There is a grogginess to night-flying that cannot be truly remembered until it is experienced again. My mother told me that labor and delivery is the same way; you don’t remember how bad the pain is until you’re in the middle of it, and then it’s too late to say “Oh, shit—I didn’t mean to go through this again.”
As noted, our 9PM flight was delayed to midnight-ish. We all had hotel rooms in Miami, where we could go to remain isolated and en-bubbled—but events conspired. There was never time for more than an hour-long nap. In fact, I was lying down attempting to sleep between the 3pm “affidavit party” and the 6pm dinner when I flashed on the provided (and totally screwed up) schedule; wasn’t there a “presentation” at 4?? Shit! I was missing it! Like Bill Murray and the boys in “Stripes.” I got myself up from a nap that was entirely too short and hustled down the long hotel hallway, down the elevator, down the even longer hallway to the ballroom, and to the kind Lindbladians at the registration table. I got there at 4:20, just SURE I was missing Tua telling all his “I canoed the oceans by bird migration patterns” discussions.
“Is there a presentation?!”
“Oh. No. But—beer and wine at 5,” they said hopefully.
I don’t drink beer or wine—both of which are the antidotes to social anxiety. But I need to be social with these people. But I need sleep. But I can’t face the long trudge back to my hotel room with just 40 minutes left before being social. “I’m just going to sit in that chair over there and wait.”
I sat in the chair, which was designed (why? Why would a chair designer in a ballroom/conference room setting DO this?) to tip me back into a semi-recumbent posture. I sat there, feeling sleepiness wash over me, and listened to the sound of what appeared to be THOUSANDS of people actually in the ballroom. Why hadn’t I bravely gone in there and met people? They were all chatting and laughing and having a ball, and I was sitting outside like a fool on my phone yawning and trying to stay awake.
Social anxiety, a long day of travel, and sleepiness. I just sat there thinking FUUUUUUCK. Then I gave up, hauled it back up to the room, set my alarm for the 6pm dinner (fuck beer and wine), and tried to sleep.
Not very successfully. I had that horrible panic; THIS time I’ll sleep through my alarm. So again, I got perhaps a 40-minute nap.
Dinner was pretty much as socially awkward as I’d expected. I boldly plopped myself down at a table of people, who greeted me kindly. Everyone is very nice—and most are on multiple Lindblad trips and were greeting people they’d traveled with before—but I’ve looked around and—in my fatigue—experienced a certain gloomy despair. There are a few hardy “I hiked the Pacific Coast Trail” types who carry enormous and extremely capable backpacks that are very obviously packed more efficiently than anyone else’s luggage…and the rest of the passengers are 70 and older. Almost universally white. She’s very nice, he’s a little hard of hearing, did you see that Bears game last week? I mean, wow!
There IS a woman who looks so much like my sister Twig that I’m hopeful. That’s silly.
Where was I?
Right. After dinner, I took another 40 minute nap. This time I really WAS freaked about sleeping through my alarm. That wouldn’t have been missing dinner; that would have been missing the comfort of following like a duckling behind someone official as we were herded onto busses, through baggage check, along the gauntlet of security, and ultimately onto the plane. Wait! Wait! Take me with you!
So given that I didn’t sleep very well for several nights before I left home, I’m pretty much going on a series of cat naps—which is enough to stop one from becoming psychotic, but hardly buoying to the spirit.
The hike from “check your bags here” to “sit here and wait for your plane” was astonishingly long. There are more than a few people in our group who have limited mobility; I’m sure they were scooped up by someone in a cart; otherwise they never would have made it down the ungodly long hall (can’t see the far end because of the curvature of the earth) and then hang a right into security, and then ANOTHER epic hallway to get to the farthest-but-one gate in the South Terminal at Miami Airport; we were ALMOST in Georgia when we finally found our gate.
We boarded a little late—12:20 instead of midnight, but at that point, who’s going to bitch? Then, incomprehensibly, we waited at the gate for another hour while a lot of fruitless fussing happened. I mean, I’m sure it was fruitFUL fussing, but it seemed to have no value from where I was sitting.
We finally took off at 1:20 in the morning—at which point the flight attendants said they’d be serving dinner.
This was confusing. Of course the plane had been booked for 9pm; an evening meal wouldn’t have been so odd then. But we were many hours past that time. And yet I and everyone in my eyesight obediently waited to be served. Ate an entire meal at 2 in the morning. And THEN slipped into the groggy, endless tedium of attempting to sleep on the plane.
I finally fell asleep. Deeply asleep, in that wonderful state that my friend Chuck calls “time compression.” When you wake up—ta da! You’re there!
And when I woke up—ta da! Twenty minutes had gone by!
So sometimes I slept. Sometimes I lay awake, stupid in my fatigue, surrendering to mental echoes of things like “deep vein thrombosis.” You’re supposed to get up and walk around every two hours on a long flight. Stops old farts like me from getting blood clots and dying later on the toilet. But I was so damned TIRED. My body was in stasis; trapped between awake and asleep. I’m in the first row; the potty is on the other side of a wall, so at least I could put my feet up on the bulkhead and hopefully drain all those little leg veins into bigger ones in my sit-downery… So far, no deep vein thrombosis for me, although perhaps I left sneaker marks on their plane…?
I gave up trying to actually sleep at around 5-ish and watched out the window as the sun slowly came up, illuminating is-that-clouds-or-Andes? I dozed and woke up just in time to grab my phone (my first rapid movement in what seemed like several decades) and catch a photo of high, snow-capped Andean mountains.
I mean, I ASSUME those are part of the Cordillera; I suppose there ARE other mountains in South America… Don’t tell me. I hereby declare that the photo is of the Andes, and hugely-winged condors were probably ringing those peaks in precision flight maneuvers.
Groggy. Stupid. Tired. What’s the antidote? I’m sick of reading on my phone. I have crossword puzzles but blech. I tried playing iPhone Monopoly, but it didn’t hold my attention. I got up and shook out my blood clots and then made use of the world’s smallest bathroom. Now what? What would make me feel better and more awake?
Laptop to the rescue! And now it’s almost 8:30 in the morning, which at least is not an overtly offensive time to be awake, and I feel better. I think I can summon the energy that is going to be required to run the gauntlet of getting into Chile and onto the boat. Where, despite what anyone offers me in terms of thrilling presentations and epic views from the Observation Lounge, I may well just climb into my single bed, pull up the covers, and shut out the world for some actual, restorative, beta sleep. Oh, the thrill of leaving port—of embarking at last on a grand zzzzzzzzzzzz……