Daylight Saving Time is our biannual reminder of the subjective qualities of time. Though nearly the entire United States employs this system, a significant portion of the global population does not spring forward and fall back.
For those of us who do, there is a certain period during which time-related confusion is expected. For every cell phone or electronic clock that updates itself automatically, there’s an older clock that needs to be changed by hand. If that manual adjustment does not occur, we end up being too late or too early.
It’s one thing when this happens on the day of the time change. It’s another thing when it happens almost a week later.
The church we attend decided to hold a dinner-and-a-movie event as part of its adult Christian education program, and Mom and I were in charge of preparing the dinner. Those of you who are long-time readers of this column may have just cringed involuntarily, as you will recall that cooking is not exactly the forte of the Santoski women. (We recently buried another failed corned beef brisket in the front yard. So much for Saint Patrick’s Day dinner.)
Since we are well aware of our proclivity for culinary disaster, we opted for an uncomplicated menu: beef stew in a crock pot, a Caesar salad, a few flatbread pizzas, and cookies for dessert. The beef stew had been cooking all day and the salad simply needed to be tossed. The pizzas would only take 10-15 minutes to bake, so we saved those for last, intending to pop them in the oven at 6:15 p.m. so they would be nice and hot when people arrived at 6:30 p.m.
Even though the preparations involved were simple, we arrived at the church at 4 p.m. to give ourselves plenty of time to get things ready at a leisurely pace. We also wanted to leave enough time to deal with whatever unexpected circumstances might rear their ugly heads, like the croutons going rogue.
I assumed responsibility for keeping track of the time so that Mom could focus on the preparations without having to worry about when to put the pizzas in. Since I know how quickly time can slip away, I preheated the oven immediately to avoid unnecessary panic come 6:15.
Mom focused on setting up the TV and DVD player while I tossed the salad (mercifully, all of the croutons behaved). We then moved on to wiping down the table and assembling the appropriate dishes and silverware, my eye always on the clock in the church kitchen, counting down to pizza time.
Neither of us wear a watch, and we both had our cell phones in our purses, as we didn’t want them to get misplaced (or covered in salad dressing) in the midst of our preparations. Besides, who needs an additional timekeeping device when there’s a perfectly good clock on the kitchen wall?
A little before 5:30 p.m., one of our church members came into the fellowship hall. We thought nothing of it at first. Since he holds a position in the lay leadership and is very involved with the church’s services and events, it’s not unusual for him to be at the church at a variety of times.
When he mentioned that his wife would be joining us in a few minutes and that she was really looking forward to seeing the movie, we were perplexed, wondering why they had decided to arrive an hour early. We’re a small, close-knit church community, though, so perhaps they had come early to see if there was anything they could do to help.
And then, I happened to check the clock on the wall in the fellowship hall and realized that it was 6:30 p.m., not 5:30 p.m. When the clocks in the church were changed that previous Sunday, apparently the one in the kitchen had been overlooked.
Thank God I had had the foresight to preheat the oven – and that everyone was gracious about starting dinner 15 minutes late.
Time is subjective, to an extent. As the classic example goes, a minute can feel like an eternity depending on which side of the bathroom door you’re on. Though the experience of time may be relative, standardized timekeeping is essential to keep everyone on the same schedule. Daylight Saving Time, in spite of our best efforts and our technological advances, continues to be a monkey wrench in the cogs of a smoothly functioning society.
And as I write this, I realize that the effects of that monkey wrench may be more far-reaching than I originally thought, because even though we discovered that the clock in the church kitchen hadn’t been changed, I’m not sure that we actually did anything about it.
– Teresa Santoski
Originally published April 7, 2016