We will awaken Sunday to yet another disturbance in the chronosphere — our twice-yearly jolt from resetting the clocks, mechanical and biological. Thanks to daylight saving time, we get a dose of jet lag without going anywhere.
Most people would be happy to dispense with this oddity of timekeeping, first imposed in Germany 100 years ago. But we can do better. We need to deep-six not just daylight saving time, but the whole jerry-rigged scheme of time zones that has ruled the world’s clocks for the last century and a half.
The time-zone map is a hodgepodge — a jigsaw puzzle by Dalí. Logically you might assume there are 24, one per hour. You would be wrong. There are 39, crossing and overlapping, defying the sun, some offset by 30 minutes or even 45, and fluctuating on the whims of local satraps.
Let us all — wherever and whenever — live on what the world’s timekeepers call Coordinated Universal Time, or U.T.C. (though ‘earth time’ might be less presumptuous). When it’s noon in Greenwich, Britain, let it be 12 everywhere. No more resetting the clocks. No more wondering what time it is in Peoria or Petropavlovsk. Our biological clocks can stay with the sun, as they have from the dawn of history. Only the numerals will change, and they have always been arbitrary.
Part of me agrees with this, especially because I work with clients and colleagues in several countries. It makes a lot of sense. But I really don’t see this happening; people want their noon and midnight, and there are good reasons to keep them.
I wonder, however, if the United States could be convinced to move to a single time zone. China had size time zones, and now only uses one. If the US did the same thing, I would imagine that the economic gain would not be negligible, because of time lost by people getting the time zone conversion wrong. Same for the European Union; they could make the switch and save time. But the entire world? Who decides that? Each individual country?
And if it were on the table, I can imagine the slogan for the anachronics: Make America Late Again.