November 1st 2005 Working Over the End of Daylight Saving Time

Saturday night (or rather, Sunday morning), I was sitting in my friend’s room, hanging out with some other friends. I looked at the clock on his computer. The time was 1:55. Not ten minutes later, I looked at the time again—and suddenly it was 1:03!

What had just happened? Had I honestly just gone back in time? Did I finally succeed in getting my flux capacitor to work? And where was my Delorean?

Well, no, of course I had not gone back in time; it was simply the end of Daylight Saving Time. And then I remembered something: early in the evening, around the first 1 AM, I had seen a pizza delivery boy doing what he does best—delivering pizzas. And that’s about the time a thought popped into my brain.

Assume, for a second, that you work for a pizza place. You normally work, say, 8 PM to 3 AM (yes, I know those are unrealistic hours, but this assumption is for the purposes of discussion only). So you’re working the night Daylight Saving Time ends. You work until 2 AM, and then the clock falls back an hour, and you work two more hours, until 3 AM. Do you get paid for seven hours, or eight? Simple subtraction would say seven, but you technically worked an extra hour, so do you get paid for it? And what if you punch in with a time card, especially in an older system that might not understand DST—how do you get paid for the correct number of hours?

The point really brings up a whole host of issues. What is time, exactly? Is it a concrete thing that is immutable even by the measurement errors or alterations of humans? Or is it a purely human construct that is subject to the whimsy of human measurements? Is the passage of time marked inherently and indelibly upon our existence, or is purely at the will of the devices in which we use to measure time?

Some of you might be saying that these questions don’t matter one bit, but I bet they will once you are screwed out of an hour of pay.