Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Just what time is it?

I remember the first time I drove west through Indiana on my way to northern Wisconsin for a summer serving the Coast Guard in Door County at Station Plum Island; at the toll plaza was a sign announcing something bizzare about time zones and daylight savings time. I was confused, even though I understood some of Indiana is in the Eastern time zone and some of it is in the Central time zone and some of Indiana observes daylight savings time while some stays on standard time.

Now it turns out there's slow time and fast time. Dennis Cauchon of McPaper (that would be USA Today, the fast-food of journalism), writing about Santa Claus, IN, says,
The grocery store operates on Central Time -- or "slow time," as locals call it. The hardware store next door runs on Eastern Time -- or "fast time." The doctor, newspaper and nearby monastery are on fast time. The schools, churches and post office are on slow time. The American Legion hall has two clocks as a compromise.
Okay so far. Keep reading, though...
Indiana is a patchwork of counties observing Central or Eastern Time and Daylight or Standard Time. At the moment, Indiana operates under three times -- Central Daylight, Eastern Standard and Eastern Daylight. How the clocks are set depends on local custom, location and the season. Even then, people don't always agree....

Hoosiers have developed their own way to talk about time that avoids messy issues like time zones. When talking to someone from out of state, a Hoosier gives "Indiana time" -- the time that person is observing, even if it's different from elsewhere in the state. When talking with someone in the state, a Hoosier will specify fast or slow time: A movie at 7 p.m. fast time is the same as a movie at 6 slow time, for example.

Tracy Caddell, the school superintendent in Switzerland County, east of Santa Claus, has his kitchen clock on slow time and his living room clock on fast time. His school system is on slow time (Eastern Standard), but neighboring Ohio County and nearby Cincinnati are on fast time (Eastern Daylight). "The optometrist is on fast time. The dentist is on slow time. Granny's restaurant is on fast time. The post office is on slow time," he says.

Wedding invitations and funeral notices specify fast time or slow time. Married couples set clocks to different times on opposite sides of the bed....

Another strange thing: Fast and slow time vary, even if the clock doesn't change. Sometimes fast and slow time are the same. Sometimes they are different. And sometimes fast time is actually slow time....

On April 3, Indiana's 10 slow-time (Central) counties went on daylight-saving time and suddenly were on the same time as Indiana's 77 Eastern Standard counties. "For some people, the day the clocks change is almost like Christmas," says Mike Shriefer, transportation director at the Spencer County schools.

That same day, though, the five Eastern Daylight counties moved ahead an hour and went out of sync with the state.
Get that?

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