Musings on the mutability of time |

Musings on the mutability of time

For me, the first sign of spring is the ritual of setting the clocks to daylight saving time.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to change the time on most of my clocks. My thermostats have clocks, as do the microwave, the car, the fridge, the stove, the teakettle, the coffee maker, the phone and the printer. My actual clock changes the time automatically, as does my computer. At least I thought it did.

We took a trip four time zones away a few weeks ago, and I got out of bed in a strange hotel room in the dark of night. I didn’t want to wake Sue, so I peeked under the lid of my computer tablet to check the time: 6 a.m. Sue wouldn’t be up for a couple of hours at least, so I got dressed and went out to get breakfast and read the paper.

An hour later, I asked the waitress what time it was, and she said 4 a.m. Slowly, I realized that I hadn’t hooked up the computer to the hotel’s Wi-Fi; it still showed the time from where we left. Now I’d wake Sue if I tried to go back in the room. I learned a hard lesson about how long you can nurse a cup of coffee in an all-night diner.

If there’s one great thing about being stupid, it’s that you get used to it, whereas smart people probably feel all surprised and foolish when they do dumb things. Sue was not surprised at all to hear my story four hours later. She’s used to it.

The fact that the changing of the clocks comes almost exactly six weeks after Groundhog Day is sheer coincidence. I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that fewer and fewer people rely on hibernating animals for accurate weather predictions.

A week or two after Groundhog Day, no one can remember if the animal saw his shadow or not. And I find it hard to believe that a Pennsylvania groundhog and a Florida groundhog would be in agreement very often. If you ask me, the basic flaw in groundhog meteorology is that winter is not the same everywhere.

Spring forward, fall back; that’s the ticket. Simply set your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed March 9, and you’ll be enjoying an extra hour of daylight. Well, not really. There’s still the same amount of daylight; we’ve just all decided to use it differently.

Of course, try telling this to your pets. They are not getting the message that the time has changed. So the dog wonders: “Why are you going to bed so early? That’s OK, I’ll just keep you awake for another hour. Why aren’t we going for a walk the same time as yesterday? What’s with dinner coming an hour early?”

It takes the dog about three weeks to adjust to the new sleep schedule. The cat? He never learns. I can talk until my face is blue, but he’s never going to change things for my convenience.

Nor will the sun. The sun, the reason we have all reset our clocks in the first place, will now be directly in my face on the way home each night for a month.

Why, oh why, did someone think making streets that go east and west was a good idea? Is city planning really that hard? I can’t even see whether the stoplight by the grocery store is green or red. Now I keep in the glove compartment that smoked piece of glass that I used to watch the last solar eclipse. It comes in handy on the drive home.

Sue thinks my theory about detecting the first sign of spring doesn’t hold water. “Everybody knows the first sign of spring is when the snowbirds return,” she says. “They’re never wrong.”

Contact Jim Mullen at

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