Pet Peeve #4: Time zones are for locals

Have you ever made a list of pet peeves? I’m not referring to the behavioral quirks that couples develop over years of cohabitation. That’s part of every relationship and it is only addressed through give and take and a lot of patience. Rather, I refer to the little things that have become institutionalized all around us—and yet, we know that they are just plain idiotic. The problem is that they are too small to be picked up by the national news and too common to believe that they can be avoided.

Let’s say that you are driving along a road that comes to an end by forming a ‘T’ at the side of a much busier road. The cross street is busy, but it’s not divided. You plan to make a left turn after clearing a string of high-speed cars approaching from the right.

Conditions are good and there are no obstructions. There is no one coming from the left. Looking to the right, you can see a mile down the road. There are 4 cars speeding toward you, a long space and then a major throng of cars that will tie up the intersection for minutes. You get ready to drop the hammer as soon as that 4th car passes the intersection. You are patient, in a good mood and your car is well tuned.

Traffic Intersection

What’s the dumbest thing that the driver in car #4 could do? Does he have the power to ruin your day and raise your blood pressure while trying to be a nice guy? He sure does!

He can hesitate—slowing just enough to get honked by the parade behind him and just enough to close your window of opportunity. If you are in a hurry to get somewhere, he will ruin your morning faster than you can mime “Move your friggin’ tailpipe!!”. He is oblivious to the fact that his gesture of good will has backfired.

Cross street drivers who let up on the gas are one of my three pet peeves. But today, I was reminded of another minor irritation. From now on, I will call it “Pet Peeve #4”.

I have a good friend in Germany. He is a high tech entrepreneur and tends to move about the globe. His businesses are in Australia and New Zealand, and he spent a long part of the past year in Shanghai. I never know where he will be. But he is currently in Germany and he knows that I am in America.

Realizing that we need to discuss an important matter, he asks me if I will be available during my weekday mornings, between 9 and 11 AM my time. Noting that he has already contemplated the time difference, I check my calendar. “Sure. That works for me,” I tell him… “Why don’t you set the schedule? Any morning this week is good.” He commits to have a colleague figure out the final date.

Taj MahalMinutes later, I receive a Google Calendar link for my approval. It asks that our meeting be established on Wed 26 Nov 2014 from 21:30 to 22:00, India Standard Time. I was unprepared for the involuntary groan that arose from the pit of my stomach. Here, is an open letter to my buddy and the colleague who scheduled our conference to be held on India Time…

C’mon guys / gals… The Internet works on “Internet Time”, also known as UTC or GMT. It is effectively Earth time. It never changes with seasons, war, edict, accidents or daylight savings. It just moves forward as the universal heartbeat of the Internet.

clocksPlease don’t make me translate your Indian Standard Time. I will get it wrong. I always do.

And please don’t figure it out in “USA-Eastern Standard Time”.  Here in the US, politicians shift Daylight Savings dates, sometimes splitting it by local counties. In some areas, they change it by only 30 minutes for border towns. (Yes! We are that nuts).

So please: Just tell me the time in UTC. It is the only time that should ever be cited when dealing with anyone that you can’t reach with a personal handshake.

P.S. Don’t take insult when I post your suggested meeting time (and this sarcastic response) to A Wild Duck. Sure, you helped me to discover a new peeve—But you have also hit upon my funny bone!

Faithfully yours,

6 thoughts on “Pet Peeve #4: Time zones are for locals

  1. Hello Ellery,

    I am the colleague in that scheduled your meeting on an Indian clock. I never expected that gaffe to become a Wild Duck article, but at least it is all in fun! I can see that your gripe is not personal.

    The thing is that I am not in Germany, I am in El Salvador right now, And Doug is not in Germany, New Zealand or Shanghai. He is in India this week. Like you said, he really gets around!

    Sorry for the confusion, to be honest, it’s kind of weird, since the appointment appeared in Doug’s calendar as EST (USA Eastern Time), when it should have automatically converted to Germany or India (depending on Google awareness of his location). But true, his calendar is right now in IST, since he is India and that’s why it’s easier for me to know when I can reach him.

    I am in El Salvador right now and I have to arrange meetings in so many different time zones that it get’s really complicated. Not everybody can deal just with GMT time 🙂 I agree that it would be much easier. But, no worries, I just sent you the invite with GMT / UTC time.

    Meeting is held, 26th of Nov. 4PM GMT time:-)
    Pet peeve–Hah! Have a great evening, Ellery.

  2. Ellery, A wild duck is far and away my favorite recreational reading site. If you published a new article every hour, I would make it my home screen.

    With your Pet Peeve #4, I realize that I most fancy the posts that you classify as “Kitch & Satire”. You call them fluff, but I think of them more as a lifetime of Ellery’s clever observations.

    In the immortal words of the other most interesting man in the world, “Stay Thirsty, my friend!”

  3. Hi! You were a great sub for Mr Dao and Mr Dyer! Very fun and amusing. I agree with GMT peeve, but it has yet to be accepted and have people think it is interesting. I have a whole page on my phone devoted to Afro-Eurasian Times, for reference and to help me keep track for my future as a Portfolio Manager. You have great posts and they are very interesting. I set up a blog on Wix, but have not published it yet. When I do, I’ll tell you!

  4. Hello Jack,

    Were you a student in those classes or the parent of a student? Your comments seems very “adult-like”.

    Addressing your statements in sequence:

    1. Thank you! I really enjoyed being a guest teacher and I was impressed with the enthusiasm, engagement and depth of students in the two classes that you mentioned.
    2. We agree on the GMT issue. It puzzles me that so many people believe it would be confusing to wake at 4PM or return from work at 2AM. To me, a world time standard would be less confusing. Citizens of every region would quickly adapt to think of daily activities (sunrise, work, dinner) with whatever hour relates to those agendas.
    3. Future as a portfolio manager… That’s great, Jack. Whether you are a middle-school pupil or a parent, keep at it! I am still pursuing career goals and I admire yours.
    4. Keep me posted on your Blog—and feel free to advise Wild Ducks (i.e. my own readers). You can do so by adding to this comment when you publish your Blog. I am confident that many in this audience will find your Blog to be informative and relevant.


  5. I am one of the students, but my typing just comes out like that. I think it is due to the books I read. Thanks for responding!

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