Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wrinkles in Time and Space

DEB: Jetlag

Such a simple word, and one we toss off so casually. According to my very respected source ( the term was coined between 1965 and 1970, and means "a temporary disruption of the body's normal biological rhythms after high-speed air travel through several time zones."


"Temporary disruption" my . . . Well, you know what I mean. I'm just back in Texas after fifteen days in London, and finding it as difficult as ever to slip back into the current of normal (glamorous, as Julia has revealed) life. It's not just trying to eat and sleep on the right schedule, it's trying to remember where the spoons live in this suddenly strange kitchen, being shocked not to find the BBC on the telly, wondering what it is that we usually eat on Friday nights . . . (And what IS that disgusting stuff in fridge?)

How could I possibly have been driving through Hyde Park in a taxi, gazing at the London fruit trees bursting into bloom, only a few hours ago?

What we are really talking about when we say "jetlag" is severe temporal, geographical, physical, and emotional displacement.

How do you think Meg Murray felt in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time when she tessered for the first (or second or third) time and wondered how she could be suddenly in one place when she had just been in another? (Queasy, if I remember correctly) L'Engle's novel was published in 1962--interesting when you consider that commercial jet travel had only become a viable reality four years earlier, in October, 1958, when, amid much fanfare, Pan American inaugurated its New York-London route, ushering in a new era in the history of passenger aviation. (This flight stopped over in Iceland. It wasn't until the next year that true intercontinental New York-London routes were opened.) Was L'Engle prescient in the matter of jetlag?

Now, here we are fifty-ish years later. We may not tesser yet, but we fly faster and farther, and I don't think anyone has come up with a better way of adjusting our bodies or our psyches.

I think I could call myself a seasoned international traveler, having, in the last thirty-some-odd years, made more trips between the US and the UK than I can count. (By seasoned, I mean that no matter how much advance warning I have, I end up in a blind panic, packing and repacking my suitcase in the wee hours of the morning before a trip. I invariably take all the wrong things. I forget something essential. I leave my house looking as if it's suffered the passage of a minor hurricane. And then I do the same thing in reverse, except I have to tidy the London flat before I leave, AND find room in my suitcase for the books I didn't mean to buy.)

Every trip I swear the next one will be easier, that I will be a new, organized person, but it never is, and I never am. So I fantasize about the QE2, of having a slow, luxurious in-between time where I can plan and think and accustom myself to the reality of arriving in a different place. And then of course there's the even more seductive fantasy of coming home to a clean house, a perfect desk, meals ready and waiting, and a valet to unpack and put away my clothes . . . (Jeeves, where are you?)

What about you, girls? Are you sophisticated, organized travelers? Have you discovered the secret to the glamorous jet-setting life? And if so, will you SHARE?

HALLIE: Whenever I get ready to travel I think of Rosemary and her box of Cheerios. I always always always pack a bag of trail mix. I'm more worried about going hungry than I am about not having the right clothes.

These days I travel with less and less. Just bought myself a really little (half-size) rolling suitcase and I'm determined to use it through my book tour - starting in under a month! Here comes COME AND FIND ME. Wish I were going to London to flog it and having to return jet lagged.

HANK: Welcome home, Deb! And much applause. I was once the QUEEN of overpackers--you never know when you'll be invited to tea at the castle, or horseback riding, or a red carpet event, right? But once on a trip to the Caribbean, my bulging suitcase was lost by the airlines. I arrived in Nevis with NOTHING. I went to a shop, bought a long black skirt, a tank top, a bathing suit and some flip flops. I wore my husband's shorts and t-shirt. I was FINE. When my stuff finally arrived, it was embarrassing.

Now I, so virtuously, just bring what I can carry on. (My secret? Really? Packing with tissue paper. It takes up NO space, and nothing ever wrinkles. It's astonishing.

ROBERTA: Congrats on your first blog appearance Deb--and welcome home! I have one of those little half suitcases too, Hallie. I feel so virtuous when that's all I bring:). But traveling is stressful--I'm anxious the entire week before a trip. Feeling like I have to have EVERYTHING in order--straightening piles that I haven't looked at in months, arranging for pets and plants and mail...I can begin to see why people decide to just stay home.

And ps, my neighbor, who's very well traveled, insists that the secret to avoiding jet lag is refusing to lie down the first day you arrive. Immediately switch over to the new time zone and avoid all temptation to nap. Easier said than done!

