By Sarah Pridgeon
This week, I discovered that America does not happen in the middle of the night. For those of us across the pond who like to keep up with the pomp of the Oscars, the circumstance of presidential debates or the nachos of the Superbowl, it’s easy to develop the assumption that most Americans are nocturnal.
When the Oscars kick off at 6 p.m. on this timezone, you see, it’s already 1 o’clock in the morning back in England. To enjoy such celebrations live, you must either own a sizeable coffee pot or be capable of napping in the early evening.
It’s a significant problem for us, because a fair proportion of the West’s more exhilarating goings on are beamed live from this side of the seas. You may have enjoyed a similar experience during last summer’s Olympics, which presented the same problem (but the other way around).
This timezone issue leaves Europeans with three choices: miss events altogether, record them to watch the next day or, for the dedicated, be prepared to miss a full night’s sleep. Each of these options has its downside.
My love of the Oscars goes back to my university days, when we would rise from our beds at midnight and gather around the television in our pyjamas, hair sticking out in every which direction and pillow case creases still visible on our cheeks. Our little gatherings were the polar opposite of the glamour on the red carpet, but that did nothing to quell our excitement.
Bleary-eyed but eager, we would gamely linger until most of the country was eating its breakfast to find out which movie had been judged deserving of the golden statue. As the stars moved on to their after-show parties, we could think of little else but our warm, welcoming beds.
Such events traditionally revolve around food, drink and good company. Banging on doors and sneaking alarm clocks into each other’s rooms sorted the last item on the list, but we quickly discovered how difficult it is to play drinking games while your body wishes it was sleeping.
Our games involved the usual customs: drink a shot if someone talks for too long and is shooed from the stage by the orchestra, or if the host makes Jack Nicholson the butt of a joke. Drink two shots if you predict a winner or an actress falls over the hem of her dress and a whole pint of beer if someone cries during their speech.
After more than one failed attempt to stay awake throughout the night, scuppered by the haze of too much booze, we resorted to replacing the vodka bottle with a box of chocolates. Unfortunately, it turned out to be tricky to fall asleep when you’ve eaten so much caramel that you’ve started to feel a bit queasy.
Once we grew up and entered the adult world, we realized how dangerous it was to our career prospects to turn up at work still awake from the day before. And so we experimented with the second option: recording the show to watch the following evening.
We comforted ourselves with the thought that, this way, we could return to our vodka-soaked glory days. We had not reckoned with the sheer level of coverage the Oscars would receive and how readily people judge you if you try to walk past the news stands with a set of blinkers strapped to your eyes.
It seemed hopeless. Never would I properly be able to enjoy an Oscars ceremony with the proper level of competitive drinking… or so I thought, until this year’s show took me completely by surprise.
It simply hadn’t dawned on me that I would be able to watch them, because I’d grown so used to seeing the adverts and having to dismiss it as a bad idea. I’d forgotten about the timezone change.
I was, in fact, so set in my thinking that I only by accident turned on the television at almost the correct time. I had not prepared snacks, nor set out the shot glasses, nor donned my pyjamas in readiness, and my little gang of co-conspirators was not with me to share the guilt of a night not spent sleeping.
I watched until the closing credits and the experience was both strange and euphoric. Every so often I would check the clock, sure that I should long have been abed, only to be told that it was still a perfectly reasonable hour to be awake.
And thus came to an end my many years of finding out that America had happened overnight. I can watch all the sports, politics and showbiz events I could wish for and never lose a wink of sleep.
No longer will I be forced to spend a day avoiding every website, television channel and newspaper for fear of being told the outcome before I wanted to know. No more fear of accidentally overhearing a colleague criticizing the Academy’s choice for Best Actress or stumbling across gossip sites displaying all the dresses.
At first I was a little sad, realizing that gone are the days of feeling as naughty as a schoolchild, staying up long past my bedtime because I can’t bear not to be involved. Then I remembered the Brits, the BAFTAs, the World Cup and the UK elections and it suddenly dawned on me: all that’s really changed is that England will be happening in the middle of the night instead.