Every fall, nestled somewhere between 1:59 a.m. and the inklings of 2:01 a.m. on a November morning, there lives the twilight zone of daylight savings time. Though many miss this lapse completely and simply enjoy the extra hour of sleep, there exists an entire subculture of people who not only elude the extra snooze time, but witness the time warp as 2 a.m. reverts back to 1 a.m. They are the unsung heroes of Daylight Savings Time. They are your local bartenders. And, I am one of them.
In many places across the country, bars – and their patrons – take advantage of the extra hour of business DST allots them. And, while watching the witching hour for booze hounds unfold is quite the spectacle, it also requires a particular brand of game face we reserve for things like St. Patrick's Day and New York's epic Santa Con. After being in the bar business for over eight years, I've seen many a wild night unfold — but DST is always the strangest. Always.
Like any Saturday night shift, the prep work for DST involves several rounds of coffee, all of which involve a run across the street to Dunkin' Donuts, one of which results in complimentary donut holes from the gem of a man working the counter. Depending on the quality and quantity of these donut holes, I either inhale them instantaneously, or bring them back to my coworkers if they’re mostly jelly (sorry, not sorry). But, there's something different about the way we approach this shift. There's a look on our faces that the Dunkin' Donuts man recognizes, as he too must witness the night fade, only to be resurrected. We are kindred spirits, the donut man and I. There are worse things in this life.
Here's the one thing that kills me: There is always at least one fellow bartender — or bar back or security guard — who completely forgets about DST. It's only when we start to chit chat about the night to come, and one of us casually references the added hour, that they realize what's happening. It's enough to break your heart, the way their expression changes with the sudden realization and a murmured expletive.
When it's not very busy, it's easy to feel like the night will drag on forever, but by 12:30 a.m., we have the inescapable feeling that the night may never end. Imagine feeling that every hour earned has suddenly been taken away from you, and every minute closer to the end of your evening is like a step backward. If you think about it for more than seven seconds, you won't have the emotional bandwidth to make it the whole night. So, we try to ignore the clock for as long as we can. No matter what we do to keep the time out of sight and out of mind, though, the crowd somehow reminds us that we are on the cusp of that fated hour. Some grin knowingly, and it's near impossible to avoid that infantile urge to throw a tantrum on the floor, merely uttering the words, "I don't wanna."
Suddenly, we hit the mark: 2 a.m. has turned back, and we mentally prepare for the added hour of boozing up patrons. With the time change, though, also comes a drastic change in the crowd.
There are exactly two kinds of people you’ll meet at that fateful hour. The first is a group of savvy partygoers who were not only familiar with the time change well in advance, but have scheduled and planned their drinking and energy accordingly. They've mentioned it to me once or twice throughout the night that they're looking forward to the extra drinking time, and I support them. I have so much respect for these people, who so shortly after Halloween seem to have magically grown a new liver capable of taking in another night of indulgence.
Though this first group is the stuff of legends, the other half is far more entertaining. When confronted with the reality of the situation at hand, these people do a double take. They look at their phones, expecting it to be about 2:30 a.m. since their last time check. Upon further inspection, they realize it’s back to 1:30 a.m. "Wait, is it daylight savings time?" They clutch the shoulders of their friends, and they are able to utter only sounds. No words, just sounds. "Another hour of drinking!" they cry, finally. They are so happy, that it makes even the most tired of us smile. And, because some people will still be pushing the limits of how long they can wear a Halloween costume for this particular DST, it means another hour dressed up as a sexy slice of pizza, or whatever.
Disclaimer: If things get too out of control, we do have the option of adhering to the “original” time, and shutting down “an hour early.” But, this has become a safety net rather than a rule. And, as the night continues, we begin to wonder if we would have benefited from swapping out that last round of coffee with a shot of something more...abrupt.
As the crowd continues to rally, it becomes a waiting game for the bartenders. Do most people make it to 4 a.m. (previously known as 5 a.m.)? Yes — but the orders for whiskey are swapped for glasses of water, and the dance moves turn from lively to forced, even confused. The struggle of the DST drinker is rooted in FOMO: How could you possibly leave the bar early when the United States of America has gifted you a complimentary hour of drinking? This fear of missing out is what keeps the people going.
So, as you soak in the added hour of your youth and livelihood, remember the arsenal of weary barkeeps who have made it their mission to keep the night alive. We are on your side. We support your goal of living every moment to its fullest. Forgive me if you see me sneaking a Twizzler in between shaking up your cocktail. And, ya know, maybe tip and extra dollar or two. It's for a great cause.