Posted on January 9th, 2018

The Geography of My Mind – East Coast Time

I have lived in all four of the time zones in the contiguous United States. I have opinions on which ones are good and bad (surprise, surprise), and what should be done about it. I believe the origin of time zones had something to do with train schedules way back when. I refuse to fact-check this because I am always right, so you should just take this as gospel. All the tiny Podunk towns couldn’t get on the same page so industry had to whip them in line. Of course, when it is 6pm on the East Coast, default dinner time for civilized folks, it would be afternoon snack time on the West Coast. To those who controlled the decisions, this simply wouldn’t do. So some genius came along and figured they’d make time zones off of Greenwich Mean Time at the Royal Observatory in the UK. That way everyone could eat dinner at the civilized hour of 6pm, when it would just be getting dark in the early fall and late spring, roughly. Everyone hoped to live in harmony, the end. But what we have is a whole bunch of headaches.

This is not necessary.

My first gripe on the subject came when I moved from CST to MST to PST and it had to do with television; sports, mostly. On the West Coast you have to be up and ready to go to watch a college football game on a Saturday at 9am, whereas on the East Coast it starts at a reasonable time, noon. But don’t place all of the sad faces on the left coast’s sidelines; the East Coast late games can start as late as 10pm. That’s ridiculous. That means you might not be getting to bed until 2am the next day! This means the west is wrapping up a day of sports much earlier, still leaving time to go out, drink beers and raise hell.

And what about if you live in L.A. and have a friend in NYC? You’ll never be on the same page when it comes time to talk on the phone and catch up. Time zones probably ruin some otherwise great friendships. Of the four, though, EST is the worst. We get dark first, our shows are the latest, and probably a bunch of other silly reasons I don’t care to mention because I forgot them right now anyhow. MST gets overlooked on TV advertising. It’s always, “9pm EST, 8pm CST, 6pm PST.” Why do they not mention MST? It might have the best state in the country (Colorado), and some close seconds (Western WY, Western MT, Northern ID and Northern UT; the other parts of those states, not so much…). Don’t get me wrong, the Pacific NW is awesome, and way better than anywhere in the CST time zone, and frankly the EST time zone, too. I think my point is: why do we need all these zones, really? What if it were 6pm at the same time across the nation? So what if you ate dinner in the broad daylight on the West Coast and it was dark when you got up? I’m sure they’d invent some new seasonal affective disorder, maybe call it “dark morning disorder” or something, but it’d be worth it to have us all on the same page.

And what about daylight savings time? When I was a young buck there were two contiguous states that didn’t cooperate: Indiana was on CST in the fall and EST in the spring (or vice versa, who cares). Now they’re always EST, though they’re not eastern. Arizona was PST in the spring and MST in the fall. I think they’re just PST now, but again, who cares. This topic is only partially related to my initial gripe: the lack of necessity for time zones. What if all around the world people were on the same time, regardless of place? If it were 6pm in L.A., NYC, London, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Beijing, Pyongyang, Auckland and Peoria, Illinois (the armpit), then it would make traveling a lot easier. Jetlag sucks, and while you’d still get it on international jaunts, at least you wouldn’t get double-whammied.

Now, I’m sure some of you nerds out there will explain this scientifically and rationally, about why these time zones are great and necessary. But frankly, I won’t change my opinion. I’m through with being bothered by inane ideas like this; I think we need to focus on bigger things. We can only do that if we’re all on the same page. Side note: I heard that Clemson University made some stupid PC law about punctuality in the classroom, something along the lines of time being “fluid” to certain people or some nonsense. Give me a break. Why does everybody make excuses all the time? Why does every little thing have to have shades of gray? Some things just are, and some things just aren’t. Time zones are just pointless. They further obfuscate and make communication more difficult, just like this dumb rule from Clemson. Seriously…

Now back to our regularly scheduled gripe: I’ve had several jobs in the past where I had to get up before the sun came up, and I hated it. Getting up at 5:30am to do what I needed to do in order to get to work on time at 7am was just no fun. True, I blamed some of the early morning hatred on it being dark out, a problem that would become an issue for many more people if we were all on the same time. But the solution is simple: don’t get a job that starts at 7am. Now that I don’t have to be up that early, I don’t have (get) to complain about the darkness. But the reality is that it never really had anything to do with darkness; I was never complaining about it being dark at 9pm, was I?

So it’s settled: we’ll all set our clocks to midnight tonight at midnight MST (because I have decided that represents the best area of the country), and we’ll struggle through the growing pains. Grin and bear it. And from now on in the late fall, winter and early spring, it will be dark early for a lot of us. It will also be light late for a lot of us. We’ll figure it out. Trust me. We’re not that smartest species, but we can adjust to anything. It is one of the strengths of being groomed by the television and consumer culture: we’ll eat what you feed us, wear what you tell us is cool, throw away what is still good, and repeat the cycle every 5-10 years or so.

Marco Esquandoles
Time Keeper.

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