This thing about daylight saving time

Tomorrow, Sunday the 13th, people in the US and Canada will be setting their clocks an hour ahead, marking the start of daylight saving time for them.

The whole idea, or so I’ve been told, is to allow more daylight hours in spring and summer for countries which observe daylight savings. I understand the logic, but I’ve never really been able to reconcile the act of ‘changing’ time just like that.

If one can simply add or subtract hours to your day by fiddling with one’s watches, does time even matter at all, since you’re messing around with it? If whole nations can collectively agree to, dare I say it- manipulate- time, what time exactly is it right now? Am I writing this at 11.45 pm Malaysian time on Saturday night or is this actually 12.45 in the morning?

I know, I’m going into serious Matrix territory here.

Everyone gets a kick out of setting their watches whenever they land in a new time zone. I remember having to do that four times in the US alone. When we landed in San Francisco, it was Pacific Time, then late one night as we were driving from Nevada to Arizona, we saw a road sign telling us that we’d just entered Mountain Time.

Mountain Time? We’d never heard of it before, but it sounded cool.

As we drove from west to east, we entered Central time when we reached Texas in a few days and about a week after that when we crossed into North Carolina, Eastern time.

It goes without saying that if you happen to be overseas in early spring or autumn, you need to be aware if the country you’re visiting observes daylight savings. This is especially so if you’re from equatorial Asia or Africa, where although many are aware of daylight savings, there’s no need for it in those countries, making it something one might overlook.

It’s also important to note that the European Union doesn’t observe daylight savings on the same date as North America. Countries in the EU turn their clocks forward on the last Sunday in March, a week later than the US and Canada.

Don’t make the mistake which some friends and I did on a trip to Italy. We had planned to visit the ruins at Pompeii, which is a three-hour train ride from Rome. We woke up early, had breakfast and made our way to Termini station. I had even memorised how to say “From which platform does the train to Pompeii leave?” in Italian.

When we got there, we discovered that there was only one departure on Sundays and that the train had left 15 minutes ago, although we had set out from our hostel early enough. So why did that happen?

That was Sunday, March 26, 2000, the day on which all the clocks in Italy moved an hour forward. Which means that when we arrived at the train station at what we thought was 8 am, for the whole of Europe, it was already 9 o’ clock.

In planning our trip, we had completely forgotten to pay attention to this important detail. Unfortunately, that day was also our last full day in Rome, so we never got to visit Pompeii or see Mount Vesuvius.

So back to my question: if you can mess around with time, does time really matter any more? Doesn’t it lose its significance, if that’s the case?

Oh look, it’s Sunday already.

© 2011 – 2014, Anis. All rights reserved.

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