PORCH READING - By The Time I Get To Phoenix ...

(11/09/2011)

Rick Poling's Porch Stories

By Rick Poling
Executive Director
Calhoun County Committee on Aging
rpoling@cccoa-wv.org

Changes to and from Daylight Saving Time always bring some time-fuzzy days, but for me, all of those time-warps seem mild compared to the time several years ago when I went to Phoenix.

It all started with a simple twenty minute drive from my home to Charlotte’s airport on a Sunday that happened to be the first day of Daylight Saving Time (DST). I was scheduled to meet at 10:00am the next morning in Phoenix with a Neurosurgeon whom had agreed to be an expert witness in a case, and flight schedules and distance made it necessary to fly out the day before.

Although I had dutifully set my clocks and watch one hour forward, as usually happens on the Sunday of a DST change one way or the other, only about half of the clocks around town had been changed to the “new” time, and the remainder had not.

I would have welcomed a reliable tie-breaker to provide some reassurance of my time calculation, but since this trip occurred in the era before modern nationwide roaming among cellphone carriers, and since Phoenix was not on my carrier’s roaming list, I had not brought along my cellphone, my usual trusty source of accurate local time.

Once on the plane though, I felt quite proud that I had calculated the “new” time well enough to not miss my plane yet avoid wasting a lot of time waiting around in the airport. I settled into my plane window seat and prepared for my usual long-flight activity (napping) with no idea it would be the last time in the next twenty-four hours that I had any accurate notion of what time it actually was.

To reach Phoenix, I needed to change planes in Denver, which, like Phoenix, is in the Mountain Time Zone. So, after being awakened by the “fasten your seat-belts for landing” announcement, as the plane started its descent into Denver, I started to set my watch back two hours to reflect the two-hour time difference between Eastern Daylight Saving Time and Mountain Daylight Saving Time.

While I was re-setting my watch, the flight attendant recited a long list of connecting flight information over the plane’s P.A. system, and I interrupted my watch re-setting process to write down the concourse and gate number of my next flight when I heard it announced. I was also a bit distracted during the time re-setting process when I realized by my watch that our plane was supposed to have landed thirty minutes earlier. I asked a neighboring passenger if that was right. He said yes, we had been in a BLEEPing circling pattern for “nearly an hour” (an exaggeration? I thought so ... ) due to weather-related flight delays and resulting gate congestion at Denver’s airport.

Well, I thought, regardless of the exact delay time, we were landing much later than originally scheduled; there would be less time to make the already tight flight connection, so I would need to hustle. At least I had avoided everyone else’s delay frustrations with my two-time-zone snooze.

“Wait a minute,” I thought as the plane stopped at the gate and everyone started rushing to grab carry-on baggage, “did I interrupt my watch re-set after I had turned back two full hours, or only partially there?” I wasn’t sure, but being a fairly frequent traveler at the time, I felt comfortable that I could rely upon my usual arbiter of local time while travelling: the airport flight monitors.

When I got off the plane, no monitors were in sight. Rushing along the corridors toward my next gate, I peered into shops and restaurants looking for clocks. As in Charlotte, only about half the clocks agreed what hour it was, but I at least gained some hint of the correct minute setting (only a hint though; the minute settings varied considerably).

Finally, up ahead I saw a bank of flight monitors . . . the answer would soon be revealed.

I’m not kidding - when I reached the monitors, they showed nothing but blank flickering white snow. “Maybe I should have just had a nice long phone conference with the Doc,” I thought; “this flying thing is for the birds.” As I approached the gate for the flight to Phoenix, the first thing I saw was a big red “DELAYED” on the gate sign. Well, at least I hadn’t missed the flight, right?

The gate attendant said the monitors were down because of the inability to keep all flight information accurate due to so many weather delays, in which case the airport takes the entire system “off-line” until it can be managed again.

How helpful.

I asked her what time it was, and I guess she thought I was joking because she replied, “As long as you catch your plane, it doesn’t matter, right?”

I decided to agree.

Near the end of the flight from Denver to Phoenix, I asked the couple next to me if they knew the time, and immediately wished I hadn’t. They were from New York, and had argued the entire flight about all matter of nonsense in a very loud New York “tone” that had quieted down until re-ignited by my simple question.

They did agree on the minute setting (which matched mine - somewhat reassuring after seeing so many variances in Denver) but he argued Phoenix was two hours earlier than New York time, while she maintained Phoenix was three hours earlier than New York time because, she argued, Phoenix didn’t use Daylight Saving Time. She was unanimously scoffed and voted down by the surrounding passengers, so I kept my watch at its two-hour earlier than Eastern Daylight Saving Time setting.

At the rental car desk in Phoenix, I was informed my rental car reservation had been released since I was more than two hours later than my scheduled pick-up time, but that they could accommodate me anyway. Over two hours late? Whatever ... at least I had a car. I drove to the hotel and checked in, and, of course, the bedside clock in the room was waaaaaay off. “What a nightmare re-setting all the clocks in a hotel must be when the time changes,” I said to myself.

I checked out of the hotel the next morning and drove to the doctor’s office for our meeting. I thought I was about thirty minutes early, but the doctor’s receptionist advised that I was in fact two and one-half hours early.

What?! Okay, well, I would find a way to kill two hours.

She told me an Air Force plane “graveyard” nearby was interesting, as was a desert area, so I headed out.

The desert seemed vast and deserted (pardon the pun), so when my bladder started strenuously urging me to stop the car a moment, I did.

I walked around to the passenger side and opened the rear passenger door to provide cover, and was about to proceed when I heard a faint rustle behind me.

Looking around, I saw not one, but two rattlesnakes leering at me. Now, my logical mind told me they were too far away to be a danger, but my imagination could only envision four fangs flying through the air my way.

Like a flash, I sailed across the back seat and out the back door on the other side, and back into the driver’s seat and peeled out, letting the car’s motion slam all the doors shut. Fortunately, my bladder slammed shut too (I whispered a prayer of thanks that it had not chosen to go the other way) and it actually did not regain normality until the flight home, probably somewhere over New Mexico. When I got back to the doctor’s office, I was ushered directly into his office, with him saying he was glad we could start our meeting “earlier than planned.” (Huh?)

When we concluded, I declined his offer to have lunch. I was taking no more chances on time or circumstances or snakes in Phoenix. I went straight to the airport and to my plane’s gate and sat with eyes glued on the ramp loading door, boarding pass in hand.

It would’ve taken an army to keep me off that plane. I’d spent a week in Phoenix in one day.

All became clearer the next day, back in Charlotte, when my paralegal (from Texas) told me Arizona, like Hawaii, does not change to Daylight Saving Time, so the time difference there had been three hours earlier than Eastern Daylight Saving Time, not two as I had calculated.

(The New York woman had been right - I should’ve known). And, the doctor had called our office Monday morning to delay our meeting an hour, but I had already left the hotel when she called me there to relay that news.

Ahhh, so, a portion of the “twilight zone” occupying Phoenix had a feasible explanation ... the “lost” two hours weren’t lost after all. Later that week, fully recovered from the Phoenix time-warp and somewhat adjusted to the new Daylight Saving Time, I was choosing bananas in the grocery store when I noticed that an “elevator-music” version of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” was playing over the store’s sound system.

I heard a guy in the apple section nearby trying to sing along, apparently only knowing the title words to the song.

I could not resist smiling and exclaiming in his general direction, “Buddy, by the time you get to Phoenix, you won’t have any idea what time it is.”

QUOTE OF THE MONTH: “Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin


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