Post-Vacation Fatigue

The plane touched down at Newark Liberty International at 4:28 AM Monday.

I looked around the cabin and everyone still had that same expression on their faces that they did when we first departed from America’s Playground. Some sported a look of utter exhaustion, some with a mischievous look in their eye, some of blatant guilt…

I thought about that classic Only in Vegas commercial from a year or two ago that shows all of the various visitors from previous advertisements all on the same flight. One guy is chugging a gallon of water, another is destroying a videotape, while a few girls from a bachelorette party are giggling like they stole something.

In this case, life truly imitated art…

“I can’t keep doing this to myself,” I mumbled.

I finally got back to Hoboken at 6:00 AM. I now had one hour to nap before having to go to work. One hour of napping was about 1/10 the total amount of sleep I was able to grab in three nights in the desert. The free alcohol combined with the pumping of oxygen into the casinos and hotel rooms tends to have a permanent Ambien effect on a human being.

The temptation of the scenes at the Hard Rock Circle Bar, Pure, Jett and Tao is enough to ensure that snoozing is listed at #78 on the priority rankings, sandwiched in between “eat healthy” at #77 and “clean the salt and pepper shakers” at #79.

Lying on my couch I closed my eyes for a moment when almost suddenly it hit me that I hadn’t set the alarm. I opened my eyes again to see that 45 minutes had gone by in what felt like an instant. Realizing that I would probably feel more tired if I power-napped for another 15 minutes, I got into the shower.

Where I fell asleep standing up for another 20 minutes…

“I haven’t felt like this since Pledge Hell Week,” I thought to myself.

But at least Hell Week meant justifying blowing off a class or three and finding some refuge for a few hours. It was also a time when a 19-year-old body could absorb the punishment of a long weekend road trip of fun and frivolity that a slightly older than 19 year old cannot.

Whether it is a weekend in Nevada, a four-day jaunt to Puerto Rico or a quick escape to Killington, we simply do not have the ability to just…take…it…easy.

Among those aged 18 to 36, fifty percent say that daytime sleepiness interferes and hampers with their daily work, according to NYU’s Sleep Disorders Center. The same study also reports that an astonishing 90 percent of college students suffer from sleep deprivation.

Given Hoboken’s social options and attitude is exactly in-between living like a college student and being a responsible adult, let’s guesstimate that 75 percent of Hobokenites experience sleep deprivation. Consequently, that shortfall has a direct effect on reaching quality productivity levels at work. If one were to create a billboard for our generation, it would be “The Just Get By Generation” sponsored by Starbucks.

Coming up on the 21st minute of my never-ending shower, I thought back to a showery Friday in June of 2002. I had arrived at my beach house only to discover one roommate out of the usual 18 there. It was almost a nursing home atmosphere from what I’m used to walking into at the start of a weekend, as the lovely Janice was knitting a scarf on the couch while Enya lightly played in the background.

“When did you get down to the house?” I asked.

“I’ve been here for the entire week, actually,” she replied.

“With whom?” I asked.

“Just myself,” she answered matter-of-factly.

I asked her if she was bored not having anyone to go out with, but she quickly dismissed that notion.

“There are those that take trips and those that take vacations, Conch,” Janice explained. “I was able to do so many things this week: I went kayaking, took a knitting class, biked every morning, ate dinner where I wanted to, and did things solely based on my timetable. Some days I would read until I fell asleep on the beach at five in the afternoon and didn’t wake up until the sun began to go down.”

“And the best part was,” she proudly smiled, “that there was no one there to wake me, or to ask me to go here or there, or even to talk to, and it was a beautiful thing. I try to do this once or twice a year to completely reset myself. It’s a true vacation…”

Janice’s week sounded exactly like what I had been looking for. But back in the reality of returning from a 96-hour whirlwind weekend in Vegas, my shower began to feel colder as we approached a pruney 25th minute.

I finally got out, but my legs were wobbly and my head felt heavy.

I then decided that I needed a vacation from my vacation.

But didn’t I just return from a trip?


But my body exerted itself more during this getaway than it had during the busiest of workweeks prior. During my three days I didn’t read a thing. I was constantly socializing. I was sharing a room with three other people (which meant I was never alone), and even a dip in the pool wasn’t what the doctor ordered because of the Jedi mind trick the female bartender at the Wet Bar used to pull me over for an 11 AM pina colada over blackjack.

Was it fun?

You bet your ass…

But was I recharged after getting out of Dodge?

No shot…in fact, I was infinitely worse for the wear.

The same goes for my “respites” in Vermont.

After a long week in the corporate salt mines we immediately jump into an SUV on a Friday night and drive five hours to be colder than we already are in Hoboken. Upon arriving at 11:30 we then go immediately to the bars and stay up until 3:30 AM for no apparent reason. Already, the weekend feels like going up a mountain without a chairlift.

Saturday consists of early breakfast and skiing for six hours, followed by Happy Hour, hot tub, showering, and partying until 4:00 AM. With achy muscles, bones and brain, the next day is greeted with a long hangover breakfast at Sugar and Spice followed by a five hour drive back, which usually takes up the bulk of Sunday.

And faster than you can say Monday morning, the weekend is over…except your apartment is no cleaner, there’s no more food in the fridge, and distinctly scented clothes are still piled up in the hamper.

The summer doesn’t provide any rest for the weary, either…

Just how much shut-eye is possible in a house with 20 other people? And that damn itch to enjoy the weather by day (beach, golf, tennis, basketball, barbeques) and social scene at night (which starts at 6:00 PM and goes till 4:00 AM on a slow night) tests the limits of the human condition by extending weekend hours to its maximum of Friday afternoon to Sunday midnight, if not even longer for the truly brave.

Mondays back north are used to recover (a one night tradeoff for three days and nights doesn’t quite add up); Tuesday and Wednesday are “back to the gym” nights and Thursday consists of either a city Happy Hour or packing up for the weekend.

Existence becomes merely a matter of survival until Labor Day…

As Americans in general we have issues with finding ways to chill that doesn’t include alcohol or other reality-numbing vices. A Harris Interactive survey indicates that over 60% of all Americans did not take a trip or vacation at all this winter. This mindset contradicts evidence that an annual retreat can reduce the risk of heart attack by 30% in men and 50% in women.

So the next time you’re feeling fatigued and decide to plan a vacation, think about actually going someplace tranquil.

And do it alone.

As I walked into work on 45 minutes sleep following my Vegas vacation, I vowed to take my own advice.

This, like actually fulfilling a New Year’s Resolution, is successful about 6 percent of the time.