Daylight Savings

Anybody else sleep right through the shift to Daylight Savings Time this year? Anybody else find out they were supposed to have “sprung forward” only after showing up an hour late for Sunday brunch? (Sorry Grandma!)

If it seems like Daylight Savings Time came earlier this year than normal, that’s because it did. In 2007, a new law went into effect in the United States, moving up the switch to an extra hour of evening daylight by three weeks in the spring and delaying the switch back to standard time by another three weeks in the fall. The result: spring came early this year. Or at least it felt that way.

Most people like Daylight Savings Time. It was originally designed to give us all an extra hour of leisure after work but before sundown; later, advocates of Daylight Savings have made credible claims that the time-shift also saves energy, reduces crime, and even lowers the number of car accidents. So you’d think that adding to Daylight Savings Time would be a political slam-dunk. But if the politics of Daylight Savings were works of Shakespeare, they’d be less like the love-in of Sonnet 18—”Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”—than the vicious Montague vs. Capulet blood feud of Romeo and Juliet.

When Daylight Savings Time first went into effect back during World War I, angry farmers bitterly protested against the shift away from standard time, which they called “God’s Time.” More recently, PTA groups have fought against Daylight Savings, fearing that their children’s safety would be endangered by having to walk to school in the morning dark. (Would it kill us just to start school later in the day?) And airlines say that Daylight Savings costs them millions by messing up gate times for trans-Atlantic flights. In Washington, lobbyists for this “coalition of the early dusk” battle against pro-sunlight forces including the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores. (Seriously, we are not making this up.) While the daylighters currently have the upper hand, the anti-Daylight Savings lobbyists are surely just waiting for the day they can swoop in, like the raven of Edgar Allen Poe, to turn back our clocks while croaking, “Nevermore.” And so the battle continues.

It’s hard to imagine what might happen if we Americans ever took up the proposal, currently being considered in Britain, to go on permanent Daylight Savings Time in the winter and on Double Daylight Savings Time in the summer. Such a system would allow glorious summertime sunsets to stretch toward midnight… but that surely wouldn’t make the forces of darkness happy.

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