“Is it quarter past five or quarter past six?”
“It’s quarter past . . . oh. Did I change my watch or not?”
“I don’t know. I changed mine but I think I changed it back again.”
“Isn’t that the six o’clock news we’re watching?”
“It’s Dothan (Alabama). It was the five o’clock news the last time we watched it when we were on Central Time.”
“Well he just said the six o’clock news.”
“He said it was coming up.”
“It’s six o’clock Eastern Time so it’s the six o’clock news.”
“We’ve changed time zones, not Dothan, unless they’ve moved it since this morning.”
“Alright, smarty pants. The time on the microwave should be correct. It says . . . ah, I think I set that to my watch and I don’t know what time my watch is set to.”
“The clock in the car! I changed that from Central Time to Eastern Time after we came through Mexico Beach. That will definitely be on Eastern Time.”
On numerous occasions we’d been caught out by driving into another time zone and had been plus or minus an hour without knowing it, sometimes for a couple of days. With no deadlines to keep, time was more a habit than a necessity.
Having checked the road atlas I knew exactly where the time zone line was and had sat, rather childishly, staring at my cell phone to see the exact place where the time read out would jump forward an hour as we drove eastwards on the Gulf coast of Florida. It was an event for us – not changing time zones but remembering that it would happen.
What was so confusing that day was that we had driven from Central time to Eastern Time, then south and west into a state park and north onto a peninsula. The park according to its “quiet hours” was on Eastern Time but on the campsite our phones had gone back to Central time. According to the road atlas we were right on the dividing line on a spit of land across from St. Joseph’s Bay.
“So if the park gate is on Eastern Time, are we on Eastern Time even though, according to our phones, we appear to be back on Central Time? What time do we set our watches to?”
I really had no idea so decided to set the microwave clock forward an hour and start cooking as it was then six thirty. Somewhere.
Changing times zones is no phenomenon to an American used to traveling or telephoning around the country, but the whole of the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time (or British Summer Time but let’s not confuse the issue any more than I already have with daylight savings time) so that any road trip taken doesn’t involve guessing what the time is upon arrival. One simply looks at one’s watch (or clock or phone). Unless you are driving through the Channel Tunnel to France, but any fool knows to add an hour for arrival time in France and subtract and hour when coming back to the UK (except us of course, the first few times we made the trip).
The ten o’clock news came on and we were still undecided as to where it was ten o’clock and which time zone we were in.
“Well I’m tired and I really want to go to bed but it’s too early if it’s ten o’clock.” I laid down the bed anyway and looked at the clock. “Aha! I haven’t touched my bedside clock, so it’s still on Central time. “I can just put it forward to Eastern Time which is 11:00. Bedtime!”
That little trick didn’t work. I still woke up early, five o’clock Eastern time, four o’clock Central, as they say on TV.
After waiting until a sensible 8:00/7:00 I announced, “I’d like to go for a walk on the beach today at high tide. I’ve got a tide table here. High tide is 3:28 PM.”
“Is that Eastern or Central?”
We had a number of departure times for our walk as we’d messed up all our timepieces. Except our phones. They were accurate, but which time zone were we in?