18 February 2008
Setting Clocks Less
TO once stayed in a European hotel during the night when Summer Time shifted back to Standard Time, departing on an early flight the following morning. At that time, TO had a new watch, or at least one whose behavior TO had not previously observed across such a transition. Should TO reset the watch, or would the watch note the date and reset itself? If the latter, TO wouldn't wish to double the effect and arrive at the airport uncharacteristically late. A possible problem created by new technology (the potential of a self-setting watch) demanded and received an obvious solution created by new technology (finding the watch's instructions on the web). As it turned out, the watch didn't set itself, but the prospect that it might created new uncertainty and consumed more time than it would have taken to set it manually. Alternatively, if it became common and general knowledge that electronic watches always set themselves on time zone changes, and they did, that would also be fine. Warning of the impending time change, the hotel thoughtfully posted signs inviting guests to "set your clocks less" that night. TO interpreted their intended meaning as one of reducing their indicated hour by one, but self-setting clocks would also achieve the stated goal. It would be good to know ahead of time if you were carrying one, though.