Monday, March 9, 2009

Saving Daylight

Time is a wonderful invention. It keeps everything from happening all at once.

This week, it took several days for me to realize my clocks were out of sync with the rest of the world. No big deal though, I've been out of sync with the rest of the world ever since second grade when Sue Reichart kissed me after school.

Apparently, I missed another one of those Daylight Savings Time (DST) moments whereby we either spring forward or fall back or whatever we are supposed to do in order to remain in lock step with our fearless leaders.

It all started in 1784, when Benjamin Franklin wrote a whimsical essay titled "Turkey versus Eagle, McCauley is my Beagle" in which he advocated what is today referred to as Daylight Saving Time.

Over the ensuing years, the notion of saving daylight slowly began to catch on with those who would apparently score low on a whimsy-o-meter.

Germany and England first adopted Daylight Saving Time in the spring of 1916, during World War I.

In March of 1918, the U.S. Congress established times zones, which had been used by the railroads and most cities since 1883, and included a conversion to Daylight Saving Time for the remainder of World War I.

DST proved to be very unpopular in the USA and was repealed in 1919. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the legislation but Congress overrode the veto. Thus, America returned to normal after the war to end all wars.

In February of 1942, DST was once again reinstated in the USA. Apparently, it's easier to fight world wars if you adjust the time pieces to save daylight. That way, you have an extra hour each day to fight and the enemy can't sneak away in the dark quite as easily.

In September of 1945, the "war time" requirement was removed.

From 1945 to 1966, the U.S. Congress had better things to do than mess with time. States and localities were free to observe or not to observe DST.

But in April of 1966, the Federal Uniform Time Act mandated DST nationwide. However, individual states could become exempt from DST by passing a state law. Then in 1972, the Act was amended to permit states that straddle time zones (such as Indiana) to exempt areas within zones.

The primary benefit of advancing clocks by an hour in the spring and reversing them in the fall is to give people more afternoon sun during the summer.

However, an extra hour of daylight in the afternoon costs an hour of daylight in the morning.

While a time change may benefit some, it can be inconvenient or a burden to others.

1) Sleep patterns are interrupted which generally take up to five days after each time shift to overcome
2) Personal health and work-related productivity suffer with changing sleep patterns
3) Those who must rise with the sun (agriculture) are out of sync with the societal time schedules
4) Studies show that traffic accidents increase significantly during periods following the time shifts
5) Computers must all change their internal clocks in accordance with human time
6) More afternoon sunlight actually increases energy consumption
7) Time shifts cause much confusion with international business
8) All Amtrak trains must stop for an hour in the fall to remain in sync with published timetables
9) In the spring, Amtrak trains become an hour behind schedule and must do their best to catch up

The state of Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time. I lived there in 1987-92 and life was much simpler sticking to a consistent time. I never understood why the rest of the country was so unenlightened.

Saving daylight is a lot like saving a jar of air. Basically, it's an exercise in stupidity resulting in an empty jar.

By the way, the U.S. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has given us even more daylight to be saved. Starting in 2007, Daylight Saving Time was extended another four or five weeks in the USA (except Arizona, Hawaii and parts of Indiana), from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November.

Note to Congress: Daylight Saving Time really doesn't save any daylight -- it only causes irritation, much like most everything else you do. If DST is such a great idea, why not do it all year around and avoid the grief?

When confronted with rules made by nitwits, one course of action is to become a nitwit. When the times change in the spring, show up at work an hour late, complaining you didn't realize the change had occurred. In the fall, show up two hours late during the time change, explaining you were confused. It works either way.

Time is precious. Don't give it away so freely. The only freedom you have in this dimension is the time that belongs to you.


Quote for the Day – "Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save." Will Rogers

Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where time doesn't really matter. His blogs appear on several websites, including


Deltha said...

Love this post. I think I might even quote you next year!

Bret Burquest said...


Thanks, Deltha.

It seems like every time daylight savings time comes around, I discover another new clock in my place that needs changing. Every appliance & gizmo has a digital clock these days.

Hope all is well with you.