The cure for jet lag is golf. You take the overnight nonstop to Scotland from Newark, arrive bleary-eyed in Glasgow at 8:00 in the morning, drag your clubs past the bomb-sniffing dogs in customs, stumble into a men’s room designated “loo of the year,” change a tall stack of American dollars into a short stack of British pounds, drive 55 miles through Robert Burns country while trying to remember to admire the sheep-dotted hillsides, reach Turnberry in a daze—and tee it up on the Ailsa course, where Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus fought their legendary Duel in the Sun, at the British Open in 1977. You haven’t slept since what seems like the day before yesterday, but your tee shot somehow finds the fairway, and a little mental arithmetic reveals that your colleagues back home are arriving, just now, at their desks. Suddenly, you feel happier than you’ve felt since the birth of your first child, or since the time you and your brother nearly won the member-guest. (Not to worry: The cure for excessive cheerfulness is also golf.)
Or so I’ve decided over the years, during a number of golf trips abroad: Hit the ground running, and keep running until dinner. I was gratified recently when a doctor who treats sleep disorders, whom I was interviewing for an article, recommended the same thing. To beat jet lag, he said, don’t take a nap upon arrival (my wife’s approach); keep your eyes open until the locals call it a day, or at least until the sun has gone down. That’s what I did this past week, in Scotland, and it’s what I did again yesterday, when I got back home. And I’ll do it again tomorrow, when six of my friends and I take off for a week of golf in Northern Ireland and northwestern Ireland.
Yesterday, my last day in Scotland, I had to interview someone in downtown Edinburgh, and I took a taxi from my hotel, which was at the airport. A guy up ahead of us did something stupid, but the taxi driver anticipated it—he told me he could read the guy’s mind—and he honked and said “What an idiot!” almost before the guy himself knew what a stupid thing he was about to do.
The taxi driver doesn’t own a car, he told me; when he and his wife need to go somewhere far away, they rent one. Usually, they pick it up at 11:00 a.m. and return it the next day at 11:00 a.m. Sometimes, 10:00. He rents from Arnold Clark, and gets a medium-size car, like a Corsa or a Focus. Once, he got upgraded to a really big car because they were out of medium-size cars, and some of his relatives felt initially that he was putting on airs. Occasionally, when he and his wife go to visit his wife’s mother, who lives near the English border, they will use his taxi, an old-fashioned English black cab, and his wife will ride in the back, “regally.” In fact, when he retires, a few years from now, he may keep his taxi, because he enjoys driving it, and sell just the “plate,” which is their equivalent of a medallion. He and his wife go on holiday every September; last year, they spent two weeks in Greece. That cost £3,000, for the two of them, including air fare. He likes to stay in four-star hotels, but in Greece they stayed in a five-star hotel. He likes to take “all-inclusive” trips—self-catering is too much trouble on vacation—but the Greek trip included only breakfast and dinner. That didn’t bother him too much, because when he’s traveling he eats a lot at breakfast—orange juice, corn flakes, yogurt, porridge, eggs, sausage, bacon, black pudding, haggis, beans, you name it—so much that has to let out his belt when he leaves the dining room. His wife, by contrast, eats nothing but toast and sometimes has trouble making it even till lunch. Keeping the weight off is harder than it used to be, even though he goes to the gym, but what choice do you have? The places he and his wife like to go are: Spain, the Canary Islands, Greece, Majorca. They usually go away in September, after the schools have started up again, because then you can get bargains, but just yesterday he looked into going away in July, too. The best the travel agent could do, though, was £1,000 apiece, all-inclusive, for a week—even in Greece! He thinks it might be possible to do better online, but hasn’t checked yet. At any rate, the travel agent said to come back in July or August and have a look at September then. Next year, for his sixtieth birthday, his wife wants to take him to New York City, where he (unlike her) has never been. He wants to go, but four hours is the limit for him, air-travel-wise. Two hours, two and a half hours? Fine. He doesn’t start to panic if he’s in the air longer, but he doesn’t like it. The best way to fly to New York might be with a stop somewhere on the way—maybe in Iceland—to break up the flight. That might make the ticket cheaper, too, since the flight wouldn’t be direct. He thinks that four days should be enough for New York, and he has been told that the part of New York that he and his wife should visit is midtown Manhattan. He was very glad to hear that I agreed with that recommendation.