in travel

Jet Lag

I’m back in London, this week, and so this marks my fourth experience of the bone-crushing Los Angeles-to-Europe time-zone-change in the last six months. Complaining about such a set of experiences would be unseemly, of course; let me be clear that I am not complaining. Merely observing:

That the experience of such jet lag — a feeling of disorientation that manifests at a most basic physical level, as though some percentage of the molecules that go to make up me either got strewn along in the jet’s wake and are taking their own merry time catching up, or as though some percentage of said molecules, having spent ten hours traveling at 550-miles-per, are having a hard time stopping — is the one phenomenon that actually makes me buy the whole “biological clock” metaphor, as it’s evident that the result of the discontinuity between internal and external clocks at the moment is that my body has No Freaking Idea what “time” it “is” (and in fact finds the entire concept so confused that scare quotes are a necessity);

That such jet lag only manifests for me in west-to-east travel, as the eight-hour change from L.A. to London easily requires eight days to adjust to, but the opposite change takes only one good night’s sleep;

That no combination of home remedies (x number of glasses of water per hour during travel; Gatorade before, during, and after; the entirely laughable notion of shifting one’s sleep schedule to the new time zone in the days before traveling) has ever done me a damned bit of good in making the adjustment;

That today, on the centenary of the Wright Brothers’ momentous twelve-second gravity-escape, is a good moment to reflect on the changes in the world that their invention hath wrought, and the ways that the human sensorium is still struggling to catch up.

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  1. I found west-to-east much more difficult, too. In college, I flew to London out of Atlanta with a college study abroad group, and my first night there, I woke up with my clock reading 8:30, unable to determine if it was morning or evening.

  2. There is one way around jet lag, but I don’t remember being able to do it from Los Angeles: instead of taking a night flight, you begin in the morning (US) and arrive around 10:00 PM (UK). The difference is stunning–about a day to get accustomed to the new time zone, rather than a week. AFAIK, Chicago-O’Hare is one of the few airports to run these flights (begin ominous Jaws music, for reasons familiar to anyone who has flown out of O’Hare on a regular basis…).