“AIRLINE TRAFFIC RISES as business travelers return to the skies,” a news report said. It’s true. Despite all our pleadings on behalf of the environment, thousands of business people are once more being assigned to take long journeys for short meetings.
I’m writing this from a hotel, where I have just arrived on a business trip after a day’s flying.
Today, I am going to share some notes from my personal diary.
Morning: Fly from Asia to Europe.
Evening: Met by host, who takes me to a sausage stall for a snack.
My watch says midnight: I’m asleep on my feet.
But my host looks at HER watch. For her, it’s 7 pm. Time for my first gig. She throws me on stage where 300 people are waiting for me to be at my sparkling, witty best. I fail to be. No one seems to notice.
Later, I doze in the dressing room.
My watch says 2 am.
My host’s watch says 9 pm.
“Time for the next show,” she says. She flings me back onto the stage.
I don’t remember what happened next, but I probably said something, because an hour or so later, the audience applauded, waking me up.
By now I’m so tired that every time I blink, I actually fall into a deep sleep for 0.7 of a second. In this rather episodic dream I am naked in a sausage market. As I’m wheeled to the sausage-slicing machine, I wake up sweating.
After my third gig, my watch says 6.30 am. I look like Keith Richards warmed up. I search for somewhere to sleep. The ground is starting to look really welcoming.
My hostess says: “You can’t go to sleep NOW. You have to have an after-show drink with the organizer. It’s very important.”
So I go drink with the organizer. Did you know that a person can sit in a bar with his eyes open while having a lucid dream involving a flight attendant and a sausage-slicer? To my companions, I was perfectly normal, expect for the swaying, the mumbling and the regular bloodcurdling screams, which they were polite enough to ignore.
An hour later, I finally get back to the hotel and fling myself onto my bed. That’s when my alarm clock goes off. It’s morning in Asia. My body and brain revive.
So instead of sleeping, I look up “jet lag” on Google News. “Frequent Jet Lag kills Mice,” says the headline of a new study by Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare. It doesn’t say how the mice came to have jet lag, but I assume they were some sort of rodent business travelers.
Anyway, the next 24 hours were an almost exact repeat of the first.
The third day was different. I FINALLY switched to European time. “Hooray: my jet lag is over,” I tell my hostess.
She reminds me that my visit is also over.
She sends me to the airport. I fly back to Asia knowing what will meet me at the other end: yes, another bout of jetlag, but this time the other way round.
Tormented rodents have scientists to worry about how they are coping with jet lag.