The Mathematics of Air Travel

It’s 3:30 in the morning when my alarm goes off, but it’s 5:30 where I’m going, a family wedding in New Jersey. Too bad I’m no good at sleeping on an airplane. I hope the pilot isn’t either.

I wasn’t hungry when I got up, but I am by the time we take off. A smart traveler would have brought along something to eat, but nobody is smart when they wake up at 3:30 in the morning. Thankfully my husband and I shared a small snack at the airport, and the airline provides a bag of peanuts on the plane. I ask for bacon with mine. They don’t have any.

We pass from Mountain Time to Central Time to Eastern Time and land at 2 p.m. at Newark Airport. Just like that, I’ve lost two hours of my life. Unfortunately, one of them was my lunch hour.

By the time we get our bags and rent a car, it’s around 3:30 p.m. (1:30 for me). I inhale a piece of convenience store pizza in the car on the way to my destination. It’s not the best slice of pizza I’ve ever eaten, but it might be the biggest, and at this point, that’s all that matters.

When I finally arrive, it’s nearly suppertime for the locals, but it’s only 4 for me. What’s a traveler to do? I eat again.

I can’t sleep until my body thinks it’s bedtime, and it pays no attention whatsoever to the clock. Instantly I go from being an early bird to being a night owl. I’m just lucky the wedding is taking place the following evening rather than in the morning. I’ve come too far to oversleep and miss the whole thing.

The wedding is fabulous. Seeing my family is wonderful. And, after the festivities, we spend a few days in New York City, though not long enough for me to acclimate. I’m in a city that doesn’t sleep, but I sleep late every day.

It helps that Sunday morning, two nights before I’m scheduled to head back home, Daylight Saving time ends. So instead of staying up until midnight, I can go to bed at 11 which would now be 9 back home but still feels like 10 to me. Whew. I’ve even confused myself now. 

My return flight leaves at 6 a.m. Make that 6:05. When my alarm goes off this early, I’ll take every minute I can get. We’re up by 2 a.m. to get to the airport. And 2 a.m. is midnight for me which is not long after I would have been going to bed back home.

Again, I skip breakfast because the only people who eat at 2 a.m. are those who haven’t gone to bed yet. And besides, my hotel has nothing available at this hour except a vending machine where even the chewing gum is out of my price range.

When we arrive at the airport, I see people strewn about, sleeping with their necks and backs in inhuman positions. If they’re going my direction, they’ll gain back an hour or two—even three—on their way to their destination. It won’t even be lunchtime when I get home. And it will be a really long time until bed.