You Know What’s Scary? Exhaustion
I just heard on the radio that being exhausted is as dangerous as being drunk. I believe it.
This is a journal entry that was written a few months back after arriving in Prague.
I’m trying to write this while I’m still a bit tired – while I can still feel at least some of the fog of the last few days. I want to explain to our older selves how mad-making it is to be exhausted, how the charm of Prague has tested our initial resolve to dislike it and how the ying and yang of life led us from being about as tired as we’ve ever been to, quite possibly, the best non-home bed we’ve ever landed in.
A couple-day stopover in Seattle on our way to Prague from Hawaii allowed us to power through a lot of work in order to get semi-caught-up before jumping on Delta’s uber-popular Seattle to Amsterdam run (on our way to the Czech Republic). Our stopover also presented the opportunity for us to overextend ourselves in an effort to tie up a lot of loose ends.
Already pooped after D.C. and Hawaii, we got only 4-ish hours of sleep for a couple of nights – not cool in the midst of some heavy travel. So, we headed off to board our red-eye flight exhausted. At the Seattle airport, a group of women, talking excitedly as they prepared to jet off to Paris, sounded like nails on a chalk board. That completely mis-calibrated annoyance should have been my first clue.
Energy-less, we were oddly happy to see the inhospitable place where we could be still for ten straight hours – our tight, nondescript coach class seats. Tiny pillow, bagged blanket, seat belt crossed on top. Thankfully, we snagged bulkhead seats and were able to revel in limitless legroom (and the occasional peek into the activities up in First Class). But the flight brought no comfort, no sense of rejuvenation. In fact, neither of us slept a wink. There was a constant ruckus in the galley, not to mention the regular bing – bing – bing from passengers hitting the call button.
Then, in the middle of the night, an eager 20-something thought she’d brazenly take the opportunity to conduct a ceaseless informational interview with the attendant in the jump-seat located at our toes. “So, do you like flying?” we overheard, as the airline-employee-to-be launched into her questions.
In Amsterdam, we likely could have slept – even leaning against a wall. The problem? We had to wait several hours for our connecting flight. We knew that if – at this juncture – we tried to nap, we would have woken up six months later with two computers missing. It wasn’t good enough to simply drink coffee; we had to do it while walking. The caffeine was both helpful and a big mistake. It threw me into sort of a psychedelic spiral. My mind was ready to finish my taxes, but my body still cried out for rest. These eyes tell it all.
On the quick connector flight to Prague, my head bobbed so much that I’m surprised it didn’t lead to an injury. Out the plane’s window upon decent, we saw the region’s villages and felt as though we are landing in 1512. Was this a dream? Winter-beaten branches stretched to the blue sky and looked to be mere days away from breaking into a showcase of color.
Next, we were at baggage claim – just 2 bags and a quick trip to our hotel away from sleep. We pondered whether other passengers thought we might be drunk. They didn’t know what the last several days had been like. Why wouldn’t they think the stumbling, the eye-rubbing and the poorly muffled groans were more than sleep deprivation.
At the busy central metro station, we flew off the train with hundreds of other people. It was so crowded that we huddled by a concrete column to let the crowd pass. I wondered how out-of-it we must have looked. In the distance, I saw two police officers winding through the barrage of metro-exiters. Through tired eyes, we smiled at each other and remarked how in need of help we must have appeared.
But we weren’t getting help. Instead (we would later learn) we had been targeted by the metro police as tourists and would have to pay the price for one of their “random” compliance searches. Things turned sour fast. We had tickets, so we pleaded for an explanation. “We don’t understand,” we say over and over. What did we do wrong? They, in turn, are not very good-cop-like “What… You don’t understand English?” they said. They told us to shut up and pay or they’d use their authority to increase the already ridiculous fine 10 times over.
Hours later, on the walk up to the hotel after finishing up with the police, we were fuming. Irate + exhausted = not a good combination. As if the exhaustion alone wasn’t rough enough.
When we arrived at our little hotel and plopped down in the check-in chairs, I could feel that rest was only minutes away. The chill vibe of the hotel was just what we needed and was a welcome reflection of the minimalist aesthetic we love.
However, because our police encounter gave us an adrenaline rush, we couldn’t come down and decided to walk around town for a bit in an effort to decompress and “get on Prague time.” Good thing we didn’t bring anything valuable on the walk. I would have given my camera away had someone asked. We floated around the streets, intermittently rambling about how – although not bad – Prague was looking much different than we expected. That’s ok though; we knew we’d figure it out. That’s why we love travel.
Back in our room, the most tired we’ve ever been, we were greeted and pleasantly surprised by what’s believed to be the best bed in the world – made by Hastens in Sweden. We crawled in, hoping that we’d soon forget the rough corners and grainy context that shaped the last few days.
In that moment, though, we just needed sleep.
UPDATE: See the comments section for details on how to avoid a similar run in with Prague’s metro police.