Thursday, March 6, 2008

Just Biding My Time

My mother always wore a watch but never knew what time it was. That was one of her many endearing qualities. She would forget to wind her old one or put a battery in her new one, or she would discover that most watches don't survive the spin cycle. I believe she once found a missing watch in the refrigerator- or was that her bifocals?

On the other hand, I'm time-conscious. On the right-hand column of my personal blog, near the bottom, you will see four clocks. They are set to tell the current time in the following cities: Logan, Utah (my home); Dayton, Ohio (home of our oldest son, a student at Wright State University School of Medicine, his wife, and our Darling Granddaughter); Jyvaskyla, Finland (home of our second son, a student at the University of Jyvaskyla, his wife and their two dogs), and Berkeley, California (home of our youngest son, a student at UC Berkeley).

As you can see, it's a good idea to check the clocks before I pick up the phone to call one of our sons. Otherwise I run the risk of waking someone out of a sound sleep. I once made a color-coded chart that included everyone's waking and sleeping hours, and I discovered there was a three hour period when it was safe for everybody to call each other, or perhaps even set up a conference call, which we have yet to do.

And I'm now signed up with Messenger and Skype, so catching someone online at the same time I am is a pleasure and pure serendipity. Email, of course, is an important way to keep track of each other, and fortunately, doesn't interrupt anybody's sleep. And of course, those wonderful attachments- pictures and video clips- help us to feel closer to our scattered brood.

Just when I get the basic zones of our family firmly established in my mind, we either start or end Daylight Savings Time. Have you ever tried to explain to a child, not to mention an adult, why we trick ourselves by setting the clocks back or forward one hour twice a year? It takes me six months to reset all the various clocks in my home - on the oven, in the car, beside my bed, in the kitchen, on the microwave . . . and there's always one we miss. I have heard intelligent adults wandering around and muttering: "fall forward, spring back . . . or is it fall back, spring ahead?"

Fortunately, my computer and cell phone seem to know what time it is, magically, whenever I turn them on, and for that I am very grateful. We used to call a certain number to learn the exact time so we could set our watches and clocks, but the phone company added commercials to the recording, and you had to listen to them first. Then, adding insult to injury, began to charge for the calls, which were only made to a computer anyway. It’s relatively easy to find out what time it is anywhere in the world, though. One website I recommend is: www.timeanddate.com/worldclock.





Then, even when nobody's switching their clocks to fool us, there's the problem of jet lag (see above picture) when you travel from one time zone to another and your body simply doesn't know what time it is. Jet lag is real. The first major experience I had with it was on a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, during the White Nights. Not only was there a significant time difference, there was very little actual darkness at all that time of year, and locals celebrated the White Nights by partying around the clock. Then I understood why hotels have those heavy, light-blocking drapes, and why a little pinhole in those drapes can be significant. If you're outside, though, your watch may tell you it's bedtime, but your eyes tell you that it's a lovely evening, and at some point it's mind over matter, or matter over mind. The garden vegetables are still growing, so why should we head to bed?

It's downright embarrassing to stay up all night, reading, because you can't sleep in a new time zone, only to fall asleep every time you sit down during the day. Experts say it takes one day to adjust to each hour of time change, which means that by the time you have adjusted to the new time zone on your wonderful trip, it's time to return home and go back to work, allowing no time to reverse the effects of being back in your normal zone.

Time changes can be challenging for children, too. School districts keep Daylight Savings in mind when scheduling annual achievement tests, so children will perform their best and not be sleep-deprived due to time changes. Experts suggest preparing children gradually for a time change by beginning to adjust bedtime by ten minutes each night, starting about a week before the actual change.

I did a little research, and I found that the original concept of daylight savings time was proposed by none other than Benjamin Franklin. Daylight savings time helps to conserve energy. When the clock moves ahead for the summer, it means another hour of daylight, thus reducing the amount if time necessary to keep lights on at night. Multiply this by the country’s population, and the savings in energy and money are significant.

Another benefit is a decrease in traffic accidents. Several studies in the US and the UK have demonstrated that the DST shift reduces net traffic accidents and fatalities by close to one percent.

Research also indicates that sun is good for us mentally and physically. For people who are vulnerable to seasonal affective disorder and the symptoms it causes, such as depression and exhaustion, more daylight helps to combat the condition.

And, just to be clear, the clock moves ahead (thus, losing one hour, technically starting at 2 a.m.) when DST starts, this year on March 9, 2008, and falls back one hour (thus, gaining one hour) when DST ends in the fall, on November 2. To make it easier to remember which way the clock goes, keep in mind one of these sayings: “spring forward, fall back” or “spring ahead, fall behind.”

I’ve had a bad a bad stretch of my own with watches lately, and for some reason I haven't worn one for months. If I could just find a watch for myself - one that works, so I would really know the actual time- I might get back on track. I do have a drawer of defunct watches. I periodically check them to see if one might be working, but so far no luck. Twice a day, though, each of them is actually correct, so how can I throw them away?

And by the way, has anybody seen my bifocals?

1 comment:

Jenna Consolo said...

I understand! I'm time-conscious too, and the only reason Daylight Savings will be a blessing is because I can put the kids to bed an hour early! I still never changed my VCR clock from the last Daylight savings in the fall, so at least this weekend it will be right again! Great post!