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Jun 4

Tumbling around Paris: A tired traveller’s tale

June 4 - June content - post 15This is about the similarities between the impact of a red-eye flight and driving impaired by fatigue.

It was my first trip to Europe, an overnight flight from Toronto to Paris. We were wired! Finally my husband and I dozed, slammed awake as the plane’s cabin crew slapped muffins onto our table trays just before we landed in Paris.

At the hotel, we learned our room would not be ready until mid-afternoon (it was about 10 in the morning local time – and 2 a.m. inside my head). So – no alternative but to brave the streets of Paris, utterly sleep deprived. We were dirt tired but desperate to stay awake.

In Paris, even a sober, well-rested person needs alertness to navigate the warren of streets and passages. For a couple of sleep-deprived, deeply fatigued tourists, Paris became a nightmare. We walked… not too far, but because we were so blasted by lack of sleep, we did not focus on tracking landmarks, and had no sense of direction. We were like drunks, staggering around.

We got lost. We didn’t speak French. We couldn’t remember the name of our hotel. Finally, after many hours and many trials, we made it back.

And yes, this is an amusing traveller’s tale about being tired and lost in a big city where you don’t speak the language.

That’s not my point.

My point is about how thoroughly disoriented you are when you’re seriously tired. I’m talking about a bad night’s sleep because your baby kept you awake, and the next morning you have to drive from Edmonton to Fort McMurray. I’m talking about long days at work, and then they ask you to work overtime.

It doesn’t take much to become fatigued. And you may not even be aware, you might just pass it off. “I’m OK, I had a bad night but I’ll be fine tomorrow.”

But what happens today?

That first day in Paris, I felt terrible. I couldn’t focus on what I was seeing. Sound seemed too loud and interfered with my ability to concentrate. I couldn’t remember simple things. My head was stuffed with marshmallows.

And I wasn’t driving.

I cannot imagine getting behind the wheel with that level of fatigue. I just stumbled around the streets of Paris. Nobody died.

The same cannot be said for driving after a sleepless night no matter what the reason.

If you’re tired – think about the consequences. Get a few hours of rest, then take your journey.

Your life, and others’ lives, depends on your decision.


Holly Quan
Communications Analyst
Nexen Energy ULC