RHYS: Welcome dear Deb. I have become the queen of light packers. We went around the Australian outback for 3 weeks with a 20 inch rollaboard. I find I do well with a couple of pairs of khaki pants, coordinating T shirts, sweater, pashmina for unexpected cold an one broomstick skirt that can be rolled into an old pantyhose. I take a silk scarf in case I have to dress up. However, I always manage to arrive after a long flight looking as if I've just been released from a horrible jail--pale, hollow eyed, unkempt, while those around me look jolly and fresh. And I've never learned the trick with jetlag. I always go straight onto local time, take a sleeping pill the first night, AND still feel like death warmed over. I always feel like a zombie for two days in London (you should hear the BBC interview I gave once the afternoon I arrived!)

I'm waiting for one of those thingies they had in Star Trek, but then they'd probably send half my molecules to India by mistake!

JAN: What your talking about Deb is a Re-entry problem, not jet lag. I have it every time I travel. You've been gone from home (or one of your homes) and while you've been gone, life and responsibilities have continued. And now, where ever you have been has slowed you down or altered the rhythm of your life -- this the worst when you've gone on a sailing vacation or to a an island - and now you have to come back to the INSANE PACE we live at. You just have to declare the first week back a catch up week, and lower your expectations.

As far as packing goes -- every time I pack light I regret it. I still am shallow enough to care more about what I have to wear, than what I have to eat. My husband laughs at me every time. I've decided I'm incorrigible.

ROSEMARY: On adventure trips everything is about comfort for me - and not being cold. On business trips I have no problem wearing the same black pants and just changing tops and jackets. It's those pesky "fun" trips where I seem to think I'm going to wear all the jewelry that I never wear at home...and different scarves..and belts and shoes. And dresses...why do I have so many dresses? I'm going to Paris this weekend and I'm probably not bringing a dress. If you're not going to channel your inner Audrey there, where are you going to do it?

Will go carry on, with black pants, black jacket and a scarf. I ignore wrinkles, and re jet lag there's nothing a Red Bull or 5 hour Energy shot in the right direction can't fix
BTW Hallie, I've upgraded to Heart to Heart - the caviar of cereals!


  1. I think Jan's exactly right about the re-entry. It's not that I don't want to be home, but going the other way (London, etc.) life becomes LIFE SIMPLIFIED. I set my own schedule for the most part. I give myself time to recover from the flight, and I only have to deal with a certain number of things. And even my clothes choices are limited! So much less stressful.

    As for the overpacking, I think it's a security blanket. I've even been known (blush) to carry a stuffed animal.

    What about you, readers? Organized, or go-for-broke? And does anyone have the perfect jetlag remedy?

  2. OH, jet lag remedies! Love to hear them!

    My method is to ignore it. But somehow, it always catches up.

    And I can never decide whether to change my watch. When I go to California, I leave it on EST--and then I spend my time subtracting. I mean--adding. Oh, you see the problem.

    (Welcome Deb--what a treat to see your first-of-many blogs!)

  3. Do you find one direction worse than the other? Or is it just worse coming home no matter which direction you're coming from?

  4. It's always worse coming home--if you live in the east and you're coming from the west and lose the time.


    Otherwise, you arrive in CA and to you, it's 9pm but there it's 6pm. Oh, wait, yeah, then you're tired. But the next day is terrific.

    Leaving, you leave at 9 pm, but it's instantly midnight. SO you're not tired, but you will be the next day if you don't go to sleep on the plane.

    Ah. I'm confusing myself. I have jet lag, and I didn't even go anywhere..

  5. I need to remember to plan ahead! Last year when I left for the Abacos in early May, I completely forgot that I had to be one of the guest authors at Mayhem in the Midlands and the wardrobe I have for the sailboat is not exactly what one wears to interview a GOH. First stop when I hit Omaha? Chicos!! Lately, my goal is to get everything I need for a week in a carryon. Damn if I'm gonna pay to check a bag! Basic wardrobe for Sleuthfest (already packed in said carry on) is black pants, black sleeveless top, black top with sleeves, and four colorful lightweight jackets from Chicos and my favorite Annapolis designer, Ahni. Also one from Frozen Light, the jewelry gal who has a booth at Malice each year. Black is the travelling author's best friend!

  6. "Ah. I'm confusing myself. I have jet lag, and I didn't even go anywhere.." This is too funny, Hank.

    Actually, I don't remember having jetlag when I went to CA. Most of my traveling is north to south and vice versa. My sister takes the redeye back from AZ and swears it's the answer. I do tend to be adaptable.

    I used to take half the house when I traveled. Now, I can go for a whole weekend with a small tote bag, my CPAP machine, my purse, and AlphaSmart. I don't even take the laptop because I want to write and not be distracted by the evil Internet. This drives my sisters crazy. You see we're all plus-size women and they don't understand how I do it. Having to balance a cane and bags and having a bad shoulder, you learn to adapt. I admit I need to take a small rolling suit case in winter. But I can fit Alphie in there also.

