Dave Danforth is on assignment this week, so we are running one of his past columns. This one originally appeared July 29, 2001.
"National Bureau of Standards, Time Change Division," the voice answers. "I'm Bert. How may I help you?"
"We need a time change," I say. "Could you move Aspen an hour ahead please?"
"I'm not sure it works that way," Bert promptly says. "There are environmental studies, sociological studies, studies on the wildlife, you name it. We can't just push a button. Why do you want to change the time, anyway?"
"It would set us apart from our neighbors as being a progressive town. We've had a few setbacks this year. This is a great way to re-energize ourselves, to break away," I finish.
"And your mayor and council approve?" Bert asks.
"They don't know it yet," I note. "But when the clocks in the council chambers are moved one hour ahead, and they see their watches are off, they won't want to be left behind."
"You will be out of sync with your neighbors," Bert says. "Basalt will still be an hour behind. So will Glenwood Springs, and even Denver."
"That's what we're after," I say. "Leave Vail in the dust. "Besides, it would benefit folks who think Aspen's too expensive. Whenever they go to Vail to ski to catch all their deals, they'll have an extra hour to get there."
"You are full of progressive ideas," Bert says. I catch a heavy edge of sarcasm to his voice, but continue in stride.
"My newspaper suggested a couple of years ago that Aspen do a name change with Silt," I remind him proudly. "We be Silt. They be Aspen. That would deflate expectations and prices, and cause a lot of real estate types to move. We would lobby our best restaurants to stay."
"How did it work out?" he asks.
"Hasn't yet," I concede. "But we're here to urge progress, to come up with creative ideas. To be ahead of our own time."
"Yes, I can see that," Bert says. "And now you want a time change?"
"Hey, we're just a town," I say. "It's not exactly a novel idea. Thailand has just proposed to leap ahead an hour, bypassing their neighbors to the east, like Cambodia and Vietnam. Then they'd be in the same time zone as Singapore and Hong Kong. The prime minister seems to think it will help his economy."
"Thailand proposed to change time zones?" Bert asks, astonished.
"You can call the prime minister," I suggest. "His name is Thaksin Shinawatra. He seems to think the move would help the deflating currency there, the Thai baht."
"We have no jurisdiction there," Bert says. "But it seems intriguing enough."
"The time change would put us in the same zone as Chicago, and two hours ahead of the Californians," I say. "And we're not through yet. We're already working on our next proposal. We will urge our Ski Company to create its own currency to pay its folks."
"The Aspen SkiCo can't use the dollar anymore?" Bert asks, astonished. He had convinced himself I'd lost some of my marbles. Now he is sure I've lost them all.
"Why bother being tethered to it?" I ask. "These have been bad seasons for the SkiCo. We seem to have lost ground the last few years to our competitors. With a new currency, they could hire new folks, produce better packages, hire two new PR folks instead of one. Everything."
"Well, that's fine," Bert says. "But who would accept this currency? What would it be called?"
"We'd call it the Paht, after Pat, the CEO of the company," I propose. "We're working on the rest. We'll take the lead. We could accept a few Paht, I suppose, for a classified ad."
"You'd have to lobby the rest of town pretty hard," Bert says.
"They'd catch up," I say. "The businesses would rush to accept it in order to get employees to patronize them. We're getting bids now for the design of the coin. Tourists would pay a premium for the thing. They'd rush to exchange their dollars for Paht so they could spend them back home."
"You think just anybody would accept the Paht?" he asks.
"It's a work in progress," I note. "Not so outrageous as you might think. One of Argentina's biggest provinces just began printing its own currency to settle its bills. Buenos Aires. You can look it up."
"Argentina needs help," Bert notes. "They need to cut spending. Otherwise, they'll default on their debt of over $150 billion."
"Our Ski Co could leap ahead of the competition," I note. "Another idea from the same progressive town that brought you the time change."
"That time change thing is weird," Bert says.
"Depends on how you look at it," I say. "Some would say the idea of changing times twice a year is strange. Indiana and Phoenix think so. They don't change their times when the rest of us do."
"Well, I'll send you an application," Bert says. It is clear he can't wait for this call to end. I read his mind.
"Move here," I suggest. "With a time change, this call would be over before you know it."
The writer (email@example.com) is a founder of the Aspen Daily News and appears here Sundays.