Have you ever had your body's clock be off by a full 12-hours, so when you looked at the clock you thought it was a full 12-hours different than in reality?

This happened to me just once, and it's an amusing story.

In the summer of 1987, I spent a few weeks as a volunteer helping volcanologists complete survey work in Iceland. I had to fly all the way from Portland, Oregon to meet up with the team in Akureyri, on Iceland's north coast. This required a long layover at JFK airport on the way Keflavik, a bus from there to Reykjavik, and then a small domestic flight to reach Akureyri: approximately 20 hours of travel, crossing 7 or 8 hours of time zones, with total personal failure to catch even a wink of sleep.

I can't begin to describe how exhausted I felt. I had left Oregon in the morning, and finally made it to my hotel room by early afternoon of the next day. I imagined collapsing onto the bed and sleeping for an eternity; but, I decided it would be wiser to force myself onto Iceland time by finding dinner and staying up until at least 8:00 PM. (I had no clock in my room, so I was dependent on my wristwatch for telling time, but I long ago had properly reset that to the local time zone.)

Sleep came around 8:30, deep and hard. I ultimately reawakened with a bright beam of sunlight shining straight in through the window, and a bursting-urgent need for the toilet. My body's internal clock was telling me I had slept for 10 to 12 hours, maybe longer. My bladder and the bright morning sun confirmed this.

Coming back from the bathroom, I blearily looked out the window at the scene of the Sun over the fjord and checked my watch. Imagine my reaction to seeing it was 11:53! Wow!! I had slept for more than 15 hours straight! What an amazing personal record!

Then... sudden panic! The hotel checkout time was 12:00 noon! I had barely more than five minutes to get dressed, gather all of my belongings back into my travel case, and run downstairs to the front desk before they might charge me for another night! Eeeek! Panic! Hurry! Rush, rush! Can I make it in time! Aaah!

And then... just as I was about to dash full speed, with my now-fully-packed suitcase, out the door at 11:58... it hit me:

The Sun was low on the horizon, barely above the water level of the fjord- and a view of the fjord meant my window was facing north. It wasn't two minutes to noon; it was two minutes to midnight!! It was June, I was almost at the Arctic Circle, and this was the famous midnight sun. Noon Sun would have been high in the south. This was the opposite, and it lit up my room so brightly because it was shining straight into my window from its low position relative to the ground.

I had slept for only a little more than three hours.

And, to this day, I still replay a totally imagined scene in my head in which I run down the stairs to reach the front desk with a panicked look in my eyes, asking with bated breath if I'm still within the hotel's checkout time deadline. How hard would the night clerk have laughed?


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