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Mountain Time Is A Total Rip Off

 

    Here in this part of Texas, we’re on Mountain Time and that’s …. what is that exactly? Besides inconvenient, besides witch time as I have come to  refer to it. Seriously, what the hell is it? Because I have no idea.

     To me, who had never even let the thought of Mountain Time enter my head much less consider practicing it, Mountain Time has always been none of my business. I would have been more willing to believe that putting a plate of thumbprint cookies out on the doorstep is a good way to catch fairies than to think that Mountain Time was a reality. If someone had said to me, “Set your clocks so that time is relevant to nothing, and then you’ll be able to bottle fairies and sell them on eBay,” I would have thought that sounded about right.

     Even after we moved here and I found out we’d have to live by it, I tried to fight Mountain Time with denial. “No thanks,” I said when told about it, “I’m just gonna stay on Eastern Standard Time. Me and the FCC, we go way back, so that’s where my loyalties lie.” And that worked for a little while, except for when it didn’t work.

    My family and friends live two hours ahead of me, and they have no sympathy because they figure it’s my fault for moving here in the first place and Mountain Time is something I should have taken into consideration when we put the house up for sale. Some people deal with our time difference by never phoning me at all. Others just pretend it isn’t happening, like when an aged uncle turns into a raging drunk while everyone buries their head in the sand and pretends he’s still capable of bringing the homemade lasagna to the Christmas party.  

     My mother passed away not long after I moved here, but before she died she did address the whole Mountain Time difference by flat out refusing to observe it. A native New Yorker, she’d lived in Massachusetts for decades, so basically she’d lived her whole life in EST. She proved to me that you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks, not if they don’t want to participate. She’d call me at 5:30 AM, which was 7:30 AM where she was, and when I’d tell her for the umpteenth time that it was only 5:30 AM for me, she’d say, “I know and I can’t help it. It’s a stupid thing you’re doing with the clock.”  

     And it was hard for me to argue, because I wholly agreed with her. When her health took a sudden nosedive, my brother would call to give me the medical reports at 5 AM my time, which was 7 AM his time. And I couldn’t argue that either, because it was our mother we were talking about. But the problem was that hearing the details of your mother’s declining health at 5 AM jump-starts your body and mind with such an electrical current, there’s no chance of calming down and going back to sleep for an hour or two till you can think straight. You’re up, man. And being wide awake and helpless before the sun comes up really messes with your head, not to mention your skin. By 7 AM my time, I had lines in my face that I’d never thought possible and enough caffeine in my system to make my heart explode.

     But that’s all over now and I’m left with nothing but a screwed up internal clock and a lot of resentment. It’s bad enough that I’m two hours behind everyone else in my orbit, but why does the TV schedule have to be so impossible to figure out? Shows that begin at 8 PM Eastern Standard Time begin at 6:40 PM Mountain Time. What the hell is up with that? Everyone laughs when I say I live by TiVo, but I’m-not-kidding. It’s no joke. If it weren’t for the fact I can hand the whole mess over to TiVo to solve for me, I’d never see a bloody thing. How could I? Where would I find it? When the hell is anything on?

     And shows that broadcast results? Forget it. Just don’t even go there with me. American Idol, Dancing With The Stars,  Big Brother, and the best of all: SURVIVOR. (Me and Rupert are totally tight; here we are practicing for Dancing With The Stars). All my shows are totally fucked up now. Even if someone does call me to discuss show results, I can’t answer the phone for fear they’ll blurt out the name of whoever got kicked off the island, the dance floor, the stage, etc. Same thing with the Internet. I can’t go on the Internet till after the Mountain Time Gods have deemed it acceptable to run the show here in El Paso. If I were to go online AOL would undoubtedly have the disgraced tribe member’s name in the headline on my home page.

