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How many time zones are in the contiguous United States?

a) Three

b) Four

c) Who cares?

If you answered (a) you might live in Chicago, or the central time zone. Or, you might live outside of the U.S. and made a bad guess.

If you answered (b), you are correct. And you likely live on the West Coast or in the Mountain time zone.

If you answered (c), you live on the East Coast.

I grew up in New Jersey. In other words, I grew up thinking that New York was the axis point upon which the whole world pivots. I never realized that there was an entire country out there of people constantly adding hours to their own time to convert to eastern.

When I worked and lived in Washington, D.C., I never put an ET after the time. A 9 am conference call was at 9 am. Period.

An East Coaster’s awareness of time zones is like the average American’s awareness of Canadian politics.

Growing up, I didn’t even consider myself an East Coaster. I wouldn’t have known what that meant. West Coasters tend to not be like that. They’re hyper aware of the fact that they live on the West Coast, and that it’s different from the rest of the country and that you have to add three hours to your time so that New Yorkers understand you. It’s kind of like how in the South, everyone goes around thinking about how they are in the South. But growing up in the Northeast, I never thought about how I was in the North. I never called myself a Northerner until I moved South. But Southerners call themselves Southerners all the time.

The first time I moved out of the ET zone, I lived near Chicago. A New Yorker said to me, “I don’t understand why you’d move there. There’s nothing you can get there that you can’t get in New York.”

I responded back about how people love the Cubs, even though they don’t win like the Yankees, and how that is really endearing. He didn’t get it.

“Oh wow, in Chicago, their t.v. shows are an hour earlier,” I realized. “Isn’t that neat.”

By the time I moved to Seattle, my New Jersey family had given up trying to figure out what time it was in my world.

“It’s still light out,” I’d say at 8 pm.

“Really? I’m going to bed,” they’d say at 11 pm.

East Coast business people who travel West and wake up at 7 am say, “By the time I wake up here, I feel so behind, like I’m missing out on everything. I’ve got all these e-mails already.”

Yes. 7 am on the West Coast is 10 am back East. It’s late morning.

I love my adopted West coast. I’d like to stay forever. I’ve fully confronted my East Coast geographical snobbery and have overcome it.

But it will always be morning first in New York.