Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Spring Ahead, Fall Apart

This weekend we make the always exciting switch to Daylight Savings Time (DST). This is known as the unofficial start of spring. It’s also known as the official start of “How Dumb Are Americans Week”, since millions of citizens will spend at least seven days unsure of what time it is.

The premise of DST is fairly straightforward: we want an extra hour of sunlight during the day. Back in the early part of the 20th century (or the nineteen-hundreds, for those of us who find the “ith century” thing confusing), the United States Congress passed a law requiring the sun to stay in the sky an extra hour. When the sun blatantly ignored the new law, numerous F.B.I. agents were dispatched to place the sun under arrest. When none of them returned with the sun in handcuffs, Congress decided in 1918 it would be easier, not to mention less fatal for law enforcement personnel, to institute Daylight Savings Time instead.

So each year in the spring, late on a Saturday night, the people of America move their clocks ahead one hour. Or at least they’re supposed to move their clocks ahead one hour. However, considering the current front-runner for each party in the presidential campaign, it’s safe to say a large percentage of American citizens — umm, how can I put this gently? — have the same IQ as toenail fungus.

If many folks really think either the female reincarnation of Richard Nixon, except with even more paranoia and a longer enemies list — or the man who embodies five of the Seven Deadly Sins (six, if one of the Deadly Sins is “goofy hair”) would make a good Commander-in-Chief, then what are the chances they’ll figure out how to adjust the time settings on a multitude of electronic devices?

For those who are able to set every one of their clocks and electronic gizmos correctly, the beginning of Daylight Savings Time often brings out two ugly personality traits: “dual time droning” and “lost hour lamenting.”

Dual time droners will spend the next month reminding everyone of what time it would have been without DST. “Yeah, it’s 5:30, but it’s REALLY only 4:30. Yeah, it’s 7:15, but it’s REALLY 6:15. Yeah, it’s 9:22, but it’s REALLY — Ack! It’s. Really. Time. To. Stop. Choking. Me!”

Lost hour lamenters act as if they’re the victim of an armed robbery. “The hour we lost the other night really hurts,” they moan. “It’s not fair. We were supposed to gain an extra hour last fall, but I didn’t feel it.”

Unfortunately, most folks were not thinking ahead last fall and didn’t deposit their extra hour in the bank. If they did they could have received it back in the spring with interest. On Saturday morning, if you look very carefully, you will see a handful of forward-thinking souls filling out withdrawal slips at the bank and collecting exactly 64 minutes and 28 seconds.

It’s interesting to watch an entire nation, normally obsessed with time-keeping accuracy, wander around in a fog for the better part of a week. You’ll see it beginning on Sunday morning: people strolling into church five minutes before the service ends. It will continue on Monday: school children standing at the end of their driveways for hours because their parents got confused and sent them out to wait for the school bus shortly after midnight.

Most of all, you’ll see chaos in the workplace: employees sauntering into the office just before lunch time and blaming their tardiness on Daylight Savings Time. (The rest of the year I have to come up with different excuses.) 

Maybe we could turn our clocks ahead an entire year and completely skip the presidential election. That would prove Americans are not so dumb, wouldn’t it?

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