Jet lag


This will be brief because my brain is not completely rewired after a trip across six time zones. The day after we returned from our trip to London, I heard an interview with an “expert” on jet lag. Her recommendations were a mix of sensible suggestions about controlling caffeine intake and insanely complex protocols for moving your biological clock in fifteen-minute increments, beginning weeks before the trip. It reminded me of an article about picnic eating which has become a family joke. It began “Three days before the picnic…”. That was enough to lose me right out of the starting gate. Even the expert admitted that all these strategies might still not prevent jet lag because evolution has not prepared our bodies for the assault of traversing multiple time zones. So, I’m just toughing it out, and at the start of Day 3, I’m close to returning to my normally abnormal sleep patterns.

I have no intention of providing a blow-by-blow account of our week in London in the company of daughter Elana, son-in-law Ben and granddaughter Dalia. Those of you who are FB friends with Elana may have seen her album of about three dozen photos from the trip, which, by my calculation, contain pictures worth more than 36,000 words. I will just say that, although it wasn’t our intention when we planned the trip, Elana and Dalia’s attendance at the Taylor Swift concert on the final night of the stay provided an unmatchable grand finale to the trip. About the crowd of 88,000 at Wembley Stadium, Dalia said “These are my people,” to which she wisely added “It’s kind of like a cult, isn’t it?”

What I really wanted to comment on is the phenomenon of the elevator speech that one must be prepared to deliver on returning from a trip like this. With repetition, it becomes honed to a fine point – which experiences are highlighted and which get edited out and eventually fade from memory and which general observations about the people and places you encountered you’re entitled to express opinions about.

Somewhere in an earlier blog, I described my reactions during a year in Israel in my student days to seeing buses full of tourists traversing the Jerusalem streets who after two weeks in the country would go home to pontificate on conditions in the state and prospects for its future. This incensed me because after a year’s immersion I was just beginning to reckon with how little I knew about and understood this complicated country.

So, in spite of that I’m going to be the accidental tourist and say a few things that people more knowledgeable can read and laugh. For example, people in London were more polite and less stressed than folks in my native New York. The general atmosphere was more civil than the big cities we’ve lived in – New York, Chicago, Houston. There were many signs in the Underground exhorting people to “be kind” and most appeared to have received the message.

Second, the incredibly diverse population of immigrants seems to be a welcome addition to creating a vibrant culture. This latter is based on the ridiculously flimsy evidence of multiple encounters with Uber and taxi drivers. Whether you’re in New York, Chicago or London, this group is made up almost entirely of immigrants, but the London group was even more diverse than in other cities. We never encountered two drivers from the same country, and all seemed to be making a go of it, despite the pricey setting they had landed in. It’s embarrassing to draw any conclusions from these passing engagements, but I strongly suspect that many journalists have committed similar sins of superficiality.

Finally – and this one is based on more reliable and objective information – no public transportation system in the US can hold a candle to London’s Underground. It covers more territory, operates with greater efficiency and reliability – we never had to wait to more than three minutes for a train – and is uniformly clean and inviting. It put us to shame.

Enough pseudo-wisdom from this shallow observer. It was a great trip, reported through these still jet-lagged eyes. I’ll be back next Monday with what I hope will be a clearer head. 

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Marv Hoffman

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