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Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007


Time-zoning phenomenon linked to dozers

I finally figured out why Japanese people sleep on the train. They have jet lag. It's not jet lag from jets, but jet lag from trains, caused by crossing time zones on the train.

Although Japan has only one time zone for the entire country, it has many mini-time zones. Riding the train, one passes through several mini-time zones. I call this time-zoning.

The time in the countryside, for example, is slower than time in the faster-paced cities. So with each train stop closer to the city, time gets a little faster. It's this time difference between the house and the office that throws the Japanese for a loop.

Now imagine the people who ride the shinkansen to work. They are passing through time zones faster than a World War I plane. Consider the World War I flying ace Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel going a maximum speed of 185 kph. He would have been better off fighting the Red Baron in a shinkansen.

With the speed of the shinkansen, those ladies pushing carts down the aisles and selling coffee and obento should really be saying, "Chicken or beef?"

Let's examine time a little more closely. Everyone creates his or her own construct of time. The time you wake up in the morning is bound to be different from the next person. And surely, you don't go to bed at exactly the same time every night. While we may have an alarm clock to wake us up every morning, I've never heard of anyone who uses a clock to beep in an irritating tone to tell them to go to bed.

So with various times of going to sleep and various times of waking up you have a country full of people who have had various amounts of sleep. It's only natural that it should come as a shock to the body that we should all have to be somewhere, such as work, at the exact same time in the morning.

Consider this. According to the body's natural rhythms, your body will go to sleep on its own, and it will wake up on its own, but your body would never go to work on its own. Work is, to put it bluntly, unnatural.

So the act of leaving your own time zone, riding the train and arriving in your work place's time zone, is an act of sheer force on the body. And the body needs time to recuperate. So, Japanese people prefer to sleep through this transition, so as not to have to turn their body clocks forward each time they go to work, and backward each time the go home.

Besides, I've always thought we've got the use of the clock all wrong. The clock has three ways it can move: clockwise, counterclockwise and otherwise. Most clocks move clockwise, in just one direction, the hands going round and round ticking off the hours of the day.

But if this was the true function of the clock, it would have been made with 24 numbers on it, rather than just 12. We've obviously got it all wrong. I think that once the small hand has made the first 12-hour revolution from midnight to noon, it ought to just reverse and go the other way. If it did, we'd be back in bed by 8 a.m. And we'd still be able to maintain the 24-hour day.

The otherwise direction of the clock refers to your body clock. How the clock gets inside your body is a mystery, but almost everyone seems to have one. This is a backup clock that you can use in case of a power outage. But since everyone's body clock works of its own accord, the direction is neither clockwise nor counter clockwise, but otherwise. So if you are relying on your body clock to wake up for work in the morning, you may be a little late.

If you're male, when you get older, your clock will be called a grandfather clock. There are no grandmother clocks though, which is why women should be forgiven for running late sometimes.

So the next time you see Japanese people sleeping on the train, you'll know it is because they are time-zoning, dealing with time in their own way. After all, it was Einstein who said that time is relative to the observer of it.

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