Monday, January 28, 2008

Just Biding my Time

Monday, January 28, 2008

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, 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 this 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 receive the exact time so we could set our watches and clocks, but then the phone company started to add commercials to it, and, adding insult to injury, began to charge for the calls, which were only made to a computer anyway.

Then, even when nobody's switching their clocks to fool us, there's 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.

I've had 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 justify throwing them away?

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