I woke up at around 5am again this morning, having not got to sleep until gone midnight. This was not surprising as I’ve been struggling more than usual with jet-lag on this trip. I think this is not just due to the time difference with the UK but also because I’ve been moving through time zones since I arrived here. This is not something you have to deal with in the UK. Our whole island is included in the one time zone and the only thing we note about it is that it ‘doesn’t get dark until quite late’ if you’re on the Welsh coast. Twice a year we have to deal with either putting our clocks back or forward by an hour, and this seems to cause all kinds of problems. It’s something that’s happened every year for many decades but yet, the majority of the population can’t remember whether they are supposed to be going forward or back and everyone else just forgets completely. It then takes around two weeks until all the clocks are aligned with the new time zone and we then engage in a four month debate about if we should switch to double-summer-time (we should, but it’ll upset some people in the North of Scotland, so we won’t – but we’ll still have exactly the same debate every year). The only other time we have to worry about putting our clocks forward or back is when we go to Europe, and that seems to make sense as we’ve definitely ‘gone’ somewhere as we’ve had to travel over (or under) water.
In the US things are very different. The continent of North America is divided up into six different time zones. These range from GMT-4 (Newfoundland) to GMT-9 (Alaska). So there is, in fact, a greater difference in time between the extreme west and east of the continent than there is between Newfoundland and the UK.
In reality, the vast bulk of the continental United States are covered by four time zones. These range from GMT-5 (New York City) to GMT-8 (Los Angeles) and are named, west to east, as ‘Pacific Time’, ‘Mountain Time’, ‘Central Time’ and ‘Eastern Time’. On this trip I first flew into Newark (Eastern Time, GMT-5), and then got a connecting flight to Las Vegas (Pacific Time, GMT-8). On the first full day of travel I drove to Flagstaff (Mountain Time, GMT-7) and then, today, I drove into Texas and Oklahoma (Central Time, GMT-6). This has left me without any clue of what the correct time is.
To give you an idea of my dilemma: It is currently 21:14. This time yesterday it was 20:14. This time on Monday evening it was 19:14. This time last week it was 03:14 tomorrow. Confused yet? I’ve been intending to get up at 6am every day. But 6am on Tuesday morning was 7am on Wednesday morning and will be 8am tomorrow (but 7am again on Saturday morning). It starts to mess with your mind.
What makes things even more confusing is that the US put their clocks back last weekend. In a similar style to the British, this doesn’t actually mean that all (or indeed any) of the clocks have physically been put back. So when I arrived yesterday in Albuquerque (GMT-7), most of the clocks in the hotel (including the bedside one) actually read GMT-6. I was convinced that Albuquerque was still in the mountain time zone but ended up having to ask the front desk to confirm the real time as all the clocks were showing central time zone.
This problem wasn’t confined to Albuquerque. In reality each time zone currently has two times – a real one and a displayed one.
11pm tonight (displayed) is actually 10pm. Yesterday this was an actual time of 9pm but a displayed time of 10pm. On Monday evening the displayed time was 9pm but the actual time was 8pm and on Sunday evening the actual time was 5am tomorrow with no displayed equivalent. It gets even better if you move to early afternoon: 4pm displayed today is actually 3pm but was 2pm yesterday although displayed as 3pm. On Tuesday it was 1pm at the same time (displayed as 2pm) and on Monday it was 5pm displayed (Newark) although actually 4pm. And, of course, on Sunday it was 9pm!
The only plus I can take out of all of this is that I’ve now reached the western extent of my travels (Guymon in Oklahoma). This means that tomorrow I get an hour back and, at some point on Sunday, I get another free hour. This should help with my travel plans as I’ve got a few days of quite long drives ahead of me.
I need to make sure I hire a Delorian the next time I do anything like this…