Everyone loves daylight saving time—at least in the fall. What’s not to love about getting an extra hour of sleep? There’s just something wonderful about going to bed knowing you’ll wake up at the same time as usual, but feeling a little more rested. That’s the experience I was expecting to have Saturday night, but instead I ended up unable to sleep, reflecting on the experience I had just had.
It was a cozy Saturday night: I had all my work for the day done and wasn’t too tired. At about 12:45 a.m., I decided to indulge myself and watch a little bit of Hulu. I did the math: one episode of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” is usually about 45 minutes, so it’d be done by 1:30 a.m., and I’d be in bed by about 2 a.m. It was reasonable enough for a Saturday night, so I hit play and enjoyed a terrific redemption story of a failing family restaurant.
After the episode ended, I spent some time getting ready for bed, and climbed in. As I grabbed my phone to set my alarm for 9:30 a.m., I saw that the time was 1:59 a.m. Perfect timing, I thought. I did some more on-the-fly math and calculated I’d have a great seven hours and 30 minutes of sleep, and as I saved my alarm my phone alerted me that my alarm would go off in eight hours and 30 minutes. That can’t be right, I thought to myself. I looked at the time, and suddenly it was 1 a.m.
After an initial period of bewilderment, I finally put together what had happened. The clock hit 2 a.m. right as I set my alarm and daylight savings went into effect. Instead of waking up having slept an extra hour, I’d just witnessed that check being cashed right before my eyes.
Yes, I realize that’s actually a pretty mundane experience, but for some reason it unsettled me. In reality, nothing tangible had actually changed outside of the time on my phone, but in my head that wasn’t the case. How could it be 1 a.m. again? I had already experienced this hour; it made absolutely no sense to have it again. If I was to tell someone when I was watching Gordon Ramsay at 1 a.m., how would they know which 1 a.m. it was? If we went forward an hour, and I had started watching at 12:45 a.m. originally, and now that time was back an hour, had I started watching yesterday?
These are all relatively pointless questions, but I could not shake them as I lay awake. They all center around the same issue for me: it is both strange and fascinating that our phones and computers have a complete dominance over the time of the day. Think about it—how many people still walk around with watches? Few. Even fewer would ever trust a physical clock over a phone or computer. In our heads, the phone time is synonymous with “real” time, and seeing the fragility of that idea as the clock turned back messed with me.
As pointless as these questions may be for daily life, it’s interesting to consider their larger implications. Timekeeping is obviously so critical to the intensely bureaucratic society we live in, and it’s a little unsettling to consider how easily it could be disturbed. Our day-to-day functioning is basically in the hands of our constantly connected timekeeping computers, and I have to imagine that a mass unsettling of our time system, be it the product of malfunction or malicious intent, could cause unprecedented chaos. This scenario hardly seems likely, at least in the near future. For now, we can just enjoy that extra hour of sleep.
Contact Caio Brighenti at [email protected]