When I woke this morning, the ambient light seemed much brighter than I would have expected for the early hour. I experienced a moment of disorientation, then it occurred to me that last night might have been the end of daylight savings time. I say “might have been” because ever since I have begun using my self-updating phone for all time-checking needs — wristwatch and bedside alarm clock — I have put all reminders of clock-changing out of my mind.
For just a few minutes, this morning, I felt as if the world had changed while I’d slept. If I were out by myself somewhere, with no way to check unchanged clocks, and with no hint of the change, I’d have no idea what if anything had transpired during the night, and wouldn’t have known what gave me that feeling of unease. I’ve woken with that same sense of disorientation at other times, though, for no reason I could fathom. Perhaps we gain and lose time on a regular basis, but since our clocks are synced to the change, we never know.
When I was young, I took an informal poll. Whenever the days seemed to pass quickly, I’d ask people how the time seemed to them, and invariably, the day seemed to pass quickly for them too. Same with days that moved interminably slowly. Since not everyone experiences the same flow of life at the same time — concentrating on a task, which makes the time seem to go fast, or focusing on an upcoming event, which makes time seem to go slowly — I figured there was a possibility that time did in fact have a natural flux. Seconds might vary ever so slightly, making the minutes a tad longer or shorter, and by the time those variations added up in the hours, we would feel the difference. As long as our clocks followed the ticking of the seconds, no matter how long or short, we’d never know time moved at its own whim.
Adding to this strange but timely musing are the findings of quantum researchers, that measuring creates the actuality. Maybe our time measurement instruments (including heart beats and pulses) actually create time. (Maybe that’s why a watched clock never seems to move? Or should it be the other way, that a watched clock makes time move faster?)
The even odder thing to consider is that despite the dubious gift of an extra hour today, there are still but 24 hours in a day. That didn’t change. Only our instruments changed.
One year, I so hated the idea of daylight savings time that I refused to reset my clock. I automatically adjusted the time in my mind, so it wasn’t a problem, though it was for other people. I remember my panic-stricken brother running out of my apartment when he saw the time, thinking he was late to pick up his fiancé from work, and the almost sheepish phone call a few minutes later when he asked if I knew my kitchen clock was off. I’d forgotten by then of course, so used was I to making the mental adjustment. I never did that again — leave the clocks unchanged.
And now I no longer have a choice. My clock makes the change itself.
As, perhaps, clocks have always done.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)