Daylight saving eases our ‘chimed’ lives

We all hope that people will at least give us the time of day. It’s so simple. It only gets complicated twice a year.

For me personally, the “fall back” observance creates 90 percent of the complication. Conventional wisdom dictates that it should be the other way around. It doesn’t seem to make sense that gaining an hour of sleep would be more of a hardship than losing one.

It’s kind of like a junior high science experiment that I remember like yesterday. We had a great science teacher. He knew how to make a teachable moment out of something most people would brush off as mundane.

When something comes along that’s halfway decent for teachability, he and other natural born educators have a gift for getting serious mileage out of it.

Half the class had plants that would get only light. The other half would get only darkness. Which would you want? Duh. We thought we were so enlightened. Almost a total opposite took place. The ones with light barely emerged after 10 days, while the ones that were shuttered away in the dark were tall and leggy from the exact same seeds and soil.

The dark ones had most of what they needed to grow. All they needed was light. The only thing wrong with the plants was that they had a pale, luminescent color which changed almost overnight when they were brought out into the light of day.

We never got this far with it back in junior high, but it’s almost a carbon copy of what happened when a strong, hard working farmer stepped outside at sunrise for long days of labor in the field. He (and in at least a few cases she) had been slumbering when it was dark. Energy that was spent down dramatically in daylight was replenished with much needed rest and huge quantities of food.

The monthly food bill? I would imagine practically nothing, even by 19th century standards. There wasn’t much a farm family couldn’t raise or process on its own.

Benjamin Franklin gets either the credit or the blame for the whole idea of changing our clocks. He thought of it in response to newfound potential for artificial heat and light. He peacefully defied the British who founded Greenwich Mean Time, claiming that moving the clocks forward in the summer (when the sun comes out soon enough) meant that people would use less energy resources in the evening.

And the rest is history. More than two centuries later, it all comes down to exactly when to switch the clocks. Some places have never done it at all. Most of the more industrialized nations have gone back and forth, sometimes to mobilize for all-out production during a major war.

Now in the 21st century we’re a little closer to the point that we can do whatever we want. The three choices are to put up with a twice yearly time adjustment, give up our late summer nights, or knock the big clunky age-old industrial clock back to 9 a.m. to avoid dragging ourselves out of bed when it’s still dark – when practically every ounce of information and good sense that’s been built up over the years says we should be slumbering.

Do we need the teeter-totter effect or don’t we? The slight extra morning darkness in the spring to me is like a very minor pain — the kind of pain that might be annoying just because you barely notice it. Novocaine at the dentist was worse. The bright evening offers a more immediate payback than healthy teeth.

With fall back it always seems like it should be later in the day. Then darkness closes in early. There’s some morning relief that does help, but overall it seems like in the 21st century we come up short. The days keep getting shorter either way.

The long-running 20th century soap opera “Edge of Night” reflects Standard Time. It was often last on the CBS schedule after As the World Turns, Guiding Light, Search For Tomorrow and whatever other daytime serials were popular in a particular year. The end of a long daily soap opera schedule was almost literally “the edge of night.”

We now have more options for entertainment. With our livelihoods, on the other hand, there’s still usually at least somewhat of a dependence on the clock.

Meetings have to start at a certain time. People have to show up by a certain deadline every time they’re scheduled for a shift, a first class of the day, or a first appointment. Even minor organizational adjustments to make those time pressures a little easier for some of us might create major difficulties for others. An all-out change would be problematic to say the least.

It’s no wonder that an almost infinite amount of time has been spent trying to figure out how to manage everybody’s time. I’m thinking at least for now we probably have to go with the flow twice a year instead of dashing for light that’s probably not exactly at the end of the tunnel.

So we just have to keep smiling. Meanwhile keep reading at least one daily paper. Hopefully you’ll read my words again soon, any time and almost any place.


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