Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Agony Of International Travel

Jetlag is more than a bit inconvenient; it’s painful.

We arrived back in the states Monday night after a grueling thirty-six hour journey. Most of the trip was sitting in airports (Delhi, Milan, Toronto, Atlanta) waiting for the next flight. After sitting on a plane for eight hours or more, it’s wonderful to stretch your legs and walk around the airport terminal. However, one can only look in the gifts-shops so long and you begin to wonder what you are going to do with the next two hours of the layover. Airport seating is rarely comfortable and all the time the body just wants to lie down. I passed my time looking at people, thanking God that I’m not the mother who has to corral three unruly kids, or grateful that I’m not (yet) the old man who is in the wheelchair and needs assistance to get on the plane.

In air travel there is a hierarchy of people I would prefer not sitting around me. The first is crying babies. I feel sorry for the tiny ones because their little eardrums hurt because of the cabin pressure or they are stuck in a portable crib. It’s not their fault the only way they can express their unhappiness is through crying…non-stop. Though I do feel for them, I don’t want to share their pain by listening to their misery throughout the flight.

The second group I don’t want in my seating area are teen-agers. They are actually louder than babies and much more unruly, ranging from irritating to rude. I realize I sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but it’s just embarrassing to see the ranging hormones of adolescents as they try to impress the person of the opposite sex through giggles, punches and horse-like sounds that is meant to be human laughter. With babies all you can do is plug your ears; with teen-agers I want to say, “Hey, shut-up…I’m trying to sleep!”

Ah, the joy of the first night to actually lie down on a bed. The mattress is what I might imagine floating on a cloud would be like. My body sinks into the mattress, not merely resting on top. My legs whisper a “thank you” that it can stretch without the weight of the rest of my body. My tush is so grateful that I can rest on my side or stomach through the night. I wake up in my new surroundings refreshed, ready to seize the day, my first day back in my home country.

By three o’clock in the afternoon my body begins to run out of steam and by four I’m stopped by the side of the road completely out of gas. I try to stay awake, but can’t and fall into stage number five REM, just slightly above comatose. Now it’s Wednesday, 2 a.m. and I’m wide awake. I will continue this pattern for another three days. Though painful I realize it’s the price I must pay in world travel. I figure the reason God created Wal-Mart was so I would have some place to walk around when my body is in the U.S., but my time clock is eleven and half hours on the other side of the world.