Here’s your italian lesson for today, fuso orario.
Fuso orario – literally, the fusing together of clocks and calendars. Which is what time zones are – a way of linking disparate time systems around the world. It reflects an old world view when everybody ran their own clocks and there was no particular system of conversion. The fuso orario refers to what at the time was a radical idea – a system accepted worldwide whereby everyone agrees to live in and respect the same time keeping, of a particular zone, enabling us to easily calculate times anyplace -. like we do linking dollars to pounds to euros. There is a fusion, a linking, of time all over the world.
When I first had to memorize fuso orario, my brain resented it. Why not just say Zona Tempo or Zona Orario like the rest of the world? But Fuso Orario has something time zone doesn’t – it has history. It reminds us that it wasn’t always so, that indianapolis and chicago and columbus and cleveland had at one time clocks separated by 10 minues, by 17 minutes, by an hour and 20 minutes, whatever. Every little town had its independent time keeping system, and somehow, it is sort of a miracle to see all humanity agree to anything, the whole world of millions of independent clocks, got fused down to 24 zones, and really one universal system – the fusion of timekeeping – the fuso orario.
When I first started our project in Kuala Lumpur, I guess in the mid ’90s, they had their own ancient time zone. it was 30 minutes different from what should have been their time zone according to the Fuso Orario Mondiale. At the space agency they have an enormous sun dial. Since the sun shines almost always there (except at night and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm) a sun dial is pretty useful. It was huge and built of rock, solid and impressive. Unfortunately, in that time they finally accepted the Fuso Orario – they became fused to the world system, and shifted their clocks for the country by 30 minutes to be in synch. Now that sundial is the only clock in Malaysia that keeps the old time, and while at first a lot of talk was about somehow moving it to synch, now it is a little bit of history, an anachronism from when the world was not linked and every independent group of people could have whatever time they liked and without instant communications, it didn’t matter.