Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Travel Bug

Sometime during the past few weeks, while traveling between Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Minneapolis and Raleigh, I developed a sniffle. This was not surprising, given the time of year, the amount of time I’ve spent on airplanes, the exposure to pathogens shared by my fellow passengers and the lack of sleep from early flights. But a greater threat to my health was presented by the poor food options available to someone who finds herself in the airport day after day. As immunity decreases and sugar consumption increases the body becomes increasingly vulnerable so I was trying my hardest to avoid the great white offender. But it kept sneaking up on me and was hard to avoid while spending time in airports and hotels. Here are some of the situations I encountered:

In-flight beverages

On Thanksgiving day I had a 6am flight down to San Diego. I generally do not order anything on planes but after I finished drinking the bottle of water I had brought on board, I found myself thirsty and a bit hungry as well. I knew I’d be eating a large dinner early in the afternoon but thought I might satisfy my appetite with some cranberry juice, an apt Thanksgiving beverage. But what the flight attendant handed me was something called “cranberry drink” with very little trace of actual cranberries at all. The ingredients were corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, water, apple and grape juice, with a hint of cranberry at the end of the list. I returned the full can to the puzzled flight attendant and thanked her anyway.

Stress food

I had the misfortune to connect in Minneapolis in mid-December on the very same weekend as the second largest snowstorm in the city’s history. The airport had closed for a day, leaving thousands of passengers stranded and unable to reach their destination. My flight was scheduled for the very next day and needless to say the seats were overbooked and highly coveted. I was concerned that my flight would be delayed and I would miss my connection so I tried to get on an earlier flight. In line I met a woman desperately trying to reach her hospitalized mother who had just had a heart attack. As we stood and waited to be helped she ate a large cookie, a bottle of Pepsi and then proceeded to take out a king size package of Twizzlers from her bag. She offered me some “stress food,” as she called it. “I never eat this crap but I’m very stressed out.”

(A Minneapolis attraction)

Meal vouchers

After missing my connection in Minneapolis by five minutes, the airline agent handed me vouchers for a hotel and for meals, presumably to cover the time until my rebooked flight at 11:30 the next morning. I examined the vouchers. She had given me two vouchers for $6 each. I remember back in 2003 when I’d been in a similar situation after missing a connection and had received $15 meal vouchers. How times have changed. When I got to the hotel I asked how I could use to the voucher. The front desk staff said they were intended for use at hotels with restaurants. This one did not have a restaurant. But, he offered, the Chili’s across the street would accept them, if they hadn’t already closed for the night. Which was just as well because I was not equipped to walk more than five steps in the 4-degree weather.

It turned out the hotel we stayed out had a small market, but its merchandise consisted of only chips, candy bars, soda and ice cream. Thankfully I always carry snacks and so for dinner I had an apple and polished off the Trader Joe’s trail mix I’d been eating for days, paired with some rice cakes and what remained of my Theo’s Orange Dark Chocolate bar. In the morning when I arrived at the airport again to fly standby I used my vouchers for breakfast. And it was a good thing I had not used either of them on dinner because the bowl of oatmeal I ordered used up both of them.

These were just a few of the hurdles I faced over the past few weeks in which I’ve departed SeaTac on four separate occasions. I made strong efforts to satisfy my hunger and not get sick and to avoid sugar like the devil. Still, I wasn’t sure this was enough. Determined to avoid the debilitating head cold I usually fall victim to over winter break, I launched a pre-emptive strike of my own. The secret weapon: black elderberry syrup. It is sweet and delicious, generally sold in honey, it packs vitamin C and antioxidants and has been studied for its alimentary effects. Whether or not it is potent enough to get me through the winter remains to be seen. In the meantime, with two more flights scheduled in the next two weeks, I hope to get plenty of sleep, fluids and exercise so I can avoid catching a winter cold.

No comments:

Post a Comment