If my understanding of history is correct, the different time zones used in North America were an artificial creation invented by the railroads. Creating standardized time zones increased efficiency, and therefore increased profit.
For time indeterminable before this, time existed, but not as this strictly regulated monster we live with today, precise to some astronomically small percentage over incredible lengths of ironically…time.
Our modern lives immersed in technology require such precision for all we do, and all we want and expect to do day in and day out to function properly. What seems antiquated, what seems analog in our oh so digital world, is time zones as they exist today.
I’m probably in the minority in that I regularly (fairly regularly to be completely honest) listen to the BBC World News on whatever NPR station I happen to be closest to that day. Periodically they stop and, “its 1423 GMT” the voice on the radio announces. Using what we refer to in the States as military time, that’s a topic for another article, but my point is that they don’t take the next five minutes telling it what time it is in Hong King, Bombay, Pretoria, Moscow, London, etc., they give us the time in one location and assume, incorrectly from what I’ve experienced, that the average human is bright enough to know where they are in the world and possess the ability to do simple math, adding or subtracting the difference in their time zone. I happen to live in Arizona where we are GMT -7, or seven hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time. This is made easier by the fact that unlike most of the rest of the US, we don’t observe daylight savings time, a topic I shall touch upon but briefly.
It’s nice being in one, stationary, constant time zone and I like to sell America on the idea. I believe that we could increase efficiency (yes the code word for greater profits) by putting the continental United States on the same, single time zone.
Wow, did you hear that? The people on the right side of the map all shouted Eastern Time, the people on the left side of the map all shouted Pacific Time! Cute but impractical, I recall reading that someplace in Kansas was the geographical center of the United States, so whatever time zone they’re in should be the National Time, maybe that even what we should call it. We would all switch from PT, MT, CT, ET to NT. While we’re at it lets go ahead and drop Daylight Savings Time in the waste can too. My daughter that works evenings at a national retailer doesn’t get to change her clock just because her work day ends sometime after eleven, so why should the nation change for one occupation, the farmer? We’re trying to move away from the antiquated thinking.
Its 0935MST (1635GMT) as I type this, I typically work from 0800 to about 1700 (5PM for the military time illiterate). It’s two hours later in Kansas right now, so with NT it would be 1035 all across the Continental US. I suspect everyone in the Central Time Zone just bought into the new program.
If we assumed that everyone worked the same 0800-1700 hours (yes I’m aware that few of us do) then people in somewhere like NYC would work 0700-1600, people in the current Mountain Time zone would work 0900-1800 and those on the West Coast would work a 1000-1900 shift. Same amount of time, same amount of daylight, the big difference is that when I’m sitting in my office in Phoenix and talking to someone in Seattle and setting up a meeting, we can say the meetings at 1100 and nobody has to convert time because of different time zones, or DST that you forgot was starting or ending between now and the date of the meeting.
Think this doesn’t happen, it happened to me this morning and is why I finally sat down to write this. I’m in Phoenix, my customer in the LA area wants to talk at 0900, and I need to coordinate with another person in the Cincinnati area who is two hours ahead of me and three ahead of the client. So the meeting is at 0900PST, 1000MST and 1200EST. Multiply that by an entire week and it’ll give you a headache.
The real question is, do we have Alaska and Hawaii share the love too? Alaskans would work 1200-2100, Hawaiians work work from 1300-2200 (You’re invited to dinner at 0200). Maybe we put the two of them on Pacific National Time (PNT)? Maybe we count them in the first place and say the geographic time center is actually somewhere like Salt Lake City or Reno. Oops, there went all the Central Time Zone people, but we picked up everyone in the Mountain Time Zone. This pushes the East coast a little earlier on the clock and reels the Hawaiians in to something more psychologically comfortable. It just occurred to me that we can all celebrate New Years together, cutting down on the wasted resources of broadcasting the Times Square ball drop six different times. Hmm, maybe they can start letting the ball travel around the country, each year being dropped in a different location.
In the end we have a nation united by a single common time, with no questions about what time it is here or there. One for all and all for one.