November 10, 2010

The Tao of Daylight Savings Time.

Ever since I was a kid and my dad took us to the theater one hour early (unintentionally) on a Sunday in October, I have been pondering the magic possibilities of Daylight Savings Time.

I mean, here you have a gift of time, a commodity so precious these days that I’m guessing most of us spend it on the other rare commodity: sleep. But it’s not exactly a gift: just like finding money in an old pair of pants you haven’t worn in eons, it was your money to begin with. Yet, every end of October or beginning of November we know we can find some cash in the pants of Time.

I love this gift so much that years ago I got the crazy notion of wanting to stretch it all winter long, so you don’t just wake up one Sunday with an extra hour, but you wake up every day of winter with an extra hour. What would you do with that? Me, I sleep in an extra half hour and still have another extra half hour in my morning for a leisurely breakfast and getting ready. Every day of winter.

Would you like to know the secret? Here, everybody, let’s gather in this corner and whisper so no one can hear us. The secret is: I don’t change my clocks.

“Huh? How does that work?”

When everybody switches an hour back to Standard Time, I leave my watch, my cell phone, my computer, my stove-top clock and everything else in the old time. I’m an hour ahead of you all winter long. That’s where that luxurious extra half hour in bed and more leisurely morning comes from.

“But why? And don’t you get confused?”

The why is very simple: you wind up getting up an hour earlier, having a more leisurely morning, and generally speaking, enjoying your day more. And enjoyment, to me, has always been the key to conscious living, since it’s hard to enjoy something without being conscious of it. And no, I don’t get confused. Or if I ever do (all right, it’s happened once or twice in the decade that I’ve been doing this), it just means that I’m one hour early to my destination – in which case, I have an hour to enjoy reading, meditating, or simply walking.

“But how can this work? If you get up earlier, doesn’t this mean you go to bed earlier as well?”

Bingo! That’s the beauty of this system, you see. It’s definitely intended to trick my mind into seeing something that says, 10 o’clock, and thinking, “It’s time for bed.” Yes, I realize that this means that in the real world it’s 9 p.m., which doesn’t exactly make me a bag of fun in the winter, but then again you could argue 10 p.m. doesn’t make me a bag of fun in the summer either – just someone who appreciates the value of sleep when it’s dark.

“But dude, if you like getting extra sleep and still getting up early, why don’t you just go to bed at nine o’clock year-round?”

What? And miss staying up with the Big People? What if they’re having a conversation that I want to listen in on? And besides, the evening is a time to play! And—I now live in a Northern latitude. It’s still sunny in the summer at nine p.m, for God’s sakes, and what kid wants to go to bed when the sun’s still out? (I’d be a narcoleptic zombie if I lived in Alaska, or Iceland, or other such perpetual-daylight summer places.) On the other hand, on winter days in my Northern latitude, it’s fully night by 4:30p.m.—which gives you plenty of time to wind down and feel sleepy by 10. Er—nine, in your time.

“Um… okay… whatever. Doesn’t this fall in the category of Games People Play In Their Heads?”

Yes, most likely. But I play these games with other people too. Take my live-in girlfriend, ten years ago: the first year she went along with it for about 3 weeks (which were 3 very sweet weeks); after that, she rebelled. The following year she put her foot down and said, “I am not doing funny things with the clocks this year! We’re setting the clocks back one hour along with everyone else!”

Which meant that on the day of, I rose extra early and went around changing all the clocks 1 hour ahead: my wristwatch and hers, her computer and mine, the stove, the microwave, the VCR, anything else I could find. When she awoke, she went about the task of setting all the clocks back one hour.

It took her till the middle of the afternoon that day to catch on to my little trick.

This, of course, meant that the following year she was on to me and expected me to do the same thing. Which I did. Except this time I set the clocks forward two hours, to compensate.

“Do you realize,” a friend once asked when I told him the story, “that if you’d stuck with this woman for 24 years, you would’ve gained a day in your life?”

Now, that is a notion that opens up endlessly fascinating possibilities. As in, how would you like to have an extra weekend day? All winter long?

Hey, where’s everybody going? Was it something I said?

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo credit: ElDave

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