The current crop of stories at Real Life Mag are centered on the theme of circadian rhythms, including a piece from poet Linda Besner on “off-peakers” — people who try to save time and money by avoiding the 9-to-5, weekdays-for-work-weekends-for-play schedule that traps so many of us in lines and traffic jams. Her exploration of what it means to be an off-peaker turns into an interesting (and political!) musing how societies decide to organize themselves.
The comment sections of off-peakers’ blogs are, paradoxically, bustling: stories of going to bed at nine and waking up at four to ensure that the day is perfectly out of step; Legoland on Wednesdays in October; eating in restaurants as soon as they open rather than waiting for standard meal times. There’s a wealth of bargains to be had by juggling one’s calendar to take advantage of deals. (The app Ibotta, which tracks fluctuating prices on consumer goods popular with millennials, determined that Tuesdays are actually the worst days to buy rosé and kombucha; you should buy them on Wednesdays. Avocados are also cheapest on Wednesdays, while quinoa should be bought on Thursdays and hot sauce on Fridays.) Many posters write that they are considering changing professions or homeschooling their children to join the off-peakers.
Some off-peakers are motivated by savings, some by avoiding crowds, but off-peaking also offers a more abstract pleasure: the sheer delight in doing the unexpected. The gravitas attached to the seasons of life listed off in Ecclesiastes is echoed in the moral overtones attached to perceptions of what is appropriate for different hours of the day. It is wrong to laugh when everyone else is weeping or to embrace when everyone else is refraining from embracing. Ordinary activities become subversive when done at the wrong time: eating spaghetti for dinner is ordinary, but having linguini with clam sauce for breakfast breaks the unwritten rules. Once you start transgressing, it can be hard to stop: The arbitrariness of custom begins to chafe.