Going back in time and catching up

November 5, 2016

No matter how the election turns out on Tuesday, most Americans will take a step backward in time. You may think that I’m making that statement because I don’t like either of the presidential candidates, and that may be true. But, in this case, the outcome of the election has nothing to do with our regression.


As I type the next series of digits, the U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates that there are 324,842,475 people who are residents of this country. That means that we have 324,842,473 better choices than the two that our major political parties put on our ballots. That’s a completely separate issue. What I’m writing about is a strange phenomenon that will cause most of us to turn our clocks back one hour at 2 o’clock tomorrow morning. That’s when we switch from Daylight Saving Time to Daylight Wasting Time.

 

Glass half empty
The time shift means that we lose 60 minutes of daylight because night comes earlier between November and March. To those who see the glass as being half empty, this means that we have fewer hours each day to accomplish our goals. Golfers, for example, may have enough time to play only half the course after work. Artists have less “natural light” to create their masterpieces. Construction workers can pound fewer nails without risking bruised thumbs.


During colonial times, when Benjamin Franklin was our representative in Paris, he wrote “An Economical Project” in which he advocated going to bed earlier at night in order to cut costs associated with lighted candles and oil lamps. He calculated that France could save 64 million pounds of tallow and wax by simply rising earlier on the days between March and October and turning in sooner at night on the days between October and March.


Twelve decades later, a London builder named William Willet suggested something that was the equivalent of Daylight Saving Time in a pamphlet, “The Waste of Daylight.” But, another decade passed before England, Germany, and the United States adopted the idea. Even then, recognition of the new time standard by individual states was voluntary in our country. 


Sometimes, different counties in the same state were on different clocks. Consequently, in 1965, one passed through seven time changes on the 35-mile bus ride from Moundsville, West Virginia, to Steubenville, Ohio. Also, Arizona doesn’t observe the time change; the Navajo Nation has its own system of time; and Alaska and Hawaii fall outside the longitudinal lines of the continental United States.

 

Glass half full
Some people — those who see the glass half full — get so exuberant about getting an extra hour of sleep that they probably expend so much energy celebrating that they actually need the additional rest. But, whether you stay up an hour longer at night or sleep in a bit during the morning, this weekend you’ll have an extra hour to toy with. You might want to use those 60 minutes to do the exercises that you promised yourself on New Year’s Day. But, that hour of stretching, jumping around, and heavy lifting might need to be followed by a long nap, nullifying the time bonus.


Others might want to use the extra time to compose a letter to the U.S. Time Czar, expressing the nation’s frustration in having to reset the dozens of clocks that seem to accompany every electronic device in our homes and cars. That seems like something productive, except that the “Time Czar” is Congress, and we all know that our lawmakers are gridlocked over every issue that comes before them.


Of course, you could use the extra time to learn to play a musical instrument, like the tuba or harpsichord. Or, you could contact the Clown College in Florida and enroll in its pratfall class. You could also roll those coins that you’ve been saving in the cookie jar. Or check the expiration dates on all those food products that have been hiding in the back of the refrigerator.

 

Glass full
There was a time, though it didn’t last very long, when Daylight Saving Time was observed year ‘round. It was probably one of those ideas that originated in a hippie commune where people with chemically-enhanced consciousness invented the “rules of nature.” At any rate, beginning January 6, 1974, and ending April 27, 1975, DST was the nation’s “standard time.”


The government went along with the notion, claiming that the 1973 oil embargo by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC, as opposed to OPEC, which includes Venezuela) forced us to conserve fuel. However, this experiment was not well received by everyone. Many people objected to the fact that their children had to leave for school when it was still dark during the winter months. Others favored the increased daylight hours during the same time period, along with more time for recreation, reduced lighting and heating demands, reduced crime, and fewer automobile accidents. But, as hippies began to fall out of favor, so did year-round DST.


Except in Colorado. Ralph Routon, a columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazette, used his exposure in the newspaper to champion DST as the state’s “standard time.” He wrote that the change would save residents the “aggravation of resetting their clocks every six months.” And, that was long before recreational marijuana was legalized in the state. But, the proposal never got off the ground. Today, Coloradans who are surrounded by clouds of cannabis smoke don’t really care.


In Washington, State Re. Elizabeth Scott tried to put the state on a single time standard, claiming that the semiannual time switches are not only inconvenient but also lead to health problems, like increased heart attacks, car wrecks, and work accidents. Like Colorado, the state of Washington also allows recreational use of marijuana.


Is there some kind of connection between marijuana usage and the ability to remember to change the hands on one’s clocks? I don’t know, and I refuse to occupy my mind with the puzzle. In April, we’ll all catch up, anyway. Unless the winner of Tuesday’s election plunges the world into the permanent darkness of oblivion.

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