What Time Is It?




Well, in this house at least, it's VST (Vern Standard Time), all year round.

Let me explain. I don't change my clocks, ever, and haven't done so for several years now. I live in the Eastern time zone, so I'm on permanent daylight time (EDT, which is UTC -4 for you time zone geeks out there). The time change I ignore just took place on the first Sunday in November, when everyone around me moved their clocks back an hour. As for the time change in March, I'm already there, happy to have the rest of society rejoin me.

How do I accomplish this? I'm a closed-caption editor who's not paid by the hour, and even though my shifts are fairly consistent time-wise, I have a lot of leeway. It doesn't matter which specific hours I work, as long as I complete whatever is assigned to me that day. How many hours that takes and which hours I work are irrelevant. So, the major obstacle for most people—your employer adjusts their clocks and you've no choice but to fall in line—doesn't apply to me.

Another useful strategy involves tricking my computers. Their clocks automatically go back an hour on the first Sunday in November, so what do I do? Why, I manually move them forward an hour and change the time zone to AST (Atlantic Standard Time) until March. It's like moving to Halifax for the winter. My computer doesn't know the difference and recognizes both the time and time zone I've chosen as entirely valid.

With respect to appointments and day-to-day affairs, I've trained myself to add an hour. As an aid, I put the time in quotes when I enter it into my daybook (yes, I still use pen and paper, which I'm sure makes the process easier). So, if I see an appointment with Dr. Smith listed on Monday at "2:00," I know it's really at 3:00.

Why do I go to all this trouble? Simply put, I'm getting older and have several niggling health problems, sleep disorders included. Changing the time (and by extension, fiddling with your body clock) twice a year causes problems even for young, healthy people. For someone like me, it wreaks havoc. When I was a boy, the time change made a little more sense, as we were on EST for six months and EDT for the remaining six. But in recent years, the ratio has become approximately 35/65 EST to EDT, leaving some of us wondering why we should bother with EST at all.

And here in Ontario, at least, I'm not alone. In 2020, Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Jeremy Roberts tabled a private member's bill called The Time Amendment Act, and it passed with unanimous support. Once in force, it will do exactly what I'm doing: life will be lived in permanent VST. Er, I mean permanent EDT. The catch lies in that "once in force" bit, as the bill is contingent on both Québec and New York following suit. Understandable, of course, as Ontario alone adopting VST would cause economic chaos for us and our nearest neighbours. But momentum is shifting: in Québec, Premier François Legault has expressed openness to the idea, and numerous pundits advocate for a switch to permanent daylight time.

Now, some chronobiology experts insist that switching to permanent standard time is "the wiser and healthier choice." As a night owl, I disagree. I don't care how dark it is at 8:00 a.m. in the winter because I'm asleep then. I value my light in the evening, and in my cozy VST bubble it never gets dark earlier than 5:30 p.m. Regardless, it matters not whether we switch to permanent EST or permanent EDT; the bigger issue I think we all can agree on is that it's high time, if you'll pardon the pun, for a switch to permanent something.

I hope to one day retire VST because it'll just be called EDT, every day of the year, by the good people of Ontario, Québec and New York.