Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

by gillis

Time may be a social construct, but it’s a social construct that my body has bought into hook, line, and sinker. Screw with the time continuum and you screw with my constitution and all of my other parts. Daylight saving time is never a cause for celebration in my household, but this year I thought I had it beat, at least in terms of my morning wake up routine.

This time I did not change my alarm clock. I kept the clock set at exactly the same time even though my part of the world was charging 60 minutes forward. Despite this, I was still able to wake up before 5:00 am. How did this magical event occur? Here is my secret. I have a minor time-related neurosis. I have always been in the habit of setting clocks slightly ahead to trick myself into thinking it is always slightly later than it is so that I won’t be late for things. I hate being late for things. None of the clocks in our house read the same time. My family no longer questions this as they value their lives. The only problem with this plan is that I never truly know what time it is unless I check my phone, which I cannot reset because its time is satellite based. If you know of a cheat for the phone, please do not share it with me, if I start messing with that clock, I will never know the actual time. And yes, yes I know, time is a mere social agreed upon construct, but whatever.

In the case of my alarm clock, I liked having a fifteen minute buffer so I could rest a little longer before I had to get up. I also really hated seeing the number “4” for the hour when I need to wake up, so it only made sense to set the alarm at least 15 minutes fast in order to think that I was getting up around 5:00 a.m. in order to actually get up around 4:45 a.m. None of these times was ever exact. Are you with me? I hope not, because it just gets more idiotic from here. As days wore on and I wanted to get up earlier to try to fit a run in before work, I was making 4:30 a.m. the new 5:00 a.m. Then there were a few times I needed to grade papers, lots and lots of papers, so 4:15 a.m. became the new 5:00 a.m. I kept 4:15 the new 5:00 because I could easily remember that the clock was now somewhere near 45 minutes off and figuring out the math of that was a good little brain exercise for me to do as I slapped at the “off” button. When I reset the alarm to wake up a little later (I never use the “snooze” button, that’s just lazy), inevitably I’d hit a few numbers off so that the time would be moved up little by little, until eventually I was waking up just about an hour off from the time I thought I was waking up. I never changed any of this back. Why fix something that isn’t broken? I was still getting up in time to get everything done before work, so what if it was an entirely bat-shit crazy way to start one’s day? It was my system. And I should mention I was downing anywhere between 8-12 cups of coffee a day when these genius ideas came to me.

Fast forward to this past week with the approaching time change. I decided to face the time change cold turkey, just as I had done with my caffeine purge. I was going to keep my clock at Eastern Standard Time and set the alarm for the time when I wanted to wake. Radical stuff. I felt really really good about this decision. Then last night, the first night I needed an alarm set, I could not sleep more than 1-2 hours at a stretch without waking, lifting that little plastic demon up to my myopic eyes, and checking the glowing red numbers to make sure I hadn’t overslept. I needn’t have worried. I was wide awake at 4:50 a.m. in spite of the fact that I had actually set the alarm for 5:00 p.m. by mistake meaning the alarm would never have woken me up in time to get ready for work.