Tomorrow, I’ll be on a flight from New York to that repugnant river of socialist surrender salmons known as France. Be clear: this is no vacation. The last thing I want right now is to be away from the New York office. Things are happening here. The energy is palpable. Developments are happening at warp speed. Undeserving high schoolers are receiving promotions and titles like they're coupons for soup. Missing three days of this circus means I'll come back completely out of the loop and relegated to the base of the totem pole.
Alas, a dear friend is getting married. I'm a groomsman and I'm speaking. With great honor comes… no way to lie about a family emergency and back out (aka I actually love this couple and am excited to celebrate them). So I'll pack my tightest pants and my global entry passport and embrace the trip as best I can.
A key to this is to prepare for the flight. We depart at 10:30PM from JFK, and it's 7 hours and 30 minutes to CDG. I'm going to Europe for so little time that I need to hit the ground running, which means I need to sleep. As such, I've prepared a battle plan for how to take down this flight. To be clear, by "take down" I do not mean "hijack and crash" the plane. I am no terrorist. In fact, I spend a lot of time fantasizing about how I would stop a terrorist. The fear of missing an opportunity to thwart a hijacker is the very reason I struggle to sleep on planes. I must remain vigilant or else some other hero will take my opportunity, take my Presidential Medal of Freedom, take my book deal. You may only get one chance because unfortunately, terrorists are much less active these days.
But sleep I must. Of course I have a business class, lie-flat seat as a result of some brilliant maneuvering of credit card rewards and a dedication to Delta. And thank God, because I’m on the taller side and I am incapable of sleeping in an upright position. This has been helpful as far as not making me a mark for potential tea-baggers who might see me asleep in a beach chair, unsheathe their testicles from the side leg of their trunks, and lay the sticky underside of that otherworldly sack gently on my unsuspecting forehead. This was done to me once on a beach, and I can tell you that waking up to the musky, rotting scent of a taint marinated from multiple games of beach volleyball is a challenge to overcome.
Enough preamble. Here is my formula for overnight flights:
1) Choose a seat that is not near a bathroom or the galley.
Incredibly important. As you purchase your ticket, you should consult Seat Guru. This website tells you which seats have limited recline or hampered legroom as a result of a bulkhead. The goal of this flight is to sleep, so being near the galley kitchen or the bathroom sucks. The flight attendants close the metal drawers in there so violently and loudly that it feels petulant. People piss and shit constantly during the flight and the toilet flush sounds like life itself is being sucked from the sky. Choose a quiet seat!
2) Wake up EARLY on the day of the flight and try to get a workout in.
Forcing yourself to wake up early, say 5 or 6AM, will have you extra sleepy by flight time. If you're a healthy person who cares about attending your grandchildren's weddings some day, you should be working out regularly. Make sure to hit it hard on the day of the flight. Weights, cardio, make love to your girlfriend where you hold her aloft and stand in a power stance for as long as possible… whatever.
3) No meal on the flight.
Eschew a meal on the plane (unless you're taking off at dinner time). As fun as it is to be served a meal, it's bedtime. They won't even bring the food out until probably an hour into the flight. Do you really need to eat beef at midnight, like a wolf? No. Eat before the flight, at the airport or at home. Go ahead and eat big too. "The more calories you inhale, the deeper you'll sleep." - Science.
4) Don't drink.
This one is controversial. Many of you will say that having a glass of red wine or an old fashioned on the plane helps you get to sleep. For me, I may fall asleep more quickly, but I'll sleep like shit and wake up feeling worse. I'm going no booze. But to each their own.
Another reason not to drink, as we've all been warned of the perils of mixing booze and prescription drugs. Take a sleep aid, but beware: wait to take it until the wheels have left the ground. If you gamble and take your pills before you've taken off, you run the risk of passing out only to wake up two hours later and realize you're stuck on the tarmac due to a mechanical issue. Now you're groggy, no closer to your destination, and you've wasted your bullets.
6) Brush your teeth!
For God's sake, try to hit the marks of your bedtime routine as much as you can. It's gross to brush your teeth in an airplane bathroom but you'll feel 10x better as you nod off. Bring some face towelettes or something too. Something to freshen yourself up from all that stale air blasting on your cheeks.
7) Play an eight-hour ambient noise track.
I prefer heavy rainfall, but box fan is solid too. I need noise to drown out the coughs, sniffles, and toilet flushing mentioned above. A persistent brown noise track is the answer. If you're really struggling, throw the ear plugs they give you in the overnight kit in your ears, then put your over-ear noise cancelling headphones on over that. There are layers to the art of blocking sound.
With any luck, you'll wake up to the stewardess tapping your shoulder gently, letting you know it's time to bring your seat upright because you're beginning your descent. Wow! Time really flies when you're unconscious.