Thursday, February 18, 2010

Time is made up

On a recent family trip my brother opened the airline magazine and was flipping through the pages when I heard him say “Who made the time zones? They must have been really drunk.”

If you have spent any time examining the time zones yourself you would probably agree. They are arbitrary lines drawn on a map. My puny human mind has a difficult enough time thinking about the fact that it is tomorrow in Australia, but then add something like Daylight Savings and I am REALLY confused. That random Saturday in the fall is not actually longer and the day in spring is not shorter. You can’t make time disappear, you can only call it something different. On that point, it is not actually tomorrow in Australia. It is actually the same exact time there as it is here, right? Or are they in the future? No wonder people are confused about time travel. We can’t even agree on being in the same present moment.

For part of the year Arizona is the same time as California. For the rest of the year, it’s not. You can leave the Chicago area and drive east for 15 minutes and you will have lost an hour. We went on a cruise last Christmas and when we landed in Puerto Vallarta they told us that Puerto Vallarta was in a different time zone than the ship was observing. So please ignore the time on shore and use your preset watch to be on ship time. Is that even legal?

Then there is television. When I was younger I never understood why TV shows were advertised as “8pm, 7pm Central.” I always felt sorry for those people in the Central time zone that had to watch their shows at the wrong time. Then I met a friend from Iowa and we got into a debate about what was television “prime time.” Those poor central people have been tricked their whole lives into thinking that prime time starts at 7 when the rest of us who are not land locked know that it really starts at 8.

And speaking of prime time, now we get to where this all started in my head—the Olympics. We complained that we had to watch tape delayed versions of the Beijing Olympics, but at least that made some sense. Now here I am, in the very same time zone as Vancouver, and I am watching the Olympics on tape delay. Yesterday I heard a radio news report at 5pm (PST in case you are wondering) announcing that Lindsay Vonn had won the gold medal for downhill racing. Immediately following that news report was an NBC advertisement for the race, posing the question “Can Vonn overcome her injury and win Olympic Gold? Find out tonight (when we show you the tape delayed and edited version of the Olympics, LIVE 3 hours ago).”

You east coast people get to watch anything tape delayed before the rest of us. But then live, nationally televised sporting events often favor the west coast. When games are on past 9 or 10 pm, I wonder if anyone on the east coast is even watching anymore.

Life was easier when the world was flat and we traveled only by land or sea. With travel that slow we didn’t have to think in terms of time zones. I am guessing that it never occurred to Columbus and his homies that the people at the other end of his flat earth were experiencing night time while he was enjoying lunch in the sun.

And if you have bothered to even get to this point in my long, convoluted rambling about why time, time zones and time travel confuse me, you now understand how tiring it is to spend 5 minutes in my head.


  1. You are so funny. But you speak the truth! I've often wondered about this whole changing the clocks thing. Maybe it's just another instance of us feeling like we can have control over everything - even time.

    I've been reading through your blog and really enjoying it. Thanks for finding that I could find you!