     So now comes Daylight Savings, which has never sat well with my family anyway. Now that I’m living in the Twilight Zone (as far as my family is concerned), there’s no chance of them ever getting it, so they’ve given up. After Daylight Savings last year, my sister kept thinking I was now four hours ahead of her. For her to comprehend that I was still just two hours behind her was like asking her to learn Russian in those two missing hours that were never there in the first place. “What about those other two hours?” she demanded. “Where are those missing hours?!”

That only went on for a couple of weeks, but it felt longer. Until she could prove to me that she understood the Daylight Savings/Time Zone concept by passing a verbal test in which I concocted all types of scenarios involving time and circumstance, I blocked her phone number so she wouldn’t call me in the middle of the night.

Question 1: “Okay. It’s 8 AM where you are. A talk show host has just turned to a fellow host and hilariously referred to Britney Spears as Unfitney Spears. What time is it where I am and is it acceptable to call me and tell me this?” (The correct answer is: 6 AM and No.)

 Question 46: “Okay, now it’s 11 AM where you are and Court TV has just aired footage from a previously unknown video tape of Howard K. Stern trying to sell drugs to a teenage starlet in the Viper Room. What time is it where I am and is it acceptable to call me?” (The correct answer: 9 AM and Yes, call me immediately and if I don’t answer, try my cell phone.)

She eventually scored high enough to pass and I removed the phone block. She will deny all this of course, but just ask Buck. He is acutely aware of my family’s problem with anything related to numbers unless there is a dollar sign attached to it. Compared to his family, mine comes off looking like that family in Deliverance with all the banjo savants, only instead of banjos my family’s proficiency is restricted to monies owed.

 “Why is it,” Buck asks, “if you owed anyone in your family $3 for a cup of coffee they could calculate the interest rate in accordance with the going rate for major money lenders, but they can’t figure out the time difference between New England and this corner of Texas?” And my answer is always the same: “I don’t know.”

     My kids get it, however. They’ve never had any problem with the time difference and, as a matter of fact, they’ve tried to explain the reason for it to me so I could embrace it. But that never works out because I just can’t accept it as a viable way to live, and they become frustrated and start yelling at me. Then, in order to win, I start reaching back in time for personal snowballs to hurl at them, like this one’s refusal to eat green beans, or that one’s bloody noses, or somebody’s fear of the dark, and we have to end the conversation before they say something they’ll regret. And they WILL regret it. If there’s one thing I can do, it’s hold a grudge. And if there’s one thing they can do, it’s choose their words carefully to avoid any unpleasantness coming back to bite them in the ass when they least expect it.

     So, to sum it up, time is just awful now. And while Mountain Time has always been on my list of things that are none of my business, alongside mail, weather, and baseball teams other than the Red Sox, having to live in it has not endeared it to me in any way. I don’t like Mountain Time, don’t see any point to it, and I wish it was dead. And I of course mean that in the most upbeat,  happiest, smilingest way possible.

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This is the watch Buck gave me for Christmas last year. Without my glasses on it’s virtually impossible for me to tell what time it is, which is perfect for me because I don’t care.

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Here is Buck as a Boy Scout, a child in the 1950s and 60s.  Dusting off my Freudian background ( I was a psychology major for three months in 1980), I have made my diagnosis and surrounded him with all the things I believe have influenced his dreams in adulthood. (The photo of Miss Atomic Bomb 1957 in her mushroom cloud bathing suit  is copywrighted by the Las Vegas News Bureau.)

 __________

 Me: What is up with your dreams? Mine are inexplicable, but what’s up with yours?

Buck: My dreams are just ugly. I’m either being chased, or a nuclear bomb has gone off, or snakes are all around me —

Me: You’re always claiming you have the worst dreams of anyone, ever. How do you know?

Buck: Well what the hell does it sound like to you? Snakes and atomic bombs, snipers and —

Me: And how does that make you feel?

Buck: Shitty. And tired in the morning.

Me: Surely you have normal dreams on occasion. 

