Time stresses me out. Not only because I am running out of it, but because it's confusing as FCUK.
With the ability to stay in intimate contact with friends worldwide, knowing when they are awake requires constant calculations.
Time has transformed over the years from a human experience to one modified for the industrial revolution. A proposal aligns time to the age of the internet; however, the solution lies in adapting time zones for real humans.
The problem lies in the fact that it doesn't have to be confusing. There is a simple and elegant solution if only we'd all adopt it.
Welcome to Date Line Time.
My pulse always races because I once missed an international flight and became stranded.
MISSING MY FLIGHT
I was flying back to Melbourne from Europe to visit my parents. My partner had driven me through the dark streets to the airport. The cold night air was freezing my resolve to spend two weeks away from her.
The even colder air on the plane made it worse. I already missed her.
I landed (to be honest, the pilot did the landing, all I did was fold my tray into the upright position) at Bangkok Airport. I had a five-hour wait.
My partner was at work, so I wandered around the airport. It turns out that Bangkok Airport was designed by someone who'd lost a game of pick-up sticks. All straight lines jut out randomly. There is no central hub. Just small enclaves of food courts scattered at random.
After fours hours of waiting, I finally got to speak to her. She was getting ready for work.
After some time, she asked me when my flight was. I responded that it wasn't until 8 pm.
"But it is after 8 pm where you are."
I wandered over to the departure's board, confident she was wrong.
According to the board, it was 8.30 pm, and there was no sign of my Qantas flight.
I got confused because I was stuck between two different time zones and completely messed up.
As the flight had left successfully, the local Qantas staff had knocked off. The Australian offices had closed as it was after midnight.
To make matters worse, my Australian bank wouldn't authorise any payments I tried to make as they assumed any charges were fraudulent.
I was stranded. I had no money. All because I miscalculated the time zones.
WHY TIME ZONES MATTER
Recently I did a cohort-based course. All the times were ET. Not that confusing. Just Google it.
But when you meet people on Zoom, you can see, usually, the level of natural light around them.
As you are all passionate about the same thing, there is a degree of curiosity about these newly discovered friends. So where in the world are they?
Some people were lit only by their laptop screens as they lay in bed. Others had morning sunshine from obtuse angles.
Google "time zone" and plenty of websites dedicated to converting one time to another. I don't think it needs to be this complicated.
The question is:
HOW DID WE GET INTO THIS MESS?
It used to be that the only form of long-distance travel was by horse. And every town measured time by the sun.
Because there weren't mechanical watches, and you moved slowly, the sun was a reliable way of knowing the time of day.
The popularisation of trains and mechanical watches in the latter part of the nineteenth century made time a messy affair.
Midday was anchored to the watch and no longer to when the sun was at its zenith.
And trains meant that there needed to be an accepted concept of time between two distant places.
Each of the major cities in Germany had its own times, so travellers needed to know the differences between Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt time.
There were seventy-five different local times in the US as of 1875, with three in Chicago's windy city.
In 1878, Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming proposed the now-familiar concept of worldwide timezones. He divided the world into twenty-four zones. Each zone is 15 degrees of longitude apart and one hour apart.
The 1884 International Prime Meridian Conference standardised Flemings ideas. Much to the French disgust, the prime meridian would be Greenwich in the UK.
Stuck mid-way through the Pacific Ocean is that made-up place where yesterday meets today. The Line Islands are directly south of Hawaii, and yet they are 24 hours ahead.
TIME AS A POLITICAL WEAPON
Time has been a weapon or exertion of power for centuries. For example, in 46 BCE, Roman Emperor Julius Ceasar altered the calendar to stifle Christian influence.
Joseph Stalin abolished the weekend in Communist Russia because it had bourgeois overtones.
China, for purely political reasons, has only one time zone when it should have five. That means when it is 6 pm in Beijing, 3,000kms to the west, say in Kashgar, you might be having lunch. And when it is midnight, you'll be watching the sunset.
This notion of time zones has become a fossil of globalisation. And human interference.
Fleming's original concept of twenty-four equal zones has morphed into a Frankenstein 36 headed beast that makes zero sense.
WHAT ALTERNATIVES ARE THERE?
Wait for it.
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Even the acronym demonstrates that time is political. The French opposed CUT as an acronym, so they agreed on UTC. It's a FCUKed situation when we can't even agree on an abbreviation.
The idea is simple enough. When it is midnight in London (or Greenwich), it'll be midnight everywhere. So, for me on the east coast of Australia, I'd be eating breakfast, while someone in New York would be thinking about dinner.
What it does solve is a uniquely modern problem. When is that Zoom call happening? There is just one time. Simple.
Until you factor in real people.
Is 6 pm UTC a time when others will be awake? No way of knowing.
What is even more bazaar is that most of us will be awake when midnight happens. So if a New Yorker says they'll meet you Tuesday morning for a drink, they mean going out to a bar because it'll be night. On the other hand, if I say let's meet up early for a coffee, say 10 pm, you'll know that it'll be just after sunrise.
I think this will be way more confusing. So it's a big FCUK no from me.
We need to solve two things:
1/ When something is happening
2/ How it'll affect the various participants.
Instead of making Greenwich the zero, we make the dateline zero. It keeps Flemings idea of twenty-four zones but simplifies it.
And we count 1 hour for each 15 degrees from west to east.
Hawaii would be +2, New York +7, London (and Paris) would +12, and Melbourne would be +22.
Let's call it Date Line Time or DLT.
The most straightforward implementation would be that we refer to it in all communication. The event starts at 7ET (+7).
All you need to do is add or subtract. So, for example, I'll add 15 hours, whereas someone in Hawaii would minus 5 hours.
And just like some people add their preferred pronouns to their names, we could add our time zones. So I'd be Io Levoi (he/him) (+22).
It is a human-centric solution to what is ultimately a human problem.