Somewhere in the middle of the night of Oct. 30 -- or is it early in the morning of Oct. 31? -- we lose an hour. Or do we gain it? Anyway, Standard Time returns.
This time, do we drop the hands of the clock down an hour (or up an hour, depending on what side of the clock the time of day or night happens to be), or do we go around the whole dial to an hour before whatever it was when we started the maneuver? By the time I get halfway around the dial I usually forget what number I'm aiming at.
The whole biannual time warp is too much for me to handle. "Spring ahead; fall back," logical friends explain, speaking very distinctly and in a loud voice, as if I'm deaf as well as dense. They usually lean toward me, their eyes bulging with the effort. I nod, pretending to understand. But I don't.
Since the terms don't make sense to me, I escape into a fantasy, conjuring up images of little toy figures riveted to the floor, feet never moving as their bodies sway forward then backward, buffeted by equinoxial winds. I have a literal mind, and time to me is the face of a clock, with hands that move, as we say, clockwise. (We will ignore a digital clock in this discussion. It flashes disconnected numbers; it does not tell the time.)
And do we gain an hour or lose an hour when Daylight Savings ends? Some say we lose an hour in the fall, but I'm not convinced. If we move the hands of the clock from, say, 3 a.m. to 2 a.m., isn't that a gain of an hour?
The way I figure it, if I think I am 33 years old and find I'm only 32, that is a gain. The same logic -- some may question the term in this context -- should apply to hours as to years, shouldn't it?
I realize that not everyone sees it this way. Chacun a' son gout, or time and tide are in the eyes of the beholder. If the experts are right when they tell us that on Sunday what used to be 8 a.m. becomes 7 a.m., we're in for the twice-yearly confusion with buses, trains, planes, timeclocks everywhere.
Keep telling yourself, "It's earlier than you think." That helps me more than "fall back, which applies only to the way I feel on getting out of bed on the first spring Monday of Daylight Savings Time.
To solve the problem, some cheat. They don't change their clocks for a day or so. But I say unto you, evil doers, the day of reckoning will come. Sunday may be a day of grace, but on Monday, the formerly 8 o'clock will inexorably be currently 7 o'clock. At least that's easier than 7 a.m. becoming 8 a.m. in spring. Unless my working hypothesis is wrong, as it may be.
One thing that is easier in the spring is changing clock settings. Just move the hour hand to the next number, clockwise.
Complications come in the autumn, especially with two of my clocks, both in the kitchen. One is a cheap, electric wall clock whose plastic setting knob broke off during October of 1974. The other is a clock radio with numerous buttons and knobs marked Alarm, Music Alarm, Music, Sleep, Snooze and On-Off, which is the only one I can work.
The broken wall clock can be reset only by pulling the plug, waiting for the correct time to come around again and being on hand at the precise moment to plug it in again. The problem, of course, is being there at the right time, especially when there is an 11-hour wait.
With tension mounting, I take my place at Mission Control, eyes on my wrist watch. Three minutes to plug-in. Two minutes. One. Ready . . . and the dishwasher overflows, or the telephone rings. Or a delivery man pounds on the front door (the package is always for the couple across the street).
Last October, after missing the plug-in four times -- with 11 hours between tries -- I finally made the connection by getting up in the middle of the night. From the mechanism came a great whirring of gears, gasping and sputtering, which I attributed to the acute asthma attacks the old thing is subject to every few weeks in cold weather. My duty done, I staggered back to bed.
The next day, although it was symptom-free, it was 18 minutes late. A neighbor, a physicist specializing in electronics, says this is impossible. An electric clock, he says, starts as soon as the electric connection is made. Well, not this one. It took another two days before I got it synchronized.
But I can handle that. The big problem was with the clock radio and the nightmarish terror from having a sleeping house flooded with crashing organ music at 3 a.m., just after the autumn time change last year. One of Bach's more frantic fugues, as played by a mad Quasimodo. After turning on every light in the house in panic, I traced the crescendos to the clock radio in the kitchen. Did I hit the wrong button the night before? Or was it a message?
So, I face the upcoming dislocation of time with trepidation. I feel like Aunt Emma, a maiden great-aunt who was chronically disoriented. Stubbornly refusing advice, she turned her clocks in the wrong direction twice a year, so that on the first Monday of the change she was always one hour late, or had to sit for one hour on the steps of the Patent Office where she worked, waiting for it to open.
Aunt Emma, move over.