By Lynn Ashby 22 Nov. 2010
THE CLOCK – Move Mickey’s big hand to the 15 minute mark, wait for the bongs, then move the hand to the 30 minute mark, wait for more bongs. Now to the 45 minute mark. This could get tedious. What I am doing, if you must know, is what many of you have been doing: changing the time on all my windup clocks, wristwatch, digital stove clock, dashboard clocks, recorders and sun dials. If you have a timer for lights, the
automated coffeemaker, burglar alarm, lawn watering system, central heating-a/c, change them, as well.
Why? Because of God’s great curse to mankind. No, not Oklahoma. I’m talking about daylight saving time, or DST. Actually, the curse is caused by Congress playing God. Yes, I know, daylight saving time kicked into effect in early November, except in years when it went into action in late November except February which has 28. But now, these weeks later, I am still wrestling with getting all hands on deck, moving this one quarter hour by quarter hour so as not to mess up the chimes. Can you imagine what it must be like to work in a clock shop?
First, let me ask you something, and don’t count on your fingers. Are we now, after the one-hour change, ON daylight saving time or OFF? And if it is now 1 p.m., back in October was this same time either noon or 2 p.m.? We all know we spring forward in fall and fall backward in spring, or maybe we fall backward in fall and summer in Aspen.
Another question: If a train leaves Dallas for Austin at 1 p.m. going 60 mph, and another train on the same track leaves Austin for Dallas at noon going 120 mph, where will they collide? This brings us to Amtrak. To keep to their published timetables, trains cannot leave a station before the scheduled time. So, when the clocks change one hour in the fall, all Amtrak trains that are running on time stop at 2:00 a.m. and wait one hour before resuming. At the spring time change, trains immediately fall one hour behind schedule at 2:00 a.m., but they just keep going and do their best to make up the time. All of this would be easier if Amtrak was ever on time.
People have always been dickering with our calendars and clocks. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII noted that the long-used Julian calendar was far off because it was slightly inexact each year, which mounted up over the centuries. Pretty soon Easter would be in the middle of the summer. So the pope created a new calendar which sliced off 10 days. Britain and the American colonies didn’t start using the new calendar until 1752. At that point British peasants rioted, demanding the government give them back their lost days. It also means George Washington’s birthday is not Feb. 22. The Russians didn’t change until after their revolution, which is why they celebrate their October Revolution on Nov. 8.
Not surprisingly, Benjamin Franklin first came up with the idea of DST, back in 1784. His actual observation was: “One hour early to bed and one hour early to rise, makes a man hung-over, confused and hastens his demise.” The idea wasn’t implemented nationwide until World War I to save electric energy. It was dropped, then reinstated when we sprang forward to World War II. In 1966 Congress passed a law simply saying we needed to get on and off DST at the same time: the last Sundays in April and October.
In 1987, when the starting time was moved again, dairy farmers complained that their cows couldn’t read clocks and didn’t change their schedules when DST kicked into gear. Adding a longer time between milkings, the dairymen said, would really damage the crop of the cream. Finally, as always, we hear about how the mornings would still be dark when the little school children wait in danger for the school bus. The lawmakers agreed to reconsider. Later, Congress passed an energy bill that included extending DST by about a month. So now DST starts the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November.
It’s all very confusing. To unconfused yourself, you could move to El Paso, which is the only part of Texas in Mountain Time. That would put you an hour ahead when you fall an hour behind. No, maybe you should go east, to Eastern Time. Take an Amtrak on the first Sunday in November.
Here’s a good story. Wonder if it’s true? A man born just after 12:00 a.m. DST in Delaware, was drafted during the Vietnam War. He argued that standard time, not DST, was the official time for recording births in Delaware back when he was born. So, under official standard time, he was actually born on the previous day — and that day had a much higher draft lottery number. He won the argument, and avoided the draft.
There are a few mistakes we must correct (as Jerry Jones was telling Wade Phillips). First, the term is daylight saving (singular) time, not savingS. Think of it as daylight-saving time, a time when we save daylight. But we really don’t. We are rescheduling it, and don’t save minute. Another mistake: as with the seasons — summer, winter, football — and e.e. cummings, the term daylight saving time is not capitalized. It’s abbreviation, DST is, but not the full Monty. People get it wrong all the (saving) time.
Finally, whether we spring or fall, those two times of the year are when fire officials remind us to change the batteries in our smoke detectors. But with all the time changes how do the alarms know when to go off? No matter what Congress does to our clocks, I still plan on sleeping till noon. I just don’t want noon to come too early, so I’m telling Mickey to shut up.
Ashby is late at firstname.lastname@example.org