Campus Life the first year

Saving time and turning back the clock

The real holiday of November 1

Last week, a few select individuals on campus celebrated another holiday on Nov. 1: a moment of quiet victory for everyone who adores sleep. Just last week, many of us experienced our very first daylight saving time switch.

“Ever since I moved out of Arizona, I’ve been waiting for this weekend. There’s a special event going on this weekend. Everyone’s been talking about it, so I’m super excited for it. I’m sure we can all guess what I’m talking about— the switch from daylight time to standard time. (You thought I was talking about Halloween? I guess that’s going on too. Minor details.)”

That was what my friend Matt M. ’19 posted on Facebook the day of Halloween. Honestly, no piece of writing on Facebook has emotionally resonated with me like this post. I even took the five seconds to put down my sandwich and comment “THIS.” All caps. That’s effort.

Daylight savings time is a relatively simple, albeit slightly inconvenient, concept that almost everyone here is used to. With smartphones and computers, we don’t even have to worry much about it. Our devices do the turning for us.

Unless you’re from Arizona or Hawaii, that is. We do not observe daylight saving time. Our clocks stay steady and we never have to worry about it. It was something we were all aware of, taught about in schools, and told about by friends and family in other states. But all that changed for us was the time slots of a few TV shows.

There are a few reasons for this phenomenon. (All were probably told to us at some point in our history classes.) When our states were founded, advancements like electricity made the daylight saving time system basically irrelevant. Furthermore, the sunny weather didn’t make changing the clock an attractive option during the winter. In World War II, Arizona only participated in DST for one summer because people quickly became frustrated that they had to keep the air conditioning running longer. While there are several other reasons and nuances, at the end of the day, it’s just a nice privilege and something that I never had to think about. Just another quirk.

In anticipation of daylight saving time, I even purchased a clock way back in August. And on Nov. 1, I got to turn it back. I think, in a way, it was my “We’re not in Arizona anymore” moment, just as MIT was my technicolor (it was invented here, after all).

Leaving home is a little strange for everyone, I think. Some people are homesick, others aren’t. Some call every week, others just don’t. Leaving our homes and coming to MIT solicit reactions of relief, bittersweetness, and freedom. Sometimes all at once.

I don’t feel homesick or nostalgic. But I’ve come to find a new home here, in my little room in my little entry in the tallest dorm on campus, even with a view that consists of the waste disposal between us and New House construction. And turning that clock back solidified that home for me, in space and time and the carpet I should definitely vacuum soon.

Everyone is familiar with MIT time: things starting five minutes late and ending five minutes early because we’re always going to the next thing. But MIT time is powerful in its ability to make the days fly. To keep you so busy that you look down and suddenly realize that it’s 9 p.m. and you forgot to eat lunch. I feel like I’ve been here only a day, yet it’s been longer than two months.

So I set the clock back, thinking about how time was changed for me here. I’m different than I was when I first arrived. But it’s going fast. I want more time. To cling to P/NR as long as I can and savor every minute because they’re all so potent.

Maybe that’s part of the reason I was thankful for DST. Maybe I want a way not to set the clock back, but to slow it down.

“Everyone else here is going on like this is a normal occurrence. I guess for them it is. To an Arizonan, however, this extra hour is so beautiful …” As I continued reading Matt’s post, I realized it was true. Really, really true.

An extra 3600 seconds is truly a beautiful thing. A reminder of time’s strange magic and a chance for introspection.

Now, as I blissfully ignore the fact that the clocks will take away an hour in spring, allow this Arizonan to indulge in the fall for just a bit longer.

Nina Lutz is a member of the Class of 2019.