Keeping Time, Baja Style

Published 21 April 08 11:01 AM

Keeping Time, Baja Style
By The Baja Gringo

Minutos, Como sal en la herida,
se me pasa la vida, gastando el reloj.
Minutos, son la morgue del tiempo;
cadáveres de momentos que no vuelven jamás.
Ricardo Arjona

As an early April Fool’s joke played on our Hermanos-Gringos to the north, those of us living on the southern side of the border have enjoyed the supreme luxury of an extra hour of delicious sleep each morning for most of March and the first week of April this year. Not that we necessarily got up at any different time than normal, but thanks to the “change” in the date that time changes our Baja clocks are now “out of sync” with their counterparts to the north for several weeks each spring and fall.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who is left scratching his head trying to figure out this whole time change thing anyway? I am sure that many of us have heard the story that Daylight Saving Time was an idea originally credited to Benjamin Franklin. He came up with the idea as a means of creating more daylight hours in the evening to save on candles. I am not exactly sure how many candles we would save today but I must admit that I do like the idea of having more hours of sunlight when I come home to enjoy watching a classic Baja sunset.

I decided to do a bit of research on the subject of this time change phenomenon and I discovered a few interesting facts along the way.

Benjamin Franklin might have come up with the original idea but the United States was not the first country to actually implement the change. That credit goes to Germany and Austria who first tried Daylight Saving in 1916. The United States didn`t get around to even establishing what Standard Time was across the country until the year 1883. That only came about because the railroads demanded that the government come up with some standard means of determining time as they traveled across the states and territories. I doubt it made much difference as to if any train actually arrived on time but at least the conductor could tell the passengers exactly how late they would arrive at the next station.

Daylight Saving Time in the United States was signed into law with the Uniform Time Act of 1966 by President Johnson to set up standard dates to begin and end this time change. Until that law was passed, cities, counties and states were allowed to decide for themselves on what date to make the spring/fall time change or not at all. I read that someone traveling along a 35-mile stretch of road on Highway 2 in West Virginia and Ohio back then would have had to change the time on their watches seven times to be on the correct local time. Someone living along that stretch of road could clock out of the office at 5:00 and get home before quitting time.

The idea of Daylight Saving Time was to save energy as we would have more hours of daylight available in the evening before going to bed and ultimately use less energy to light our homes. Not too many of us still use candles for lighting as in old Ben Franklin’s day but some politician did the math and figured that burning fewer KW hours of electricity would reduce the demand on imported oil. The jury seems to be out on that one as many believe it makes no difference at all as some people just stay up later now. With all of the computers, play stations, x-boxes, plasma televisions, microwave ovens and hair driers today the demand for electricity is just as high, if not more.

I simply like the idea of Daylight Saving Time because it leaves me with the feeling that I have more hours left for me at day’s end – something I like to call my “Baja Time”. My only question is why we just cannot stay on Daylight Saving Time all year round? Are candles that much cheaper in winter?

One of the arguments most loudly voiced from the opposition includes the point that in wintertime, school children need more early morning daylight so as not to walk to school in the dark. Another argument is put forth by dairy farmers who argue that Daylight Saving Time disrupts their cow’s milking routines.

As I think about those arguments I remember my mom telling us as kids, that when she was our age she had to walk five miles to school in the dark, uphill (in both directions) in a blizzard with red fever and no gloves. I have learned that the rules of physics seem to have changed since those early days of my mom’s childhood. A college education has taught me that in the modern age, walking from point A to point B uphill and then from point B back to point A, also uphill, is almost impossible. Many other laws of physics and mathematical constants seem to have changed from the days when my mom was a young girl, but I will save that topic for another column.

I seriously doubt that too many of our school children today would have to suffer such dire conditions as those that my mother endured, to get an education without someone calling child protective services and the board of education getting recalled.

As for the cows, I think that if somebody would just take down the barn clock it would solve the entire problem. If the cows really insist on having a clock, then just leave it set on the old time - ignorance is bliss, isn’t that what they tell us?

I must admit that I was really quite impressed to learn that cows even knew how to tell time in the first place.

So the real problem comes down to when to change time and how to do it. The United States and Mexico clicked along in nearly perfect sync with the time change until last year when the Energy Policy Act of 2005 took effect, extending Daylight Saving Time several weeks in the spring and fall. As with many things that politicians do, it was probably all done with good intentions. The reality now is that all along the border we now go for several weeks with an hour difference in time from north to south.

Local radio stations give us one time in San Diego and a different time in Tijuana. Commuters living south of the border are an hour late to work in San Diego. Friends coming down from San Diego to pick me up for our 8:00 tee time are ringing my doorbell at 5:45 AM. Yes, I was asleep and yes, you are an hour early, thank you.

To make things even more complicated not every state north of the border follows the time change. The act signed into law back in 1966 only set the dates for the time change to occur, not requiring that any state make the change. Indiana was a hotbed of time change controversy for years but finally raised the white flag in 2005. Arizona and Hawaii are the two lone holdouts remaining. Hawaii enjoys so much sunshine all year long; they probably don’t miss losing an hour of it in the evening. We can give Hawaii a pass on that one.

I didn’t realize how many dairy farmers there are in Arizona.

There are a few rumors going around that the Mexican government is considering the possibility of moving the time change dates to get back in sync with the norteños. This will probably involve the consensus of more politicians. That might take awhile. I figure that by the time we get around to catching up with the time change down here, some politician in Washington (who also happens to be a dairy farmer) will present a bill to change it back to the original dates and we will be out of sync again.

Another problem I have with the time change is figuring out which direction to move the clock hands. I know it goes something like spring forward and fall back. Or do we spring back and fall forward? I never could quite get that simple maneuver straight after all these years and now to complicate the matter we have a false start of sorts with the difference in time change dates across the border.

