Jackie Link's Blog

- A blog for no good reason

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Temporal Confusion

When I lived in Oregon in the early sixties, time was a huge problem every summer. If you were shopping you could probably find a store open by both Standard and Daylight Savings time, or Fast time, but figuring out the post office or when to meet a train or bus—Ha! I no longer remember what time we’d look for the “6:00 News” on T.V.

On returning to San Francisco, I tried to explain the different times to people with some difficulty, and then I ran into this description by Ken Kesey in Sometimes A Great Notion.

. . .And watching, seeing half-remembered farmhouses and landmarks stroking past, I couldn't quite shake the sensation that the road I traveled moved not so much through miles and mountains, as back, through time. Just as the postcard had come forward. This uneasy sensation provoked a glance at my wrist, and I thereupon discovered that my days of inactivity had allowed my self-winder to unwind.

"Say, excuse me." I turned again to the sack across from me. "Could you tell me the time?"

"The time?" His stubble split in a grin. "Golly, fella, we don't have such a thing as the time. You from outa state, ain't that so?"

I admitted it and he thrust hands in his pockets and laughed as though they were tickling him in there. "Time, eh? Time? They got the time so fouled up that I guess there doesn't nobody really know it. You take me,” he offered, leaning the whole prize toward me. “Now you take me. I’m a millworker an’ I work switch shifts, sometimes weekends off, sometimes a day here, a night someplace else, so you’d think that’d be enough of a mess, wouldn’t you? But then they got this time thing and I sometimes work one day standard, the next day daylight. Sometimes even come to work on daylight and go home on standard. Oh boy, time? I tell you, you name it. We got fast time, slow time, daylight time, night time, Pacific time, good time, bad time . . . Yeah, if we Oregonians was hawking time we’d be able to offer a variety! Awfullest mix-up they ever had.”

He laughed and shook his head, looking as though he could not have enjoyed confusion more. The trouble started, he explained, when the Portland district was legislated daylight time, and the rest of the state standard. “All them dang farmers got together is why daylight got beat for the rest of the state. Danged if I see why a cow can’t learn to get up at a different time just as easy as a man, do you?” During the ride I managed to find out that the chambers of commerce of other large cities—Salem, Eugene—had decided to follow Portland’s lead because it was better for the business, but the danged mudballs in the country would have no part of such high-handed dealing with their polled wishes and they continued to do business on standard. So some towns didn’t officially change to daylight but adopted whey they called fast time, to be used only during the week. Other towns used daylight only during store hours. “Anyway, what it comes down to is nobody in the whole danged all-fired state knowin’ what time it is. Don’t that take all?” I joined him in his laughter, then settled back to my window, pleased that the whole danged all-fired state was as ignorant of the time of day as I was.

I doubt Oregon time is still that crazy, but I don’t actually know when or if it was ever changed to agree with the rest of our time zone (and that’s another story, isn’t it?).

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