So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I recently boarded a nonstop JetBlue flight for New York. It seemed everything was in my favor: With the flight barely half full, I had three seats to myself, and--small miracle--we were not only leaving on time, but were expected to arrive a half-hour ahead of schedule.
And I was prepared. I had purchased one of those nerdy neck pillows and packed a small travel blanket in my carry-on, along with an assortment of elixirs (in the requisite plastic bag) designed to do everything from disinfect one's surroundings to soothe dry skin. I also had a bottle of water so I could hydrate myself in preparation for the long flight ahead.
Just before takeoff, I sprayed the tray table and armrest with the anti-microbial my daughter had assured me would get rid of any airplane nasties waiting to take up residence in my lungs. The passenger across the aisle looked like he was contemplating reporting me to the authorities as a terrorist threat. I just smiled sweetly and let him wonder.
As the plane began its taxi to the nearly deserted tarmac (it was midnight, after all), I took a swig of water and plugged my earphones into my CD player. Not taking any chances on a sleepless flight, I had come prepared with a disc guaranteed to lull me to sleep with melodies such as "Twilight," "Serenity" and "Dreamland."
Either the flight attendant thought I was plugged into the plane's in-flight television system (JetBlue has small screens on the back of every seat) in the armrest, or her years of experience enabled her to sniff out a terrified flyer, so she didn't hassle me about the CD player. (Did I mention flying is only a notch or two below contracting dengue fever on my list of things I'd choose to avoid?)
We were off, and just as I settled in, I was startled by a voice over the intercom welcoming us to JetBlue flight number whatever, assuring us of a smooth flight and providing an estimated time of arrival. With that out of the way, I figured I was good for the duration. But I barely had enough time to snuggle up with my blanket before a flight attendant announced that beverage service was beginning when we reached the cruising altitude.
At that point, there seemed little reason to try to grab a few zzzs since the cart rumbling down the aisle was likely to waken me anyway, so I tuned into the Google map on the screen and watched as the plane headed to New Mexico and points east.
I thought sleep would come easily. But every position I tried only brought its own version of discomfort. First, I tried the classic, upright pose, seat reclined, pillow cradling my neck. No go. Each time I opened my eyes, I discovered the plane icon on the screen had moved further east, and I still hadn't gotten any winks.
Next, I rolled up the blanket, placed it on the tray table and attempted the slumped-over-with-head-resting-on-arms position. Before too long, the pain in my neck reminded me people weren't designed to sleep in positions more suitable to the guillotine than snoozing.
Since I had three seats to myself, I scrunched up into a fetal position and pretended I was in a real bed. Trouble is, real beds don't come equipped with the thrum of jet engines. While some people find the sound soporific, I can't stop myself from listening intently for any ominous misfirings resulting in, at best, an emergency landing, and at worst, well, we won't go there.
In a final attempt at sleep, I leaned against the window with my legs angled toward the aisle. It's surprising how cold a plane window can be when the sun isn't beating down on it.
As if my lack of sleep weren't bad enough, by this point, we were over Kansas. I've noticed on all red-eyes that no matter how smooth a flight, as soon as we're over Kansas, the plane takes on the characteristics of a bowl of Jello on a roller coaster. Mercifully, the disturbance didn't last long, and I got back to not sleeping.
By the time I spied the first glimmer of dawn, I knew that once again, I'd be spending at least part of the day the way I always do when I arrive after a red-eye: sound asleep.