April 3, 2006
Daylight Saving Time Sucks
Yesterday morning I went through that strange ritual of setting my clocks ahead. I have many clocks: at least two in every room except the bathroom (just one in there, but you can see it from the bathtub), plus a clock in the basement and one of the back porch. Typically when Daylight Saving Time rolls around or goes away, I adjust all my clocks BEFORE I go to bed, but I was suffering from a cold Saturday night, went to bed early and so forgot. I hacked, coughed, sneezed, snorted, tossed and turned in the darkness; when I awoke fully to glorious daylight, I glanced at the clock and saw that it was only 6:57 a.m. I felt a moment of satisfaction when I realized that it was early enough that I didn't need to get up, that I could luxuriate in my warm bed a while longer--until I remembered that DST had started and a full hour had been lost during the night.
OK, I know that within a given time zone, places in the east are, relative to actual solar time, earlier than places in the west. I'm not at all in favor of every major city figuring out exactly when noon is, then setting its clocks to be precisely accurate in terms of that. I don't mind time zones--I can live with the fact that Detroit and New York are on the same clock, even though they're more than 600 miles apart and on opposite sides of the Eastern Time Zone. (There are repeated announcements in the Detroit Airport informing you that it's in the Eastern Time Zone--apparently a lot of people think it's in Central.)
But once we accept that the sun moves around the earth in 24 hours and mark that movement in 24 slices, why screw with the system by having everyone Spring Forward and Fall Back? I don't understand why it makes life better to decree that for almost seven months out of the year a particular point in the progress of a day is 9 a.m. when that same point is 8 a.m. for the five or so months remaining. Most people have trouble getting up in the morning, so what good does it do to make them wake up earlier? Why can't we just say that what we call 8 a.m. shall remain 8 a.m., and start our day later or earlier, as convenience dictates? (I vote later: I heartily applaud those schools that have done away with 8 a.m. classes, and wish my institution would do the same.) Why do I have to move all my clocks ahead in April and back in October?
In the 18th century, dinner was generally served in the afternoon, so that it could be prepared, eaten and cleaned up after by natural light. Candles and lamp oil being very expensive, it was a real status symbol to eat dinner late enough that you had to use artificial light in order to see your meal and your companions (root pan, bread; prefix com, with; the word originally meant "the ones you eat bread with")--and imagine the expense involved in providing candles for the help to wash the dishes by! One justification for DST is that it saves energy in that more things can be done by natural light, but given how much people drive, how many people work in buildings without much natural light, and how much people use electronic equipment throughout their day, I doubt DST saves much energy, if any.
I once checked out a book from the university library called Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time by Michael Downing, kept it for two or three semesters, then returned it unread. I plan on doing something similar with Seize the Day: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time by David Prerau. I learned this from reading the dust jackets and on-line summaries of the two books: DST has little to do with agriculture (farmers generally resent it) and plenty to do with military and industry. It is the dumbest idea Benjamin Franklin (whose other inventions include the fire department, bi-focals and, of course, the Franklin stove) ever had, and a strange custom we should get rid of.
Posted by holly at April 3, 2006 9:43 AM