Buck: I never have a good one. Not like you. You’ll wake up in the morning and tell me [in a stupidly high voice meant to be mine] Last night I was flying! Me and this kitten were flying through the air giving out balloons and Moonpies to baby squirrels.  

Me:  I do fly a lot in my dreams. But look at it this way: At night when I’m not dreaming, I’m screaming, so it kind of balances out. Plus I have plenty of boring dreams in which I’m just typing, which sucks because it’s like real life. During one issue of the magazine, every night I dreamt that I was reading bad copy on the computer screen at a size 10 font, just looking for misspelled words and trying to figure out what the author was trying to say.

Buck: The closest I had to a good dream — the closest I’ve ever had was when I was like Burt Lancaster in that movie where he’s swimming through all the swimming pools in his neighborhood, swimming his way home

Me: It’s called The Swimmer and he [spoiler removed].

Buck: I’ve never done the flying like you, or any of that, but in that one dream I could run the way Burt Lancaster could swim.

Me: Which almost nobody can do in a dream. Most people run in slow motion in their dreams. That’s always been the case for me, anyway. That’s why in my dreams I don’t even bother with it anymore. I just fly everywhere. That’s my preferred mode of transportation, on account of it being way better.

Buck: Well I could run, and I was just running through the neighborhoods talking to people, running and running, and I was such a good runner. And because I can’t run in real life, that was my equivalent of flying. I still remember that, being about the only good dream I’ve ever had. 

Me: Well that’s just pathetic. But please go on.

Buck: I still have this same dream that shows up from time to time, from way back when I was a little kid.

Me: And what the hell might that one be?

Buck: Snakes.

Me: That’s easy, it’s from when you got bit in the face by a snake when you were 4 or 5 years old.

Buck: No. It goes back before that. I was still sleeping in a crib — which really isn’t saying much, because back then they made us sleep in a crib for lack of bed space, but I wasn’t tall enough to reach the head and footboard yet, so I guess it was technically acceptable — but in the dream I watched the animals come off the wallpaper, and there were snakes just piled up on the floor all the way to crib, piling up and pulsating. They were pulsing, AND I HATE THAT.

Me: This might be … beyond my psychiatric training to handle  a case such as —

Buck: I really hate that dream because it always ends the same … with me running out into the street where the whole street, the whole world, is crawling with snakes about two-feet deep, then four-feet deep, then —

Me: Yeah, I get it. Well this is probably a smidge deeper than anything I learned during my three months as a pysch major. For me to really get to the root of what’s causing this reoccurring dream would possibly require me to return to school for a month or so, possibly a whole semester, just till I could but see, the problem is, and you know this,  every time I step foot on a college campus as a student, I become knocked up.

Buck: I already know what caused it. I blame the Catholic Church.

Me: Oh, me too. I think the church did this to you. I wonder if there’s been any precedent of the Vatican dispensing monetary compensation for psychological damage manifested in a dream environment as hostile as yours?

Buck: In our church the gigantic statue of the Virgin Mary, which was like as big as Godzilla —

Me: That’s gotta be worth two million right there … I want a pool and a gazebo.

Buck: — the Virgin Mary was standing on a globe crushing a snake with her foot. And at the end of every pew were wood carvings of two snakes wrapped around a bunch of grapes. Their heads were poised at each other like they were about to fight.

Me: Jesus Christ, thank God my family wasn’t Catholic. I know you make fun of my relatives and their spiritual beliefs, but at least they never exposed me to any scary crap like that. 

Buck: [laughing] Well, I wouldn’t [laughing] your relatives

Me: [laughing] Were not Catholic.

Buck: [laughing] Correct. Your relatives were not Catholic.

Me: Catholic stuff, even though I collect it  now and I’d kill for one of those Godzilla Virgin Mary Snake Killing Statues, would have really scared me when I was a kid. Seriously. My grandmother was afraid of rosary beads, and she made me scared of them too.

