Grand Canyon 2014: Time Zone Math

I personally think that everyone should go on vacation to someplace in a different time zone, right smack in the middle of the change from standard to daylight savings (or vice versa – it doesn’t matter). To make it more interesting, you should drive through areas that have a different time zone than yours yet you should end up in… Arizona, which doesn’t observe daylight savings. Oh, and you should pick a region where the network can’t update the time on your phone and then plan an activity where it really doesn’t matter what time it is (like hiking).

During our hikes, my husband would frequently ask me, the wearer of the watch, for a time check. I would usually answer “X o’clock central time” since that’s what my watch was set to, but every once in awhile I’d say “X o’clock local time.” All he wanted was a differential from the last time he asked anyway.

This drove Jane nuts.

“Why don’t you just change your watch to match local time?!”

We both answered her with the same reason: if I never change my watch, I always know for sure which time zone it is reading. Otherwise, I’m asking myself, “Did I already switch to mountain time or is this still central?”

Smart phones and other devices that are supposed to update the time automatically based on the time reported by the network they are connected to were supposed to make things easier for you. And as long as you keep it simple, I suppose they do. It can get complicated, though.

For instance, my daughter’s iPod updated automatically but not her phone, which she then changed manually. My phone, once we climbed out of Grand Canyon, informed me that the network was not providing a time so it was switching me to manual. Fine. So my phone is still Central. Good.

Except my phone – and my watch – were still set to Central STANDARD Time and the entire country (except Arizona) had switched to daylight savings the day we descended into the canyon – a fact that we conveniently ignored because it really didn’t matter at that time. Still, no problem at first: my watch (and phone) were an hour ahead of local time. Just like they should be for the way my head remembers the time zones.

But then we drove east – to Gallup, NM and got a hotel room. They, of course, had clocks in the room that reflected Mountain Daylight Savings Time, which, incidentally, happens to be the same time as Central Standard Time. Or, the time on my phone and watch. Even though I instinctively knew that they shouldn’t match.

So at some point in the evening, I noticed that the clock in the room said it was 10:00. If that were what time it really was, that’d be really bad because my kids were still awake watching the Disney Channel. So I checked my phone. 10:00. How can that be? My phone was on Central Time. This hotel room should be Mountain. Ohhh! Unless my phone updated for the network. I bet that’s what happened. I checked my watch to verify my theory. 10:00. What?! Maybe the hotel forgot to move the clocks forward last Sunday – I mean, they forgot to remove the large empty vodka bottle that we found on the floor behind the trash can, so I wouldn’t count on them remembering to reset all the clocks. But wait, if that was the case, the clock would show an hour earlier than I expected, not later. Oh, wait. We aren’t in Arizona anymore and… oh, yeah! I haven’t changed my watch yet and my phone gave up on automatically updating the time zone while we were in Arizona!

For awhile, I truly thought I might be going crazy.  In this age of technology, it was really disconcerting to me that I could have a half dozen time sources at my disposal and still not be sure what time it was.