the flight. Alcohol ultimately is a sedative. Reduce stimulants — yes, caffeine — beginning a couple of days before your trip.

The idea is to reset the body clock as efficiently and naturally as possible.

On arrival, set your travel alarm and take a little nap. Then take some air. Walking outside tells your internal clock in the most primeval way what time it really is and to snap out of that tempting lethargy.

The above paragraphs enabled this tourist to gawk, snap photos and beg passers-by for direction back to the hotel within hours of clearing Customs.

On your return to the States, you will find that your friends had wonderful senses of humor and kept one jolly fact to themselves, perhaps due to revenge from envy: Jet lag awaits at home, too.

Now, a quick nap is insufficient and perhaps impossible. You couldn’t have avoided the coffee and beer while on vacation because that is how you avoided the drinking the plain water. You didn’t get sick, did you? That’s another column. You remind the office about their Tip A and ask for another half-week off. Your colleagues instead propose a little Tip B with them after work — today.

So during the next fortnight, you sluggishly return to the routine.

Having been hit with jet lag a first time, I now realize it is like an allergy. It takes less each successive time to set off the symptoms.

Even my morning exercise — to get reacquainted with the American sun — almost forced me back to bed immediately afterward.

I instinctively have strolled around the neighborhood clockwise, having had that direction forced into me when skating in a rink during childhood. Going the other way had been disastrous on those young limbs.

Since my internal clock was trying to re-reset itself, I then realized counterclockwise would be the best route from now on.

The twist worked, but my next trip will have to be south of the Equator.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email