Friday, April 29, 2011

Let's Do the Time Warp Again

"With a bit of a mind flip, you're into the time slip."
The original title of this blog entry was going to be the alliterative "Breaking Blogger's Block" and I was going to rant on about how I had not been inspired to write about anything for several weeks now. However, it turns out that a rather insignificant, but somehow...dare I say "timely" annoyance managed to lift the fog of the blog and I had a thematic way to tie together all of the seemingly disparate parts. The trigger? Egypt decided to cancel daylight saving time this year. Trivial, I know, but it got me thinking about this bi-annual practice of collectively shifting time, why we do it, what the implications are and, then more broadly, what is happening on my own space/time continuum.

So, let me take you back in time to yesterday morning when I was lallygagging on my computer. My neighbor, Joe, walked past my door slightly miffed he was late for breakfast because, unbeknown to him, the clocks had all moved ahead one hour. That was also news to me, because earlier in the week I had glanced at (but had not focused on) a one-liner on some website that said that Egypt had decided to cancel daylight savings time for 2011. I hadn't even registered when that non-change was supposed to occur, but now, my whole day would shift by one hour if the clocks had actually been moved know the little ditty "Spring ahead; Fall behind" for those of us who can never remember which direction to go. My computer and several time-zone calculator sites all indicated that the shift had occurred in Egypt, but on-line news services claimed that it had not. The interim Egyptian government had taken a poll and determined that most Egyptians did not want to go to DST (the validity of such poll could be an entirely different blog tangent so I'll save that for another day). So was it 8 am or 9 am? One hour later (the very hour I "gained" or at least did not "lose" because DST did not apply here this year) I confirmed that no change to the clocks would be necessary this year. Whew!

By now, however, my curiosity was piqued. I vaguely knew that DST had something to do with farmers and sunlight, energy conservation, and getting more summer fun out of the day, but couldn't really say when the practice got started or why it continues on to this day. So I did what everyone does these days to find out anything--I went and Googled "history of daylight saving time" and found a very informative webpage called, of all things, Daylight Saving Time ( where I found not only history of the practice, but also some interesting anecdotes about how DST has had an unintended impact on people's lives (the guy who avoided the Vietnam draft and the miss-timed terrorist bomb were my favorites).

According to this source, the main reason for DST is that people like to have a longer evening to enjoy during the summer months. Makes sense to me...get those last rays of sun on the beach or on your barbecue chicken...what's not to like? But for the Egyptians, a longer day this summer would mean even more time to wait to eat during the fasting period (sun up until sundown) of the month of Ramadan, which falls squarely in August this year. If DST were in operation, Muslims would have to wait until somewhere around 8 pm or later eat, drink, and make whoopie. So it is no surprise to me that the new government elected to cancel DST this year, and, most likely, every year henceforth. For me, it will make little difference. Although the rising sun at 5 a.m may be a little hard to take, my apparently devout cats wake me just seconds before the 4 am-ish call to prayer, so I'll be up anyway.

Indeed, I will be having my own time warp of sorts at the beginning of June-- turning back the clock not one hour, but 30 years to spend a long weekend with my college classmates. I'm not sure exactly what is prompting me to take off time from my classroom duties, spend a gob of money and travel over 5,000 miles for a long weekend's worth of nostalgia. Certainly one motivating factor is that my friend Nancy Jean will be there, having just undergone a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery earlier this month. If she can make it to the reunion, what's a little time, money and jet lag among friends? And, truth be told, while I don't feel a day older than I did the first day I set foot on campus, maybe Riff Raff had it right-- "It's astounding, time is fleeting. Madness takes control." So, crazy as it may be, off I will go, not with the intention of reliving my misspent youth, but with the goal of raising a glass (or two, or three...) to it with those who were instrumental in misspending it with me. And hey, "it's just a jump to the left and then step to the right!"