The Amazing Race 21, Episode 7
Istanbul (Turkey) - Moscow (Russia)
[The fastest scheduled connections from Istanbul to Moscow, visible on the CRS display in the TV show but not suggested by a competing airline or attempted by any of the racers: Ukrainian airline Aerosvit (VV) via Borispol Airport, Kiev (KBP) .]
The most difficult task for the contestants on The Amazing Race 21 in the latest two-part episode in Moscow was calculating what time it was in various other cities across Russia's eleven time zones, based on the time in Moscow and the difference between the time in each zone and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or UTC.
Everyone makes mistakes from time to time (so to speak) in time zone conversions. I'm pretty good at mental arithmetic and visualizing the relationships between places on the globe. But when I really need to keep track of the time in two places at once, I wear a watch with two dials.
Do you add or subtract hours to convert from Tomsk time to Tuva time? Is it earlier or later? Is it a.m. or p.m.? (The easiest way to avoid this error is to use 24-hour time.) Do they use some version of "daylight savings time", and if so, when is it in effect in each of the places between which you are trying to calculate the time difference? (In the USA, for example, there's a five-hour difference between Honolulu and Washington in winter, six hours in summer, because Hawaii doesn't use daylight savings time.) Is it yesterday, today, or tomorrow on this or that side of the International Date Line?
For the racers, the big problem was in figuring out how the time differences between zones had been specified: as offsets from GMT/UTC, not offsets from Moscow time. They had to realize that if Moscow is in time zone UTC +4, and Irkutsk in time zone UTC +9, that means that the current time in Irkutsk is five hours (9 minus 4) later than Moscow, not nine hours later.
If you aren't sure how your local time relates to UTC, check the time zone settings on your computer, which are invariably specified in hours before (-) or after (+) UTC. In the USA, Pacific Standard (Winter) Time is UTC -8. Since Moscow is UTC +4, that makes San Francisco twelve hours (-8-4) different from Moscow time, i.e. exactly on the opposite side of the world (although both are in the northern hemisphere so they aren't actually antipodes).
At the finish line, however, it didn't matter how long each team had taken to figure out what time it was in each other city. James (a former member of the rock band Megadeth) and his lawyer/tour manager partner Abba would have been unable to continue in the race without Abba's passport, which was stolen along with their backpacks when they left them in a taxi they asked to wait for them while they got out to grab their clue and directions to their next task.
It's easy to mock a team that managed, in the course of the same trip around the world, both to lose all their cash (found on the floor by another team during an earlier episode) while putting it into a hidden zippered pocket, and later to allow a taxi driver to make off with all their bags and one of their passports. But if you travel enough, eventually you will lose things -- important things -- no matter how careful you think you are.
Once I left my passport in my jacket in a restaurant where I stopped for a meal on the way to the airport. I was lucky: my passport was still there when my friend came back for it an hour later. But I, or any of you, could easily have found ourselves in James and Abba's situation.
On my last trip around the world, I lost a credit card when I dropped it on the floor of a train station, without realizing I had done so, while putting it back into a zippered pocket inside my clothes. My travelling companion left an ATM card in a hidden pocket inside her clothes when she washed them, and the heat of the dryer deformed the card enough to render it unusable.
In the course of my travelling life, I've been pickpocketed twice (losing one "dummy" wallet and one cellphone), had clothes stolen out of my luggage once (a sweater and some socks pulled through a gap in the zipper the length of a padlock shackle, in a train-station left-luggage facility), had a hand-bag snatched in a bus station while my attention was diverted by an accomplice, and fended off another snatch thief who tried to grab my cellphone from a zippered pocket but succeeded only in tearing my pants to shreds.
Any of these things could have happened in any country in the world -- including at home.
So the question to ask isn't, "How could he be so stupid as to leave his passport in his pack in the trunk of a taxi where the driver could make off with it so easily?" but "What should I do when something like this happens to me?"Posted by Edward, 18 November 2012, 23:59