Monday, April 04, 2005

A Lesson in Humility

April 4 – 4:05 AM. Yes it’s 4 in the morning. I am wide awake and coughing.

Jet lag has never been much of a problem for me, even though my usual travel destinations are South Asian and the time difference is a whopping ten or eleven hours. In fact, I have, in the past, constituted myself as an knowledgeable expert on coping with the problem. Sleep on the plane, with ear plugs, rather than watching a film. Eat and drink lightly. Stop over in London if time permits. Don’t take a long nap on the day you arrive and, in particular, take the magic anti-jet lag tablet, Melatonin. These nostrums enrage my wife for whom jet lag is a problem and who particularly dislikes smugness.

This trip, nothing has worked. I returned to Washington six days ago. Tonight has been the typical pattern. To bed near midnight, exhausted and wide awake at 2:30, with my mind racing and thinking about how miserable I will be the rest of the day. Flu – or flu like symptoms – is certainly part of the problem. As soon as I wake up I start coughing. And then there is my Blackberry alarm, programmed to play the opening bars of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusic, loudly, 4 times. It was set to 2:30 AM, my departure time for Colombo airport, and it has taken me this long to permanently turn the damn thing off. Each night I have stumbled about in the dark, groping for the offending device, which can be in various rooms and pockets. When I finally track it down, I press the “dismiss” button, in which case my reprieve lasts until 2:30 the next morning or, even worse, the “snooze” button which provides a 15 minute reprieve. “Don’t turn the light on,” I say to myself, “then you’ll never get back to sleep.”

Well, this will be a great time to answer some email and referee that paper for the International System Dynamics Conference that is two days overdue. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll get a decent night’s sleep.

And I promise that I will never be smug about jet lag again!


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