Buck: [laughing] Yeah. Just as the stuff that you and your family take for granted might possibly scare normal people who happen to be in their right minds —

Me: No. That’s wrong. Totally wrong. My family is way, way off-topic so I can’t get into this now. Let’s get back to your dreams.

Buck: [laughing]

Me: [laughing] Stop it! Stop laughing about my family. [laughing] Say what you want, but at least none of them were ever Catholic. That alone makes them good by default. And by good, I mean mentally superior.

 Buck: [laughing]

Me: HEY.

Buck: [laughing]

Me:  [laughing]  My family were not witches! Goddamn it all to hell! Stop. Laughing. At. My. Relatives. 

Buck: Anyway.

Me: Yes, anyway. Your dreams sound awful. They’re fucked.

Buck: They are.

Me: Now tell about your other reoccurring dream about your high school girlfriends.

Buck: That one is very strange because it opens up like a play. There’s a big stage and the curtain opens with a big table up there. And it looks like the Last Supper, everybody is in the same pose as the Last Supper, except that seated at the table are all my old girlfriends. Then I realize I’m bound and gagged in my seat in the audience. Basically I have to listen to them talk about me and how bad I suck, and I can’t even dispute anything because I’m bound and gagged.

Me: [silence, frowning, ensuing disapproval]

Buck: Well, you asked But the majority of my dreams involve nuclear annihilation. That’s why I’m so fascinated with you know me and my atom bomb problem.

Me: You grew up when all that atom bomb talk was new, and people were just obsessed with it. The Cold War, bomb shelters, Duck and Cover. It’s embedded in your psyche.

Buck: It’s a hell of an explosion, I can tell you that. I’ve felt it.

Me: How could you feel it?

Buck: How could you not? I always survive, that’s part of it.

Me: Are there zombies?

Buck: No. Just me. [laughing] It’s not like that. Somehow I always survive, which is like worse than taking the bite.

Me: Why?

Buck: Because there’s nobody left. And, basically, [laughing]  if there are people left they either don’t like me or I don’t particularly care for them.

Me: Well I love that in a movie. When there’s nobody left on earth except for like five people and they have to run from zombies. I don’t know how you avoid the zombie factor in your dreams.

Buck: Zombies are easily killed.

Me: I know. It seems fun. 

Buck: Well …

Me: I’m hoping that will happen one day. I’m counting on it happening.

Buck: … my dreams involve everything but the zombies. But from now on, I’ll try and incorporate them for your sake.

Me: Where are you in time when The Bomb goes off?

Buck: There’s no permanent time element. It goes from when I’m a kid to being an adult. It just keeps popping up in my dreams, like a way to resolve a dream. It’s a way to end a horrific dream that’s going nowhere. All of a sudden The Bomb goes off.

Me: OH. It’s like dropping a cow. On Saturday Night Live way back in the day, if they couldn’t figure out an ending to a sketch they’d drop a big plastic cow from the ceiling. Monty Python did it with a pig. You drop an atomic bomb.

Buck: Yeah, it’s sort of that way. And then the dream goes off in a whole other direction.

Me: Like nuclear holocaust.

Buck: Yeah. Then I deal with that for a few hours. [laughing] 

Me: This is all because of those Duck and Cover drills when you were a kid in school.

Buck: The only time I really remember having those was during the Cuban Blockade. That’s when the Russian ships were headed to Cuba with the missiles, the United States was sitting there waiting, and there were days in between. Everybody just figured this is IT. People didn’t talk about it in front of kids, it was like, don’t tell the kids they’re about to get their asses blown into the next universe. [laughing] Duck and Cover wasn’t a big-big thing. What they did was tell us to get under the desk if we had to, and warned us to stay away from windows and the flying glass that was gonna come through and stab us. [laughing] 

Me: [laughing] 

Buck: They told us not to look over at Mulcahey School’s left field because that was the direction of Boston, where they said the blast would be. They said if you do look over there, your eyeballs will melt. [laughing] Like it would matter at that point.

