Commentary by CBS News Sunday Morning Anchor Charles Osgood.
It all comes down to basic geography.
Although we call ourselves "one nation, indivisible" the fact of the matter is our country is divisible into time zones.
Folks on the West coast live on Pacific time, three hours behind Eastern time.
It's a perfectly fine arrangement so long as you don't have to have anything to do with anybody on the other coast but as soon as you do, you find yourself in trouble. You're not just living in different time zones, you might as well be living on different planets.
Plenty of West coast stockbrokers and financial employees have to be at work by the time the New York Stock Exchange opens, at 9:30 am.
Except 9:30 in the East is 6:30 in the West.
These poor souls have to wake up in what seems the middle of the night and commute in the dark to get to their jobs.Talk about early birds!
And though they may be in synch with their East coast colleagues, they're constantly out of synch with everybody else who lives around them.
Modern travel is supposed to help bridge the gap between people but that doesn't always work out either.
Flying from the East coast to the West seems to give you the bonus of three extra hours. You can leave in the morning and arrive on the Coast by lunchtime which gives you the whole afternoon to be productive.
Except that you're not. Your internal clock tells you it's three hours later than it is and by dinnertime you're exhausted.
Flying from West to East is not much better. No matter how early you leave in the morning the day is practically over by the time you arrive.
Unless, of course, you travel by night on a "red-eye" flight and arrive in the East at dawn. That way, you have the whole day ahead of you, except that you're exhausted.
Which is where modern telecommunications come in.
Divided geographically from your business colleague on the opposite coast, at least you can be united by telephone, right?
Well, no. Guess again.
Let's say you get into your office in the East bright and early at 9 am and call someone in the West. Because it's only 6 in the West, the person hasn't arrived, but that's no problem. You can leave a message on their voice mail. It'll be there when they get in. You've got a jump on the day.
Bright and early at 9 am in the West, the person you called gets in and checks their voice mail. Hoping to get a jump on the day, they call you right back but now it's 12 noon in the East and you've just gone out to a working business lunch.
Again, no problem. They simply leave you a message. By 3 p.m. you've returned from your working lunch and retrieved their message.
Hoping to get a jump on the afternoon, you call them right back. But now it's noon in the West and it's your business colleague who's gone to lunch.
You leave them a message on their voice mail and await their reply. But they don't get back from their business lunch until 2 p.m.
By the time they call you back, it's after five in the East and you've left for the day.
But again, not to worry. They can always leave you a voicemail message which you can answer — first thing in the morning.
One nation — divisible — with all the time in the world.
Copyright 2002 CBS. All rights reserved.