Saturday, August 05, 2006

Struggles with Jet Lag

I’m not very experienced with jet lag. I expected the flight from New York to London, across five time zones, to make me feel awake or tired at the “wrong” times. I have learned, however, that jet lag can manifest itself in a variety of other ways.

I arrived at the Britannia International Hotel on Sunday 7/23 at about 3 pm London time. In this picture you can see the Docklands Light Rail train (referred to as the DLR) which stops very near to the hotel.

(I took all these pictures, by the way.)

Since I had slept about five hours on the plane, I felt pretty good. I met my London friend Maurene near the Tower of London. Walking around its perimeter, I remembered what fun I had with my family when we visited London together in 2000.

Maurene and I walked along the Thames River. We were fortunate enough to see the Tower Bridge, a drawbridge, being raised. Very cool!

We had a beer on the porch of the Dickens Inn and then went up to the dining room for dinner.

It was after dinner (by now it was about 10 pm) when JET LAG STRUCK. For a split second I felt jolted – everything stopped abruptly just for an instant. Not wanting to sound like a drama queen, I said I was feeling a little tired. We finished up and I headed back to the hotel, a mere six stops on the DLR. At the fifth stop I was awake and alert. Also at the eighth stop. The stops in between don’t exist in my memory. Unlike when I doze on trains and buses in NYC, I wasn’t conscious of falling asleep or having been asleep. I literally blacked out.

Missing my stop was not a problem. I just went to the other side of the platform and backtracked on the DLR, being careful not to sit down or relax too much. That strategy got me back safe and sound.

On Monday, my first day in the London office, I kept noticing a set of clocks that show the time in five cities around the world -- NYC, London, Sydney, Singapore, and I forget the fifth. It disturbed me to see that it was 4:30 AM in New York when I went for my morning tea. As I went to the 11 AM meeting, I noticed it was 6 AM in New York. Looking at these clocks was becoming painful, and I vowed to keep away from them til afternoon.

About 12 people attended the 11 AM meeting. My role was to observe and learn more than to participate. Thank goodness, because about 30 minutes into the meeting I began experiencing some very strange things. First of all, my vision blurred. Thinking I might fall asleep, I drank my tea and moved about in my seat. No, I was awake enough. Just had blurred vision. I chalked it up to jet lag. As the meeting progressed, I found myself seeing all the participants as having only heads, no bodies. The heads were talking in rhythm. Suddenly I was aware that if I spoke, my flat American speech patterns would disturb the flow of the British English surrounding me. I imagined vowels and whole words colliding as the stress was placed on differently on syllables within the same word. I avoided speaking for a bit. This was trippy. Who knew what I might say! Then, as quickly as it descended upon me, it passed. My vision cleared and the talking heads became whole people again. I concluded this was one of the stranger manifestations of jet lag.

Around 3 pm I started feeling absolutely GREAT. I became an extrovert and enthusiastically participated in all conversations, asked good questions, and zipped through my email to the NY office. I realized it was 10 AM now in NYC – the time my brain starts to work on a normal workday. Hmmm. Jet lag again.

I did not go out on Monday night, choosing instead to get a bit more sleep so that my jet lag symptoms would subside. And it worked. Tuesday really was better. I had a recurrence of the blurry vision after lunch, but it didn’t last long and didn’t include the weirdness of the Monday meeting. The sleep helped, yes, but equally important was the fact that I avoided those clocks until mid-afternoon.

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
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