Me: So … what were your parents doing at this time? I

Buck: During the Cuban Missile Crises my mother was in a corner saying the rosary. That probably scared me the most. People didn’t really talk about it, everybody was aware of it and wanted to keep up on the news, but nobody was doing anything about it. I remember when Nikita Kruschev , who I really liked and admired, was banging his shoe on the table at the UN. After that I figured he was capable of anything. Presidents didn’t take off their shoe and bang it on a table. I couldn’t picture Eisenhower or Kennedy doing that. I knew we were really playing with the bad boys at that point.

Me: Obviously, all these things are scary for a kid, not to mention a sensitive adult like me, and that’s the crux of your bad dreams: exposure to the horrors of nuclear attack when you were at an impressionable age.

Buck: I never understood why we had to hide under a desk instead of going to any of the zillions of fallout shelters in town. There were signs up everywhere in town. I always wanted to know, why can’t we go to them?

Me: Interesting.

Buck: The shelters were stocked with water and crackers. You were supposed to live on Saltines.

Me: Television, when I was little, was always running that test pattern and telling you there would be no TV in the event of an attack.

Buck: It would be all Conelrad.

Me: MY GOD! CONELRAD! [laughing] Now there’s a blast from the past. No pun intended.

Buck: The threat of  American TV going Conelrad was scarier than anything. [laughing] 

Me: Oh yeah, definitely. [laughing] I agree.

Buck: The Commies were going to ruin television. [laughing] 

Me: [laughing] My God.

Buck: My father’s favorite TV show was I Led 3 Lives, and that was a cool, disturbing show. Gene Roddenberry — who’s from El Paso, by the way — was one of the writers, and J. Edgar Hoover had to approve the scripts. It was about a real guy from Boston whose job was to infiltrate Commie cells. My father loved that show.

Me: What about the air raid sirens that used to go off all the time?

Buck: Those would scare ya to death. The first one was just a long wail, but the second one was short blasts and if you heard the short blasts you knew that in a few seconds you were about to get creamed.

Me: Why bother with the short blasts?

Buck: To give you time for Duck and Cover, I guess.

Me: With Duck and Cover I suppose you at least had a chance of becoming a zombie.

Buck: Well there’s that infamous kid’s movie where the kid is riding down the street —

Me: Little Tony.

Buck: What?

Me: I think the movie is about Bert the Alert Turtle, and I know you’re gonna talk about a kid whose name is, I think, Tony.

Buck: Well the kid — TONY —  is riding his bike down the street when the short blasts go off, and he throws his bike down and Ducks and Covers in a rain gutter. [laughing] As if that’s gonna help.

Me: He shoulda pulled off the road and stuck his head in a mail box. [laughing] 

Buck: [laughing] 

Me: We’ve been talking about dreams and sleep problems for three days now. Do you think it’s gonna help you to not have any more bad dreams?

Buck: No. It’s probably only gonna remind me to have them. I will try for the zombies, though. For you.

Me: Thanks. I’d appreciate that.

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LINKS

Conelrad is alive and well at this fascinating site. All Cold War, all the time. Even has info on the mysterious Godfrey Cambridge PSA (known as the “Doomsday PSA”) that was “to be unspooled on national TV only in the event of a nuclear war.”

Bert the Turtle’s “Duck and Cover” film shown in elementary schools. An outrageous children’s film explaining what will happen when an atomic bomb goes off, including the “really bad sunburn” you’ll have to deal with as a result of it. “Little Tony” seems particularly misinformed.

Enthusiasts of The Swimmer movie gather at “Jeremy’s” MySpace Group. 23 members and growing.

One blogger’s theory that The Smurfs were Communists. After reading it, I have to agree.

The original cast of Saturday Night Live relied on a plastic cow to signal them that a sketch was going badly and they should just end it immediately.

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