What Time Is It?

It was a triple whammy if ever there was one. The first Sunday of November, we went off Daylight Saving Time. Five days later I flew all the way to California. As I settle in to write this column, I’ve been back home in the central time zone for less than twelve hours. Talk about confusing my circadian rhythms.

How many hours did I spend traveling to airports or hanging out in airports or sitting in a plane on the ground or sitting on a plane in the air over the past several days? Used to be, I wouldn’t have known.  A decade ago, I stuck my wristwatch in a drawer and started relying on my cell phone to tell time. In those days, my phone wasn’t even “smart.”  I couldn’t surf the internet or check my email or watch YouTube videos. But I could know that the time was accurate. Soon, like the generations behind me, my phone became a pocket watch. When the battery in my real watch died, I didn’t bother to replace it.

After daughter Meg moved to Denver, I became a somewhat frequent flier. The flight from Nashville usually takes a little less than three hours. But knowing what time it was got real confusing for me once the plane took off. Cell phones don’t know what time zone they’re in from an airplane like they do when you’re on the ground. Or do they? How about the little clock in the corner of a laptop computer or an iPad or a Kindle?

I recently engaged in a lengthy (and very funny) airplane conversation with both of my seatmates and the man across the aisle about whether our electronic devices knew the real time. Had we been in the air for an hour or two hours? Were we still in Missouri or had we made it most of the way across Kansas? Were we, perhaps, just a few miles outside of Denver? No one was quite sure.

That’s when I decided it was time to go back to being old-school. I bought a new battery for my giant analog Timex and strapped the watch to the handle of my suitcase so I wouldn’t forget it. Now when I fly, I buckle that watch onto my wrist. As soon as the plane is in the air, I change the watch to the time zone of my destination. No more guesswork about how long it will be till I get there.

As for what time it “really” is when I’m travelling 30,000 feet above the earth at 500 miles per hour, I’ve come to accept that my feeble brain just can’t wrap itself around such a question. It’s enough of a puzzle just to try to figure out how a 400-ton airliner can get off the ground.

(November 19, 2017)