Piece of Mind: The sun hasn't set on wristwatches

Sometime in the past decade, our daughter pointed out that cellphones are so good at keeping us plugged into everything imaginable, including the time of day, that wristwatches were nothing more than antiquated accessories. She stopped wearing hers and I, like the ewe that I can be, followed along.

These twin habits of relying on a cellphone for reliable time information and following others off of precipices put me in places at the wrong time while on vacation this month.

A family friend accompanied me on the drive across the desert a week ago Sunday as we headed to our Sedona place. Gil was to join us on that Wednesday night. When we crossed the Colorado River at 11:30 a.m., my friend, studying her cellphone, said “Oh! We’re in a new time zone! The phone just updated to 12:30!”

I thought that was odd. I was pretty certain the Grand Canyon State is in sync with our hometown clocks this time of year. But surely her BlackBerry couldn’t be wrong. I figured I was mistaken. So, once we arrived in Sedona, when she told me it was time to go somewhere, I did.

That Monday she asked if we could go to Sedona’s airport mesa so she could watch the sunset from there, a popular tourist activity. Of course, I said, then checked the Internet to see what time the sun would retire for the evening. The appointed hour was 7:44 p.m. We planned to get there no later than 7:30.

Continuing to rely on her phone as a timepiece, we drove to the top of the mesa, found an amazingly great parking spot and noted that there were only about 15 people there. I remarked that the sun seemed to be awfully high in the sky, considering it was only 15 minutes from sunset.

Inasmuch as the temps were in the 90s, we felt the heat of that baby every minute that we watched its excruciatingly slow progress in the sky. Still believing in her BlackBerry, my friend opined that maybe I’d read the sunset time incorrectly. After using her trusty phone to go online herself, she admitted I had the sunset time right. That must mean, she said, that the sun noticeably begins its descent at that time, but the actual sunset comes sometime after that. Yeah, like an hour later, I thought to myself, but still I didn’t argue, enjoying the main event along with the other 100 or so people who eventually gathered.

The next night I agreed to go to a restaurant that takes no reservations, but opens to a lined-up crowd at 5 p.m. My friend was a little panicky; her phone was telling her it was 5:15 when we arrived. She ran up to the establishment’s door ahead of me, swung it open and was shocked to find an empty lobby. As I walked up behind her, I heard the hostess advising her that they would not be letting people in for another 45 minutes.

My friend held up her BlackBerry so the nice young lady could see proof that it was a full 15 minutes after opening time. Even as her words came out, the unmistakable look of having been hoodwinked by her cellular companion came over her face. She resigned herself to the fact that it had been wrong for two days. I followed her out the door, laughing at our shared foolishness.

Thankfully, we’d discovered our error a full day before we had to pick Gil up at the Phoenix airport. It actually turned out we were late for that date. I’d underestimated how long it would take to get there, then suspected we had overshot it and were lost, near midnight, in the big city. It turned out we just had to continue on our route for another half-hour.

How did we know? My friend’s BlackBerry came to the rescue with a map. Obviously that’s something my trusty wristwatch could never have done. But still…

CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. She can be reached at carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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