    Fun topic.

  7. Oh Marcia,

    I remember Hubby commenting that my packing included only two colors--black and white.

    These days it's denim and tee shirts if we're on vacation.

  8. Hi Marcia!
    We had dinner together once a really long time ago - I think after a Bouchercon.

    I know that's true about black clothes and travel, but I look horrible in black. Maybe THAT's why I have resort to overpacking.

    As far as cures for jet lag go. When I came back from a month in Provence, I couldn't sleep for almost a week. Finally I broke down and let a friend give me an ambien. I took half. I'm not a big fan of sleeping pills, but It SOLVED Everything.

  9. I also suffer from SAD--Season Adjustment Difficulty. I have a terrible time packing for warm weather if I'm somewhere cold, and vice versa. Over the weekend it was warm and humid in north Texas, so it was easy to imagine packing for Sleuthfest in Florida next weekend. But last night it turned cold and I'm back into woolies, and can't quite wrap my head around tees and flip flops.

    Marcia, who is the most organized packer and traveler I know, should give me lessons. She owes me for the shopping enabling I gave her in Omaha . . .

  10. If I have a shot of Bailey's on the plane, I don't get jetlag. Either direction. Really!

    Wine doesn't do it -- in fact, wine WAKES ME UP (worse than caffeine).

    I drink the Bailey's, read a bit or watch at a movie, doze for an hour and then, wherever I am, I can go to bed at the normal time. This is true for intercontinental trips, as well. In fact, I discovered it on a trip to Scotland, where I had a Bailey's on the plane, slept a bit, got out at Gatwick, on the train to Victoria, Circle Line to King's Cross, King's Cross to Edinburgh. I had a lemon shandy on the Edinburgh train and slept another 90 minutes of the 4-hour trip, and went to bed right spot on at 10:30 Edinburgh time and felt like that's the way it was supposed to be.

    Seems to work in the U.S., if last year's book tour was any indication -- particularly since we were back-and-forth from the East Coast to the West Coast several times.

    As for packing, I have a rule that anything I take has to be wearable with four other things and most of it versatile for day or evening. I wear a lot of black, khaki, gold, and green!

    Where I struggle is shoes and coats. I have my favorite walking shoes, and those I wear most every day, but it's the heels for evening and the boots for warm and the coats etc. etc. that take up space. Always worse in winter. And worse still if I'm supposed to go somewhere high dress and the rest of the time can muck about, because in winter that means two coats, usually. My muckabout coats don't upgrade well. :D

  11. Great tip about the Bailey's Susannah! Too bad they don't serve anything on the puddle jumpers I take from here to Florida or I'd try it out on Thursday as I head for Sleuthfest even though FL is in the same time zone as the Bahamas.

    Jan, the secret of black (if you think it's not 'you') is to put lots of color up near your face -- jackets, scarves, jewelry. You'll look great -- but then, you always do!

  12. Going someplace warm from someplace cold--I don't take a coat. I take just a big cashmere shawl, grit my teeth in the cold place, then don't have to deal with lugging the coat where it's warm.

    And it's also my blanket on the plane!

  13. Dynamite debut, Deb. Blogging fits you. Great tips all, but the big Q is how does one get to be jet setter in the first place? I keep buying Powerball tickets and saving my miles on my credit card but my big trip of the past year was a car ride to scenic and remote Ely, Nevada.

  14. I would have commented earlier but I was jet-lagged. In my case, it was coming down after school vacation week and a trip to Northampton, MA that involved way too much driving through the fabled "winter mix": snow, sleet, ice, icy rain, rainy ice, rivers of slush, etc.

    I'm with the travel-light crowd and have been since long before the change in security made it the only way to fly. My mother, who is quite the globetrotter, prides herself on being able to go for a week in Europe with only a rollerboard and her purse.

    And having seen Marcia at many conferences, I suggest she gives us all a seminar on how to travel--she always looks fresh, professional and stylishly unique.

  15. Susannah -
    You are SO RIGHT about the shoes and coats and especially the boots.

    How can you pack light when you want to wear at least two different boots....? Muckabouts and dress up? And if you want sneakers to work out in?

    Solution, only go to warm places or travel in the summer. Or do as I do: pack like you're planning to build muscle.

  16. I second Julia's comment about Marcia--she's the most put-together woman I know. And she manages to look elegant even in a t-shirt and sailing khakis.

    I, on the other hand, am another matter. Maybe we should dub this weekend's trip to Florida "The Packing Challenge." I suspect, however, that I will not win . . .