How to Beat Daylight Savings Time and Have a Winter of the Sun

Do not go gentle into that good night. Burn and rave at the close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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Photo: Chung Sung-Jun (Getty Images)

If you, too, hate the annual switch to 4:30pm sunsets; if you dread descending into months of darkness; if January is not a month to live, but simply survive, I’m here to tell you: refuse. For keyboard warriors, time zone is a choice.

I can attest to this because I have continued observing Eastern Daylight Time, over a month now after the Daylight Savings switch. I am living the winter of sun. And so far, it’s the best winter of my 34 years. It’s even better than some springs.

This is how you, profession permitting, can do it:

Settings > General > Date & Time > Toggle off “Set Automatically” > choose a preferable time zone

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I am located in Brooklyn, which means that, according to my phone and laptop, I’m in Halifax. In order to correct for the switch from Daylight Time to Standard Time, you’ll need to set your time zone to a location that’s one hour ahead. Halifax felt fittingly neutral because I know nothing about it, making it easier to not think about time changing at all. But I could have chosen anywhere that observes Atlantic Standard Time, such as Puerto Rico or Greenland.

And because my iPhone and laptop are the only timepieces I see on most days besides my oven clock, this is practically all I needed to do. My home screen clock, my alarm clock, my inbox (both app and browser), and my google calendar seamlessly adjusted.

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This is not a stunt for content. I made this decision while roller skating at an outdoor basketball court in late October, when the earlier sunset started to cut into my post-work skating hour.

Missing skating hour is not an option for me. I found roller skating in the midst of a particularly dark winter last year, during which, due to a break-up, I temporarily lived in an illegally sublet 6'x10' windowless HVAC closet. The lack of ventilation caused an accumulated odor so embarrassing that I only cracked the door for oxygen when I heard my roommates leave the house. Long story short, joining a roller skating club saved my life at an all-time low point; the club inevitably lost its space because this is Brooklyn; now I skate on the smoothest-paved outdoor basketball court in my 5-mile radius, and I will defend the spot from the pickleball people with my life.

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Many told me this was too complicated. Many doubted that I would show up to meetings on time or make the train. They were wrong.

Friday, November 4th:

I’ve been excited all week for Friday afternoon. This is when I get to tell my coworkers the news that I’m rejecting Daylight Savings. I’m making an announcement which might inspire others to mobilize!

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First, I admit that my situation is unusually favorable to this experiment this year. I work a remote job that accommodates employees working from various time zones. Unlike any job I have ever had, we work only eight hours, 8-4. It is unlikely that most readers enjoy this flexibility.

Still, I think a determined attempt to adjust your schedule for the winter of the sun is within reach for many remote workers.

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For most people, this decision would come down to whether you’d prefer to get off work late in exchange for longer mornings and later sunsets. That’s a higher-stakes trade, and I’m not here to dictate time zone choices.

I give my colleagues my little speech and end with “I’ll be working from Chicago, basically.” (This is wrong—it takes me a day to figure out that I needed to jump ahead, rather than behind.) Less enthusiasm than I’d hoped.

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“Lol okay” one says.

“So you’re working 7-3?” another responds.

The idea that I’m shifting to made-up hours briefly rattles the reality of 5:30 sunsets and provokes a wave of anxiety that this whole thing is going to fall apart. It is critical that I minimize exposure to your time.

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“7 to 3, your time,” I said.

Sunday, November 6th:

So far, so good! Just before bed last night, I’d reset my iPhone clock to Halifax time, which automatically pushed all of my meetings one hour later in my google calendar. By 6pm, I have not yet seen a clock which reflects any time but my own.

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I’m already proselytizing. On phone calls and texts, I find myself saying things like “be the change you want to see!”

After sundown, PBS Newshour is airing a segment on the Sunshine Protection Act, a bill that’s twice died in committee but now seems to have a fighting chance, with a “yes” vote from the Senate. (I know better. The Republicans won’t give Biden this win, and I’m not waiting around for the government.)

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I can’t believe it, but PBS has found a pro-“Standard Time” advocate (ie, someone who likes early night), a pediatric neurologist behind a vast mahogany desk who keeps referring to the importance of “morning light.”

I suspect she’s a plant…but for what lobby?

I anxiously glance at my work laptop, closed, sitting on a couch as far from me as possible. The little clock on the upper right corner of the screen threatens to destroy everything—I can’t change it without admin privileges, and I worry that our tech guy will have more important things to do tomorrow than change my settings.

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Without opening the screen all the way, I tape a small piece of paper over the corner.

Monday, November 7th:

I enter 24 hours of huge, unanticipated windfalls.

My day begins with a quiet, productive hour, absent of Slack pings. When my co-workers rise, they complain of jetlag. I feel great.

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As soon as our IT guy logs on at 9am, I explain that I urgently need admin privileges to change my clock because DST depresses me. He asks no questions. This is logical to him. (Thank you, Tom!)

