How do time zones affect our lives, for better and for worse?

Time Zones are regions of the earth that have adopted the same standard time, usually referred to as the local time. Before the adoption of time zones, people used local solar time but this became a problem as railways and telecommunications improved. As people began to travel more, it became even more of a problem because clocks differed between places by an amount corresponding to the difference in their geographical longitude. The “solution” to synchronize all clocks to the same time meant that in some areas of the world, 12 midnight would occur during broad daylight and 12 noon would occur in absolute darkness. “Time zones are thus a compromise, relaxing the complex geographic dependence while still allowing local time to approximate the mean solar time” (Wikipedia).

With the advent of high speed plane travel, time zones have become somewhat of a major nuisance to many travelers. We have all experienced the concept of Jet Lag which appears to be induced by crossing multiple time zones. This has the effect of throwing our bodies into a state of disequilibrium which can take several days to readjust. There are 24 time zones spaced at intervals of 15° in longitude. You can go forward in time and lose time or backwards in time and gain time depending on your direction of travel. If you go west, you will gain time as you cross time zones and if you travel east, you will lose time as you cross time zones. What makes this system even more confusing is the International Date Line.

The International Date Line is the imaginary line on the earth that separates two consecutive calendar days. The date in the Eastern hemisphere, to the left of the line, is always one day ahead of the date in the Western hemisphere. Without the International Date Line, travelers going westward would discover that when they returned home, one day more than they thought had passed, even though they had kept careful tally of the days. (

If you have ever traveled very much, you will find that these systems are very irritating and perplexing. It is easy to lose track of what time it is where you started from and what time it will be where you are going. You may gain a day or lose a day. I have almost arrived back before I left from some trips. For instance, if you cross seven time zones from say Paris to Minnesota and you leave Paris at 7 AM and your plane could make the trip in 6 hours, you would arrive back one hour before you left. On the other hand, the flight there would take 13 hours even though the plane could make it in six.

There are all sorts of tips, tricks, etc, to follow to minimize the impact of jet lag. Over the course of several years, I have tried quite a few of them. I am still not sure which if any really work. Going west, going east, coming home, going there have all been equally hard or easy at one time or another. The more you travel, the easier it is to adjust, but it always takes some adjustment. I was more than happy a few years ago to stop flying as much as I had. With the new changes in airport security, I would just as soon stay home unless I was going on vacation.

How have you been affected by time zones and date lines? Do they impact your life at all? Do you ever notice their effects? Do you call across time zones or travel frequently across time zones? What do you do to minimize jet lag when you travel?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bgalbreath
    Nov 20, 2011 @ 17:26:28

    I have found that I adjust very quickly to time zone changes. I went to Kuwait last year for 10 days, and it took me one day to make the 6 hour adjustment (in both directions).

    One thing that I have never been able to get straight about is the international date line. What confuses me is that we have a fixed line where the date changes, but we also have a moving date change line (the time zone where it is midnight). Why do we need both?



  2. John Persico
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 13:56:36

    Good question Bruce. I guess the fixing of time is not so simple. I sometimes adjust well and other times not. I spent many years traveling each week for a consulting firm and can remember many sleepless nights.



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