Archive for January 21st, 2013

Travelling from one coast to another in the U.S doesn’t discommode one much ; a three-hour time difference is only a minor botheration and is easily forgotten in a day or two . It is when the time difference is eight hours or more that jet lag really kicks in .
The earlier time we had been to Japan , about 12 years ago , we never really got over the jet lag . There is a 13-1/2 hour difference ( 14-1/2 during Daylight Savings Time ) between the U.S and Japan and it completely upset our natural rhythms. Every day that we were in Japan , we would feel sleepy around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and retire for a nap . The next thing we knew we had slept through dinner and it was 1:30 or 2 in the morning. Then we found ourself unable to sleep and spent the time until morning tossing and turning in bed.
Earlier this month , we went to Japan again and we were dreading the 14-hour flight and the jet lag . Surprisingly , neither was bad as we remembered. The flight passed reasonably quickly as I watched a couple of movies and did a dozen crossword puzzles ; even the jet lag proved manageable . This time when I woke up at 2 in the morning I got out of bed and stationed myself at the window . From there, I had a view of the side street and it was eerily pleasurable looking down on the sleeping city.There is a feeling of omniscience ; as if one is above it all . Seeing everything spread out even as one remains invisible , one feels almost godlike , or at least preternatural.
Our room was on the sixth floor , high enough to look over the adjacent buildings but not so high that I couldn’t make out the details on the deserted street. Night , as we have all experienced , softens everything . It hides the griminess , smooths out the rough edges. Not that Tokyo is grimy or dirty. It is undoubtedly the cleanest big city that I’ve seen . The street that I was looking down on was completely deserted , the shops shuttered. There was a surprising amount of light both from the street lamps and from the exterior lights of buildings . In the near distance were some office skyscrapers , some of their windows still lit up.
As I watched , one man walked down the center of the side street. What was he doing up and about at 2:30 in the morning? It was too late for him to be going home, and yet too early to be going to work . Then , at 4 AM , there began the first stirrings of life. Two men walking side by side . Then a cyclist . Then two. At 6, the first shopkeeper put up the shutters and started sweeping the street in front of his shop . Time to go to bed and try to snatch a few winks .
A hotel room can be a lonely place if one is alone . I remember that about 30 years ago , the father of one of our close friends was travelling all over the U.S and I picked him up ,as arranged,at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. He was visibly glad to see me and afterwards , relaxing with a Scotch and soda at home , he explained why . He was in his Las Vegas hotel room , he said , trying to sleep , when a thought suddenly crossed his mind ” If I were to die now , how would my family even come to know ? ” Though 77 , he was in very good health and there was no reason for him to think like that but that is what a hotel room does . Sleeping in a strange bed , not knowing anyone in the city makes you feel lonely , vulnerable . Luckily for me , I wasn’t as my wife had accompanied me on this trip.

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