Springing Forward and Falling Back

Article Published: Nov. 3, 2011 | Modified: Nov. 3, 2011
Springing Forward and Falling Back

Daylight Saving Time ends this weekend (for most of us)
This Sunday, at 2 a.m., most Americans will turn their clocks back to 1 a.m., once again closing the book on the half-year that is known as Daylight Saving Time.

First imagined by Benjamin Franklin (did that guy have his fingers in a lot of pies or what?), it is a novel idea, and its primary goal is to make me feel stupid for forgetting how to reset the clock in my car.

I think my favorite Daylight Saving Time story is the one about the elderly lady who wrote to President Nixon in the 1970s to complain that the extra hour of sunlight was burning up her begonias.

In reality, Daylight Saving Time is similar to cutting a foot off the bottom of a quilt and sewing it to the top of the quilt – and then doing just the opposite six months later.

So, why do we do it?

Well, the short answer is that we move the clocks ahead in the spring and enter Daylight Saving Time in order create the illusion that the sun is rising and setting one hour later than it really is. The prevailing theory is that for most people that hour of daylight in the morning is wasted while they are still in bed and could be better put to use in the late afternoon and early evening. We also turn on lights later in the day during DST, thereby saving on energy costs.

So why do we go back to normal time in the fall?

That’s a good question. There are a lot of theories, the best being that for most people, going back to normal time keeps us from having to turn on lights when we first wake up, and it keeps school kids from having to wait in the dark for the school bus. (You try arguing against something that involves the safety of little children. I dare you.)

All I know is that this weekend most everyone in the country gets an extra hour of sleep, a minor reward for having the sun set about the same time we get off from work for the rest of the year. (In an ideal world, I would live and work in the Northern Hemisphere from May through October, and in New Zealand or some other Southern Hemisphere paradise from November through April).

You may have noticed that I said “most everyone.” That’s right, there are still a few holdouts who refuse to acknowledge Daylight Saving Time. The American territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa snub their collective nose at Daylight Saving Time. As does that rogue state Hawaii and its accomplice, Arizona. Actually, Arizona contains a rebel within a rebel as the Navajo Nation does recognize Daylight Saving Time, not so much because the rest of the country does, but more because the rest of Arizona does not. Now that’s being stubborn.

Confused yet?

Until 2005, when it joined the rest of the Midwest in embracing Daylight Saving Time, Indiana was the most confusing state in the nation. Pockets of the Hoosier State regularly sprung forward and fell back in lockstep with the rest of the country (except Arizona and Hawaii, of course). But most of Indiana refused to touch their clocks, except for the occasional winding with a clock key (kids, ask your grandparents about clock keys).

Add to this scenario of Midwestern anarchy the fact that Indiana lies in two separate time zones, and you’ve got a recipe for timekeeping madness. I can hear Rod Serling introducing a Twilight Zone episode on Indiana’s pre-2005 situation: “Imagine, if you will, a land where time is constantly jumping ahead an hour then falling back an hour. Where the six o’clock news is on at five in some places and at seven in others. That land is called Indiana and it can only be found in … the Twilight Zone.”

(Kids, ask your grandparents about Rod Serling and “The Twilight Zone.” No, it doesn’t have anything to do with that “Twilight”).

So, in summary: This weekend, everybody in this here neck of the woods will be setting their clocks back one hour. You can declare it a government conspiracy and refuse to do it, but you will only look like a moron when you start showing up for everything an hour early.

But I understand where you are coming from. It’s like my friend, Julie, said: “All this springing forward and falling back can’t be healthy.”

I agree. Time is too important a thing to start fooling around with willy-nilly. After all, time is what keeps everything from happening at once.

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