I just came across a news article titled “Massachusetts is Considering Leaving the Eastern Time Zone.” Good for them. It’s about time.
Apparently, last year, the government of Massachusetts formed a commission to spend a year talking about changing their state to an earlier time zone — the Atlantic Time Zone — because there’s really nothing else to do in Massachusetts after 4 p.m. unless you want to talk about the weather.
Weather is a huge topic of conversation over there. My in-laws live in a small town in Massachusetts, and my mother-in-law still talks about the time they had a layer of snow on their sukkah 40 years ago. She tells us this every year when she sits down in our sukkah in New Jersey in the 90-degree weather, wearing her coat. Also, early in my marriage, I walked a half-hour to shul with my father-in-law, and the entire time we talked about weather. I thought it was just him, but then we got to shul a little early (we’d left the house an hour before shul) and everyone there was talking about the weather too.
So evidently, people in Massachusetts are obsessed with the weather. I’m not sure if they’re obsessed with the weather because they live there, or if they moved there because they’re obsessed with the weather. (“I really enjoy weather. I’d like to live somewhere where it’s all they talk about.”)
Shalom Bayis Note: I’m not specifically making fun of Massachusetts just because my in-laws live there. I’m specifically making fun of Massachusetts because, besides for New York and New Jersey, it’s the state that I’ve spent the most time in … because my in-laws live there. That’s very different.
But no doubt this whole idea of Massachusetts switching to an earlier time zone leaves you with many questions, your first one being, “There’s something east of the Eastern Time Zone? Why do we even call it the Eastern Time Zone?”
This whole idea is the work of Massachusetts citizen Tom Emswiler, who moved in from Virginia in 2011 and wasn’t prepared for the early sunsets. Massachusetts is actually in the easternmost part of the Eastern Time Zone, and Tom noted that sometimes shkiyah there could be as early as 4:12, although he didn’t call it “shkiyah.” He eventually got enough people on his side, and now the government is seriously considering the change.
They also want to abandon Daylight Savings Time. Which is just as well, because no one likes switching their clocks.
Sure, we all know how to do it. It’s “spring ahead; fall back.” That’s great. What if you call it “autumn”?
Also, everyone remembers “fall back,” but no one remembers what that means practically.
“Let’s see. We moved the clock back, which means that if I go to bed at 12, it’s really 1. Or 11.”
And people are cheshboning this wrong and going to bed two hours later than they’re used to, and then waking up two hours earlier than they’re used to, somehow. Eventually, we all stop doing the math in our heads out of sleep deprivation, and then everyone acclimates.
But not without cost. In fact, studies link the start of DST to people driving erratically and getting into car accidents (probably from trying to figure out how to change the time in their cars), and they link the early darkness during standard time to depression. (You go to work in the dark; you come home in the dark. Did the sun even come up today?)
Even my kids’ school can’t figure it out. The day we switch one way they start late, and the day we switch the other way they also start late.
Seriously. In the spring, they start at 10. It’s like, “Why are you starting at 10?”
“Because our bodies are going to think it’s 9.”
“What about the older kids who are supposed to start at 7:30?”
“Their bodies think it’s 7:30.”
“So why aren’t you ending an hour late, too?”
“Because then we’re going to have to start an hour later on Monday.”
“No, you don’t. It’s Sunday. You end at 1! Also, how come in the fall you don’t start at 8?”
On the other hand, you’ll say, why not adopt Daylight Savings Time all the time? Think about it: If Daylight Savings Time helps people have daylight after work and use natural light in the evenings to stare at their phones, and whatever it is it helps the farmers do, why not keep the clocks at Daylight Savings Time all year, especially when the days are shorter? Let’s give those farmers a break. What are the benefits of standard time? Tradition? And don’t give me this “there are no crops in the winter” business, because someone still has to milk the cows.
Sure, you’re going to say that some people like their early times. For example, criminals, when polled, revealed that they hate DST, because they have to start later, or even rob people early in the morning instead. And if they wanted to wake up early, they would just get a job.
I personally like early Friday nights, because it’s a good time to learn or play a game with the kids, plus long motzaei Shabbosos are a lot of fun and are great for, like, swimming in the winter, which is not something you’d think you want to do, but it’s way more tznius. So it’s nice to have that for one whole stretch of the year, and for another stretch we have long Friday afternoons and long Shabbos afternoons. And then we have two stretches of that awkward time when Shabbos starts at 5:30, which is both too early and too late. Which is usually about the time that we say, “Forget this,” and change the clock.
But in effect, that’s what Massachusetts is doing—having permanent Daylight Savings Time. Leave it to Massachusetts to overcomplicate things. Instead of saying, “Let’s just keep DST,” they’re saying, “We want to adopt AST and dump DST.” It’s confusing enough that the “S” in AST doesn’t stand for the same thing as the “S” in DST.
The reason they have to do it this way, though, is that by federal law, a state can opt out of Daylight Savings Time but not standard time. It’s illegal, and the entire state could go to prison, with all the criminals who prefer not having Daylight Savings Time, and it won’t be pretty. So to beat the system, they have to adopt Atlantic Standard Time, and then cancel the Daylight Savings Time.
For me, all this would do is make life more confusing. Like if I’m going to go to my in-laws for Shabbos, I’d say, “Shabbos here starts at 4:17. What time does Shabbos start there?” And they’d say, “4:54.” And I’d say, “Great! That’s… Wait. You mean 3:54.” And they’d say, “I don’t know. We call it 4:54 over here.” Now before they changed time zones, Shabbos would’ve started at 3:54, but once they change zones, I have to go back and forth just to figure out that it’s still 3:54. So all I’m gaining is a headache. Fortunately, I don’t go to my in-laws enough for this to be a problem.
I also don’t think my in-laws will like this, because it means everything in their lives would be starting later. My in-laws like to wake up early. I’m pretty sure they wake up at 5 a.m. every day, though I’ve never seen it personally. So if they’re moved to an earlier time zone, they’re going to be waking up at 4 a.m. and milling about for hours, loudly asking each other why we’re not awake yet. And then going to go to bed during supper.
I know this doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. I’m pretty sure that most people do not have in-laws in Massachusetts. But I’m sure plenty of people have in-laws in other time zones, and, to be honest, I don’t really understand how time zones work in the first place. I’ve never really been at a place where the time zone changes, and I always assumed it was in the middle of rivers or something. I never thought you’re just driving up Route 95, and you’re like, “Whoa! It’s an hour later! What happened?” And then you drive down Route 95 and you’re suddenly going back in time. Like you can run into yourself going the other way. Maybe stop yourself.
“It’s not worth it! Don’t go! They’re waking up at four in the morning and have no idea what to do with themselves!”
So after a year of talking this over, the commission decided that first of all, if they made the switch, they’d have to have the schools start later so kids aren’t going to school in the dark. In other words, everyone will be on Atlantic Time except the kids. Who’s bringing them to school? On the bright side, the parents would be coming home earlier than their kids and spending more time with them after school. When it’s dark.
But other than that, the commission said, the change is actually a good idea, but only if everyone else does it. Their recommendation is for all of New England to go along with them, plus New York. That sounds great. I’m not in New York, but I live right next to it. So let’s move the border of this problem to my front doorstep! We’ll have people coming into New York and driving erratically, and then coming into New Jersey and feeling depressed … Wait. We already have that.
In case you think I only make fun of Massachusetts.
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.