I log off at 4pm (my time, 3pm your time), head to the Citibike station, and holy mother of god: there are e-bikes.

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If you don’t regularly use public e-bikes in a residential area, let me explain the neighborhood e-bike cold war. The average commutation schedule leaves zero e-bikes by 8am and zero parking spots for those e-bikes by 5pm. This means that around 7:45am, you’re staring at the Citibike app’s real-time e-bike map and sprinting toward the one e-bike in a six-block radius, only to be just beaten by someone coming from the opposite direction doing the same thing.

“Savage,” an onlooker said to me once, watching an e-bike thief speed off with what was rightfully mine.

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So if you need to bike 12 blocks at 8:15am, you’ll be lurching around on a standard Citibike, the heaviest bike on Earth, unusually prone to brake failure.

The neighborhood faces the opposite dilemma with parking after 5:30pm, by which time every dock is occupied, and you’ll have to speed around to three to four stations to clinch a spot.

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Thanks to rejecting Daylight Savings, I have discovered that the hours of perfect harmony—just enough e-bikes, just enough spots—are between 6:30-7:30am and 3:30-4:30 pm Eastern Standard Time. And now, 3:30-4:30pm Eastern Standard Time is skating hour.

There is nothing like the smooth, smooth ride of a fully-charged e-bike with a seat that remains in place. There is nothing like parking that bike right in front of your own personal roller skating court.

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I call this “my” court now because, now, and for the weeks ahead, it practically is. The tricycles and scooters and roving teens don’t hit the streets until sundown. The pickleball people are safely contained in their offices and condos, I assume.

After a glorious sunny skating hour, I then learn that Happy Hour goes til 7 now! As I sign the receipt for my post-skate cocktail, Bryan the bartender says that waking up to darkness yesterday was a good “signal change.” I’m not sure what that means, but he’s always optimistic.

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The only other person at the bar looks glum, her head on her palm. “I don’t like daylight saving time,” she says.

“Why, you get depressed?” Bryan asked. I consider explaining my scheme, but I can read the room. I feel bad for them, but I won’t force my agenda on a stranger.

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Besides, I’m starting to think that skipping DST is best done alone. The world is my oyster. This couldn’t be clearer when I need to run out for a random food item around bedtime and discover that all the bodegas and grocery stores are still open.

Tuesday, November 8th:

The day breaks as I bike down to my polling place for the midterm elections, the sky a pale yellow. In the once-bloodless November sky, I now see a clear slate and a fresh day, full of possibilities. I will get to watch the sunrise every day, if I choose, with no inconvenience. The splendor of the rising sun will now be included in every day.

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I am happy for this day.

I am also happy to breeze through the voting tables with just a couple of well put-together morning people, whether in Rag & Bone or Teamster jackets. They move with purpose. These are the type of people who, like me, plan their time.

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The rest of the week is like this.

Once, a kid playing basketball at the opposite end of the court while I’m rollerskating asks me what time it is. Rather than tell him the real time, I have to state that it is 4pm, as though this is fact, while the light begins to fade. This momentarily threatens to shatter reality- but that’s it.

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Saturday, November 12th:

Last-minute trip to Boston to stay with my sister and visit grandma. Everything falls apart.

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Once a third party gets involved (like a railway or an airline), you’re battling constant mental warfare. The train leaves at 4, which means I have to leave at 3—NO—4—my time. No, not my time, real time. I nervously check my phone every 15 mins to reassure myself that I am right, that the ticket is wrong. The sun will still set at 5:30.

“It’s a nightmare,” I text my friend about airports and train stations. “They’re constantly telling people what time it is. They print it out on documents and put it on big screens and announce it every 5 minutes.”

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This sounds insane. “Am I insane,” I text.

“Ya,” they reply.

“No I’m right you’re wrong,” I add.

Because the time zone change is a burden on anybody else, I keep adjusting my ETA to my sister’s time, texting her that, then checking my phone clock again. This is rapidly deteriorating into a quirky “thing-I-would-do,” rather than an honest accounting of the world.

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Sunday, November 13th:

I wake up at 12:30pm and panic because we told grandma we’d arrive at her house by 1pm, and the drive is an hour and half. Then I’m happy to remember one perk: I get to sleep in.

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Inevitably, Daylight Savings comes up in conversation with Grandma, who just moved from Florida to Massachusetts and seems really depressed about the 4:30 sunsets. She struggles to understand my DST rebellion. I know she needs to make it to a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, and changing all of her clocks would seriously compromise that, so I drop it.

As we drive away at 4pm her time, watching her wave from the darkening parking lot, I so, so wish that I could give this to her.

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Now:

Throughout the days of the above diary and after, bad things have continued to happen in all other areas of my life. There’s always some work shit, family drama, ever-present fear that I won’t be able to afford New York City much longer, and the other ever-present fear that I’m missing my window to start a family and will probably die alone.

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But everything feels more surmountable. Winter is dead. Maybe I’ll get a dog. I never thought that would be logistically possible, but now, I could see that.