One concession I make during this period of border time change controversy is to set the bathroom clock on north of the border time. I often have business in San Diego and by having the bathroom clock set ahead I make sure I won’t be late while I shave and shower in the morning. I also like to keep the kitchen clock set to San Diego time as well. I keep my eye on that one while having my morning coffee.

Looking around the house, we must have over thirty clocks spread around on walls, shelves, bookcases, ovens, radios, alarms, televisions, satellite boxes, microwaves, coffee makers, the stovetop and a few more that I can never seem to find or remember. Inevitably some will not get changed and others may even get changed twice. A few others have dead batteries and the end result is having clocks with as many as six or seven different time settings all around the house and I am never quite sure which one is correct. I might check my computer to find out but then I remember that it changes automatically to Daylight Saving Time. But then I am not sure if that is the “old” time change date or the “new” time change date? It only gets more confusing.

Another thing that bothers me is trying to figure out what happens with the hour lost in the spring time change? At 2:00 AM the clock magically springs forward to 3:00 AM. So where did that hour go? I am convinced that we are screwing with the whole time-space equilibrium thing and I have wondered what Einstein would have to say about that? I even find myself imagining what would have happened if Doctor Emmett Brown, the mad inventor from Back to the Future had programmed the flux capacitor of the time traveling Delorean to leap forward in time to 2:05 AM on the same spring Sunday morning when we change over to Daylight Saving Time? Where would Marty McFly go? Would he be lost in time? Would he just vanish into time change purgatory?

Probably not I reckon; he can always land in my living room. There is bound to be at least one clock in my house that is set to the same time as the flux capacitor.

My head spins trying to make sense of it all and I find it easier just to step out on the deck and forget about the whole time change thing for the moment. I don’t even want to look at a clock right now. Feeling the cool ocean breeze I am reminded that whatever time it is, I get to spend most of it here enjoying the wonderful life that Baja California offers me. The peninsula could care less what time it is north or south of the border as she passes through her endless cycle of seasons, tides and whale migrations. Watching the dolphins play in the surf below, I don’t see a single one wearing a watch. I am almost positive that dolphins are smarter than cows and they don’t seem to be too worried about the time change either.

If you really think about it, clocks marking time and time itself are two very different things. Clocks can be set, moved forward, moved back, or stopped. I remember my life when living north of the border years ago and how I felt like I was competing to constantly stay ahead of that clock, my appointments and calendar. No matter how early I started my day, how fast or far I ran the clock would always win. I felt like most of the guys on the PGA Tour in any tournament with Tiger Woods. I was only playing for second place.

In contrast to clocks, time is a silent, gentle, invisible force that moves constantly forward like a slow flowing river. Clocks were invented only to remind us of things we have to do. Time is life, there to enjoy the things we want to do, sharing with those we love when not having to watch the clock. Time is marked by the warm, setting sun each day in its constant cycle God created with its natural cycles of life and season. I don’t think God worries too much about the time change or if any of the clocks are set to any particular hour, minute or second. There is some greater wisdom there that had long escaped my grasp until now. Finally I am beginning to truly comprehend what is important in my life in relationship to time.

Today I just want to think about today.

The best time of my life is - today.

I will never be younger than I am - today.

I will never have so much life to live ahead of me, as I have - today.

I have my precious Cristina alive and well, next to me - today.

My friends and family remaining are all alive and well - today.

I am physically able to go out and do the things that I love and enjoy - today.

I can invite those who I care most about in this world to come and share laughter and conversation with food, wine and music in my home - today.

I can still call my 79 year old mom on the phone and tell her that I love her - today.

I might even give her a quick review of what I have learned about the laws of physics and how much I want to spend more of this precious commodity of time together with her – today.

Life has taught me that I may not have all these same opportunities tomorrow. Some of them might even escape me an hour from now. There is no more difficult lesson in life to learn. Trust me on this one, I speak from experience.

Having wasted too much of my life tied to a clock I do feel so fortunate that I made the decision to move south and relocate down here along the northern Baja Pacific coastline. Nothing in life is perfect but this is as close as it gets as far as I am concerned. Many of my friends living north of the border tell me that they envy me and wish they could do the same thing that I did. The reality is that they could – but unfortunately they still are living tied to their clocks. A new friend asked me recently if she would be nuts to move down here at age 54? I told her that some of my friends and family thought I was crazy when I first made the move here years ago.

Now I can’t seem to get them out of my guest bedroom.

Looking at the clock now, I see only a reminder of how much life I still have to live, not missed appointments or time changes. Time that can be spent not having to watch a clock. My life north of the border was occupied with appointments to keep, meetings to attend, tasks to complete, important phone calls to make, deadlines to meet and on and on and on. They all have their place in life but for too long I allowed them to become priorities over all else. I doubt that any of those things will matter much in the end when I take a hard look back on my life and the manner in which I chose to use my time. I would hate to think that those would be the things I would be remembered for in my obituary.

Time is now. Time is life and today is the only guarantee we have of ever again being able to enjoy sharing that time with those we love and care about most. I am so thankful that I didn’t wait another ten years to live the life I love here in Baja. I am truly living today and I have never loved life more.

Looking at all the clocks in my house I wonder about the coming time change in the fall. More clocks will change, some will not, a few will get batteries and others will get their time changed twice – again. I suppose that somebody will be asking for that extra hour of sleep back that we were so generously given in the springtime as well.

I can worry about all of that in the fall. When that time comes I could just turn off the alarm and sleep in for another hour. Maybe I’ll just get rid of a few of those clocks around the house. This is my life and I am living life my way on Baja Time and in Baja Style…

BajaGringo is Ronald Hoff


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