The Time Change

It always takes me a few days to adjust to the changing of the clocks. I suspect few people like the change itself even if they like the result.

Daylight Savings Time is one of those arguments that will never be settled. Oh, we might come up with a political settlement, like “everyone will use DST year-round” or somesuch, but the issues will remain.

People living in the more northerly latitudes in our country experience a greater variation in day length. As you move south— toward the tropics—the difference between summer and winter starts to fade. Places like Hawai’i don’t change the clocks as they gain no benefit from it.

We spent a week one summer in Galway, Ireland. It’s at 58º North latitude, the same as Juneau, Alaska. The sky was still bright from sunlight at ten in the evening! They use Summer Time in Ireland and the United Kingdom. It makes sense. Those really early summer sunrises become lingering sunsets instead. People like having “extra” daylight later in the day rather than at the crack of dawn. It’s no surprise there’s a movement in Alaska to make DST permanent.

In Southern California, the population center of the most populous state, summer days last about 14 hours and winter days about 10 hours. (LA is at 34ºN). The time change is a convenience, not a necessity.

I live near the Oregon border (42ºN) and I dislike DST because summers here are hot. I want it to get dark in the evening SOONER not later! And I don’t mind early sunrises. It’s cool in the mornings and that’s when it’s good to be up and doing things. When I lived in the Bay Area (38ºN) the local astronomy society dubbed DST “darkness squandering time.” They hated waiting an extra hour in the summertime for the sky to darken.

There are movements in many states, including places as far apart as Maine and Florida, to make DST permanent. People, it seems, hate the change more than anything.

For most of us, one time scheme isn’t much better than the other. Standard Time isn’t any more natural than Daylight Time. Both are artificial contrivances for social utility. And even though I dislike the change it is a small thing, really. There are much bigger things to fuss over.

These days we all carry accurate clocks in our handheld computers otherwise known as cell phones. My phone is a Wal-Mart cheapie but it automatically updates the clock when I go from one time zone to the next. It seems the cell towers know what time it is! We ought to be able to have as many time zones and time rules as we want. More people these days work from home or have flexible hours. There’s no reason the school day and the work day have to be locked in on a 19th-century 8-to-5 factory model. Local areas should be able to call the time whatever o’clock they want it to be. Instead of a monolithic, government-mandated time, we can make up our own. Maybe sundials will make a comeback.

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