Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's Daylight Saving Time Again - As Charlie Brown says, Good Grief!

As I begin writing this, I look at my watch, the clock on my computer, and the clock on my cell phone. They all show 11:44 a.m., November 2, 2014. The latter two are automatically set to change to Daylight Savings Time. My watch agrees with them because I changed it just before going to bed at 11:00 p.m. last night.
The problem is, my circadian rhythm insists that it’s really 12:45. My stomach is reminding me that I’ve missed my usual 12:00 lunch, and my brain keeps telling me it’s later in the day.
People blame Ben Franklin for Daylight Saving
Time, but he only proposed getting up earlier.
 I go through this twice a year when the clock changes – been doing it for as long as I can remember – because my body just doesn’t understand the concept. The concept of rising early in the spring in order to make better use of natural daylight was first introduced by Benjamin Franklin. Daylight Saving Time (DST) is now in use in 70 countries (although it’s not used by every state in the U.S., and in Indiana, it’s a county option, so there are two times in various parts of the state all year long). The purpose is ostensibly to make better use of daylight and conserve energy. The first country to actually implement DST was Germany in 1916. It was put into use in the United States by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II from 1942 to 1945, and ended when the war ended. It is now part of our legislation, although it has changed a number of times over the years. The current schedule, introduced in 2007, begins on the second Sunday in March and lasts until the first Sunday in November, and is observed in most of the U.S. except Hawaii and most of the insular areas, and most of the state of Arizona. The justification is the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
There’s as much myth about DST as fact. Franklin, for instance didn’t actually propose setting the clocks forward – he actually suggested getting up earlier. Many people believe DST in the U.S. was intended to benefit farmers, but this is not the case. From the beginning, because of the disruptions it caused to their normal schedules, farmers have opposed it. The argument that it saves energy, while it might have had some merit in the early days, is debunked by the fact that the savings in use of lights in the summer are offset by the extended use of air conditioning. The extra hours of daylight also increase fuel consumption as more people engage in outside recreation activities. In fact, the additional demand for air conditioning makes DST an expensive proposition in most places.


My complaint, though, is that it causes me several days of disorientation every year as my mind and body adjusts to the one-hour change. I also have a problem with a bunch of legislators telling me what time to set on the clocks in my house. Before I retired from government work, I had two periods each year when my work schedule was disrupted, and now that I’m retired and writing full-time, it’s even more irritating to have to suddenly change my personal schedule – determined by my internal clock, to comply with some externally imposed law that I’ve never understood or agreed with. Having to run around the house twice a year changing every clock – think about the number of items in your household that have clocks (microwaves, DVRs, etc.) that don’t automatically reset themselves. Where’s the savings? I haven’t seen any yet. There are a lot of issues we could be spending our time on, so I’m not calling for a mass movement to outlaw DST – but, it is something to think about.