Katy Burns: Time out! New Hampshire doesn’t need a new zone

Monitor columnist
Published: 3/10/2019 12:25:12 AM

For some inexplicable reason a number of New Hampshire lawmakers – otherwise sane and sober upright citizens – seem to want to divorce most of the Eastern United States and instead align our sovereign state with Nova Scotia.

Yes, Nova Scotia. The one in Canada. The place whose major claims to fame include being the home of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever – which, I’ll admit, looks like a pretty darned cute dog – as well as where odometers and time zones were supposedly invented.

It is also the Nova Scotia where Atlantic Standard Time reigns supreme. AST is one hour earlier than Eastern Standard Time (EST), which we currently enjoy, and I do mean “enjoy.” It is one of the things that unite us with our fellow countrymen. And countrywomen, if you want to nitpick.

There is a move afoot, though, to wrench our state out of the Eastern time zone compact and shuffle us over to the Atlantic time zone, where we would adopt the time of – drum rolls, please! – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

For those whose geography skills are shaky, those are all provinces in Canada, our northern neighbor. Good people, but, well, not American.

And in furtherance of this scheme there have been not one but two votes in our Legislature in recent years to leave our Eastern time zone – shared by the entire Eastern Seaboard and most of the abutting Eastern United States – for the Canadian alternative.

Monitor reporter Ethan DeWitt wrote about this just last week. It would seem that (in the opinion of some) our current embrace of Eastern time combined with switching in and out of daylight saving time is “poorly matched to the times.” Others argue that this jumping back and forth several times a year because of daylight savings is bad for our physical health. Atlantic time, with no daylight savings, would be much healthier.

Don’t ask me to explain! I’m just quoting the change proponents.

David Brooks, the Monitor’s instructive and entertaining Granite Geek, has written a number of pieces illuminating the vagaries of this time-shifting proposal. If you missed them, you should look them up.

You should also look for the 2010 book Turn and Jump, a delightful history of “how time and place fell apart,” by Hancock author Howard Mansfield, which charts how the world has dealt with the concept of time over the centuries. Hint: Trains play a big role.

You will be reminded that the U.S. currently has four time zones, and we are in the easternmost one, along with the rest of the original 13 colonies. Who, let us remember, invented this whole “united states” concept that we generously shared with johnny-come-lately states.

It is also, should you care to check it out on a map, clearly the best time zone, encompassing every bit of the Atlantic coast from Machias, Maine, to Florida’s Key West and westward to Indiana.

Within the borders of our time zone lies the best history. Good grief, we can lay claim to the whole Colonial era and the brilliant and successful American Revolution – which since then has inspired other freedom-loving folks across the globe. And while it was far grimmer, the Civil War was largely fought in our time zone as well. Plus, the good side did, finally, win.

The Eastern time zone has the best food, hands down, with our delectable seafood, from Maine’s lobsters to Florida’s shrimp. The hearty New England settlers were inspired by our long winters (not to mention the threat of starvation) to turn humble root vegetables and squashes into culinary masterpieces – chef Ina Garten prides herself on her delectable melding of mashed yellow turnips with crispy shallots – and of course genuine Boston baked beans have provided nourishment on many a bitter winter night.

We certainly have the best cities, small and large, centers of trade and commerce as well as glorious art, culture, music and education. We have historic seaports and small fishing villages as well as vibrant manufacturing centers, world-class educational institutions and bucolic small towns nestled in picturesque river valleys.

We here in the New England portion have the Patriots, the Celtics and the Red Sox.

And all of these glories are an integral part of the Eastern time zone from which some of our fellow Granite Staters want to remove us.

Now zone change proponents would probably pooh-pooh any alarm some of us might feel. It’s only a time zone, for heaven’s sake. Except for children standing in the cold winter dark waiting for the bus, no one is much inconvenienced. And a little morning misery will strengthen the little kiddies’ character, they say. We will still be part of New England, part of the good old U.S. of A.

But would it end there? And even if it did, we would still be spiritually removed from our kith and kin. And physically divided. We would drive over to Vermont for a noon lunch in White River Junction, only to discover that the café wasn’t open because in Vermont it’s still 11 in the morning!

If the 6:30 network news for us won’t be on until 7:30, what do we do during dinner? Talk?

Come New Year’s Eve, we’ll be donning funny hats, picking up our noisemakers and popping champagne corks while the vast rest of our part of the country will still be trying to figure out where the confetti and streamers from the year before were stored. We won’t get Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve until 1 a.m.!

Not good at all.

Plus, they argue, it won’t really happen. Not when the legislation says that the change can’t take effect unless Maine and Massachusetts lawmakers pass a similar law, and even then various federal technocrats have to give the law their blessing.

Poppycock. After all, most of us also said that an ignorant and malevolent old boor could never be elected president and maliciously undo about 70 years of enlightened progress in this great country.

And look where we are now.

I say, lay off our time zones!

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

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