Jet lag is an amazing force of nature. When combined with alcohol in adults, jet lag can produce an effect much like getting shot with a tranquilizer dart big enough to take down a rhinoceros. It is even more powerful in children, even without the alcohol.
Mostly, jet lag simply produces long and unexpected periods of deep sleep. Occasionally, however, it can produce unexpected urination as well.
A long, long time ago, when I was an elementary schooler, our folks took us to Europe. I had barely ever left the west coast before, let alone flown half way around the world, so major time zone changes were something new to me. When we arrived at my aunt and uncle’s house in England mid-morning, I immediately passed out on the first soft horizontal surface I came to.
I woke up hours later, groggy and feeling like my arms and legs were made out of lead. It was still daylight, and as I wandered down the hallway, I passed one of my cousins’ bedrooms, where my mom and my aunt were puzzling over a strange wet spot on the carpet in the middle of the room. “What could have caused this?” they wondered aloud to each other.
As soon as I saw it, a wave of foggy, dreamlike memories came over me. At some point that day I had “woken up,” needing to pee really badly. I scurried around the unfamiliar house, desperately trying to find the bathroom, but to no avail. When I found an empty bedroom instead, my sleepwalking, jet lagged brain said, “Perfect!” and I peed all over the carpet. Then I just went back to bed.
Once I was actually awake and witnessing the aftermath of my semi-conscious brain’s poor decision making abilities, I was horrifyingly embarrassed. I’m not sure how old I was at the time, but I was surely old enough not to want to cop to something as idiotic as peeing on the carpet. I just shut my mouth and walked in the other direction.
That was my first experience with the power of jet lag.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when we took our boys to Europe. Good news; it’s still there! Bad news; so is the jet lag. This time, however, it didn’t strike right away. The adults adjusted quickly, despite the copious amounts of Italian wine that the waiters kept bringing us for some reason. The boys seemed to adjust quickly as well. Little did we know that jet lag would rear its ugly head more than a week into the trip.
We spent a wonderful week plus in Italy (with among others, my mom and my English aunt), then moved on to Austria. That’s when it happened: A similar - yet at the same time very different - jet lag peeing incident involving one of the boys.
Now, we have a notorious and storied sleep pee-er in our house. You have read about his carpet and stair peeing adventures from time to time in this column. Strangely enough, it was one of his brothers, and not him. I won’t tell you which brother, to protect the unaware. He still has no idea any of this happened.
There we were, on our first night in our Austrian apartment near Innsbruck. A magical day of summer mountain luge track racing and gondola rides awaited us. We settled into our beds, with two of the boys on a bed in the living room, and one of the boys sleeping with Grandma in the room next to ours. I was just about to go to sleep when a commotion arose in Grandma’s room. Grandma could be heard saying things like, “What are you doing?” and, “What the hell!?”
I was getting out of bed to investigate when she came out of the door to her room, looking more than a little bewildered and slightly off put, shall we say.
“He just peed on me.”
“He peed in the bed?”
“No! He got up, came around to my side of the bed, and peed on me!”
No wonder she looked a little miffed.
Apparently, our jet lagged son’s semi-conscious brain somehow mistook Grandma’s side of the bed (and consequently, Grandma), for the toilet. He just got out of bed, walked around, stood there, peed on her, then walked back around and got back into his (dry) side of the bed, still fast asleep.
So instead of going to bed, I did laundry in the bathtub for a while.
Given my jet lag/urination history, I can sort of sympathize with him, but this kid took things to a whole new level. Dude, are you trying to get cut out of the will? You peed on your grandma! Seriously, who does that?
Thankfully we were able to find enough wine the next day that Grandma was able to laugh about it. Briefly. As for the boy, he’s still clueless.
I guess some people just react differently to jet lag than others. All I know is it’s lucky for our boys that I only peed on the carpet when I was their age. I’m pretty sure if I had peed on my aunt back then, I’d still be too embarrassed to make eye contact with her, so we probably wouldn’t have made the trip back this summer.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen
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