Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Joy of Jetlag

The holidays are over, and that means there are no easy excuses to avoid business travel. So here I am in London at 3:30am wide awake after optimistically falling asleep a bit after midnight. Over the years I've learned to function with it, much like learning to function after spending 2-4am trying to coax a newborn back to sleep. But it seems that it cannot be skipped -- it really is physiological. Even if I sleep through the second night (cause I'm usually exhausted) I'll wake up on the third night. And this is just the routine for a five-hour time change. My few trips to Asia (all years ago when I presumably had more spunk) were very unpleasant for the first week.

It's not thrilling, obviously. So I when I read the "making lemonade out of lemons" NY Times blog post on jet lag, I scoffed and groused that the author clearly doesn't have a corporate job --- it can't be romanticized, and if you're only gone for a few days or a week, you can't simply patiently adapt.

Nonetheless, as good essays do, it resonated eventually. So I was reminiscing about the fine jet lag experiences I've had. Let's see....
  • Watching Dr. Ruth, eine prominente deutsch-amerikanische Sexualtherapeutin, in Budapest on German TV. At least now I know she's still alive. Her German isn't so different than her English in case you were wondering.
  • Being waaaay outclassed at the Savoy Hotel. This was in the days before there were any hotels near the office here in London, so one had to get up even earlier to get into the office. Jet lag isn't to solely to blame obviously, but being cranky in a swanky place where Sean Connery and Elizabeth Taylor filmed movies actually seemed to make matters worse.
  • Catching up on old movies that I've never really seen. Last year I watched Porky's and The Sting at the same time, flipping back and forth. It's fair to say that The Sting needed more careful attention, but I think I followed. Or maybe I was loopy.
  • Watching The Red Violin without subtitles. If you remember, there were scenes in Chinese, French and German as well as English. The Chinese and French were fun at least. The only German I know is my last name. And now Sexualtherapeutin.
  • Watching dialog-free candid camera in Budapest and getting a strong feeling of deja vu. There were signs in Cyrillic, so I had an obvious clue to work with. I came home convinced it was shot in Odessa, having recognized the art market in backgrounds. My family was doubtful, so I spent some time googling to find one I saw, and the proof -- this is clearly the top of the Potemkin steps. If you've followed the links, you'll find the humor has the subtlety that sixth grades boys devour. I remember mostly watching for background scenes after seeing the first few bloopers; even jet lag doesn't mush my mind that much.
  • After sleuthing out Odessa, on the trip home they showed Romancing the Stone (of all things!). If you remember the opening and closing scenes were filmed in NY. At the end, when sailboat is being driven down the avenue I must've still been in background mode. The intersection is 80th street and West End Avenue. It's no surprise I recognize all four corner buildings, as I walk by there every time the dog and I go to the park. Sure felt like some strange kink in spacetime.
Yawn. Going on 5am now. Time to get some sleep before looking for that double espresso in a just a few more hours. Or I could see what's on TV.....