(More on resolutions later.)
Flying has to be the single worst part of traveling. At its best, if you have all the money in the world, you still have the hours of getting to the airport (a nightmare all its own in New York) and getting checked in and through security before you find your comfy chair on board a steel cylinder that weighs more than the average apartment building that is allegedly going to lift itself off the ground and fly across the globe at an altitude of about five miles above ground level. If you’re a normal traveler (which still means you have a lot of money, given the way airlines pile on the fees these days: any flight costs about twice the published price by the time all is said and done), you get all the pre-boarding hassles and on top of that, you’re squeezed into a seat that has been carefully engineered to allow the most number of seats across the fuselage and not the most amount of comfort for the seatees. I hear that the next generation of planes, about a foot wider than this generation, has two more seats across. Don’t even think about legroom.
Our flight to Paris from JFK was delayed over an hour because of bad weather. This doesn’t bother me, to tell you the truth. My theory is that one should leave as late at night as possible to encourage sleeping on the plane (or, more accurately, tossing and turning and drifting off on the plane achieving the partial illusion of sleep), so getting delayed a little bit isn’t so bad. We also spent a further hour of delay on the tarmac, which helped solve the other problem of arriving at your destination too early to check in. We had that one knocked before we even took off.
One curious thing: we had two seats of the three in our little patch of turf, and the third was vacant. This meant that we could marginally stretch out a bit, so to speak. I couldn’t believe our luck, and I kept waiting for that straggler to arrive just as the cabin doors closed, but it didn’t happen. We started away from the gate, and we still had the extra seat! Amazing. But, and this is even more amazing, about two hours into the flight, the stew came along with some guy and escorted him into the seat, waking and moving both of us in the process. I have no idea where this guy came from, and how he managed to board the plane 34,000 feet over Greenland. It was the neatest trick of the entire vacation. Maybe he was a variation on the famous William Shatner Twilight Zone gremlin.
I should also point out that while we were waiting to board, we were a little unsure of which gate was which. Then a woman in a wheelchair who was wearing a beret went to what we thought was our gate, which was a great relief, proving that we were at the right gate, as everyone knows that everyone in Paris does, indeed, wear a beret. At the DJ, back when we used to illustrate our stories, a French person without a beret was simply inconceivable. So it is, apparently in real life.
Of course, that was the last beret we saw for the next two weeks.
Anyhow, here’s the rule again: take the latest flight possible, get on board and spend all the time there trying to sleep. Don’t eat the food. Don’t watch a movie (they handed our loaded iPads on this flight, which was a new one on me). Don’t read Proust or listen to podcasts. No music. Sleep, period, with the eye mask they hand out (although I always bring my own, just in case) and noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones. If you’re lucky, you’ll get three or four hours off and on, which is way way better than zero hours. I’ve tabbed some serious tournaments on way less sleep than that. (Maybe I shouldn't admit that.) And you’ll be as capable as possible when you finally arrive at your destination. To continue your war against jet lag, don’t nap. Get a good walk in the sun. Have a nice dinner. If you’re of age, drink a lot of wine with it, then go to sleep that night at a reasonably late hour on the local clock. The next morning you will then be ready for anything they can throw at you. Even if they’re French.