Long Flights


My last post, which discussed travel and reading, brought to mind the picsaresque tradition in literature:

picaresque novel, early form of novel, usually a first-person narrative, relating the adventures of a rogue or low-born adventurer (Spanish pícaro) as he drifts from place to place and from one social milieu to another in his effort to survive (Encyclopedia Britannica)

One of my favorites is a novel by the French philosophe, Diderot, called Jacques le fatliste from the 18th century. So how does this relate to long flights? Well, Diderot travelled from Paris to St. Petersburg in 1773. It took 4 months overland by carriage! And even though he wasn't in the carriage 24/7, imagine how awful that must have been over bumpy, dust roads. And what do you do in a carriage? Certainly not read. Try reading in a car on a bumpy road. Can't be done. So when we talk of grueling intercontinental flights, maybe we're being a little soft. A flight from the US to Hong Kong can take 15 hours. Yes, it's uncomfortable, but not a monumental obstacle. 

The hardest part about these flight is the havoc they wreck on our bodies. Deep-veined thrombosis is an actual health risk of long flights. The FAA claims that this is not "economy class syndrome." That it can occur in any class, and is related to inactivity. That may be true, but I have sure felt a lot better after flights where I've been upgraded to business class (I have never paid for the luxury). These days, in business class, you can actually get your seat fully horizontal. I think the body needs those daily horizontal hours, not just the sleep that comes with it. 

Here are some suggestions from the FAA

Increasing leg muscle activity during long periods of sitting improves blood flow in the legs. This may include walking around the cabin or exercising your lower legs and ankles while seated. 
• Drinking adequate fluids, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine, may also help by preventing dehydration.
• Loose-fitting clothing may be beneficial in avoiding constriction of veins.
• Some recommend taking short naps, instead of long ones, to avoid prolonged inactivity.

They don't mention compression stockings. Britain's National Health Service recommends this:

"Studies have concluded that airline passengers who wear compression stockings during flights of four hours or more can significantly reduce their risk of DVT as well as leg swelling"

I've never tried this, but will one of these days. There's no doubt that getting up every few hours will help, not just your body, but your mind - we all get a little stir crazy in those economy prisons.

Movies have made travel easier, but even though the selection has gotten greater, the quality seems to have gone down. It seems like the only recent releases are the recent disasters. Still, it's something to pass the time.

By Kevin O'Neill


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