My husband, Lee, and I are travel freaks. We love to explore the world, and we aren’t afraid to cross multiple time zones. What we don’t love is jet lag. Over the years, we’ve figured out how to deal with it, but back in 2010, we weren’t savvy about international travel. On a whim, some friends were traveling to a lodge in the Scottish Highlands, and they invited us to join them. Newly married and aware that our childless clock was ticking, we decided to be spontaneous and go for it.
Although it was a red-eye flight, sleep was not in our plans. Upon boarding, I remember scrolling through the list of movies, realizing I could watch four films on the nine-hour flight. Score.
We landed around noon, and planned to spend the day in Edinburgh, get a good night’s sleep, and then rent a car in the morning and head north to the Highlands. After checking into our hotel, I remember lying down on the bed while Lee slumped into a chair. Sometime later I awoke, drooling, with Lee tugging at my arm, pleading with me to get up. It was mid-afternoon, and we were seriously jet-lagged. We took showers and decided we should get out of the hotel—as far away from a bed as possible—and stay awake until 8 p.m., then go back to the hotel and crash.
We set out and wandered through town, trying to stay alert but fading fast. The details are hazy. I remember we each bought a hat, striving to look more Scottish, and made our way up a long hill to Edinburgh Castle. By 6 p.m., we were delirious. I had trouble finishing sentences, and Lee was walking in zigzags along the sidewalk. We were like zombies, rambling along and moaning, banging into parking meters. Lee spotted a pub, The Wally Dug, and mumbled something about having a drink, which seemed like a really stupid idea. He grabbed my shoulders and looked at me, his eyes glazed over, distant. “We only have to make it two more hours,” he said in slow motion.
As we settled in at the pub, I noticed people were arriving and heading to the back room. There was a sign next to the back room entrance and, after staring in confusion at it for 10 minutes, I finally was able to read what it said: “Poker Tournament. 7 p.m.”
Lee and I both liked poker and had been playing a lot recently. A little card game seemed like the perfect antidote to our dilemma. So we decided to pay our 30 pounds and enter the tournament. There were 50 players, and we were the only ones who would be happy to bust out. Actually, losing was the game plan. All we wanted to do was stay occupied for one hour, and we would be victorious.
As the cards were dealt, I felt a little jolt of energy. But I kept an eye on the clock, and when 8 p.m. rolled around I could hear my pillow calling. I didn’t even look at my cards, just shoved all my chips into the pot. The guy in the big blind wasn’t going to be pushed around, and he called my bet. We flipped our cards over, revealing that I actually had the best hand. The turn and river cards were dealt, and, to my surprise, my hand held up. A large pile of chips was pushed toward me. Wait—this wasn’t the plan.
I felt like I was floating in some kind of European poker heaven.
Six hours later, Lee and I were still in the pub. Despite the jet lag, Lee had played pretty well and was now sitting at the final table. A few hands later, he lost all his chips, still finishing in a respectable fifth place. But we didn’t leave the pub at that point, because someone else was still in the tournament. Me.
Somehow, through a combination of weariness, adrenaline, caffeine, and a little alcohol, I was playing the best poker of my life. My instincts were heightened; I seemed to have a perfect read on every player at the table, my stack growing with every hand. I felt like I was floating in some kind of European poker heaven.
Another hour went by, and somehow, at the end of the longest day of my life, across time zones and continents, in a currency that wasn’t my own, I won. That’s right—I won the poker tournament in the neighborhood pub in Edinburgh. I remember looking at Lee, who was grinning bleary-eyed in the corner. They took a picture of me, smiling like a drunk muppet, to put on the wall.
We stumbled out of the pub and landed in our hotel bed around 2 a.m. We slept until 10 the next morning, had a big Scottish breakfast, and headed for the Highlands, our body clocks nicely reset for the rest of the trip. I don’t necessarily recommend the Poker Pub method of staving off jet lag, but it was very effective for us. Not to mention we started our trip with an extra 200 pounds in our pocket. I’ll leave that decision to you.
Emmy-nominated actress Jenna Fischer currently stars in ABC’s Splitting Up Together, and she is the author of The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide.