My father has this personality quirk that drives me crazy. Whenever and wherever he travels, no matter how far, he refuses to reset his watch to the local time. For him, it's always whatever time it is in Cincinnati, Ohio, even if all the clocks around him flash the fact that it isn't, even if he's taking my mother, for example, on their once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation to Hawaii and the sun is setting in perfect postcard colors. "No wonder I'm sleepy," he'll say, glancing at his watch. "It's two in the morning." I don't know quite why it drives me so crazy. Maybe it's his small refusal to accept where he is at that moment or maybe its his small insistence that, at any moment, he's always home. I just know that, with a wristwatch and a strong will, my father has decided to ignore the laws of time.
It turns out that he's not so different from most of us who fly frequently from one time zone to another. In his new book, Jet Lag
(Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), Chris Lee
illuminates what happens to us when, thousands of feet in the air, trapped in an uncomfortable seat in coach or luxuriously sprawled out in first-class, we race ahead of the clock or fall behind it. Suddenly the sun shines when it shouldn't or the night comes to soon, and were out of synch, not only with time but, it can seem, with the world around us, even with ourselves. We're jet-lagged, and, as Lee cleverly shows, were experiencing much more than an inconvenience. We're experiencing something like modernity itself, where time, technology, and our global condition are not only made evident but also, as we stagger off our flights, exhausting.