It’s gone again. That extra hour of sunlight — when there is sunlight — hard to tell sometimes in November. Sunday was the official end of Daylight Savings Time and the beginning of a blanket of darkness that deepens through the December solstice, when 2 p.m. feels like late afternoon.
I appreciate darkness but in smaller doses. I prefer the dark that follows the summer solstice in late June, when it covers just a third of the day. Two parts light, one part darkness feels about right. I can even live with the equinoxes, half and half. It’s when light is reduced to a third of the day that I start bracing for winter’s austerity.
When Central Standard Time arrives (even the name is depressing), I curse our culture’s slavish devotion to a completely obsolete tradition that, as far as I can tell, benefits no one. I can’t imagine any group lobbying passionately for CST. Their slogan would be, “At the darkest time of the year, let’s make it one hour darker!”
The night sky, I’ll admit, is a lovely sight, but not at 4 in the afternoon.
I know change is difficult for many Americans, but all we need to do is leave well enough alone. Just drop the “Savings Time” and call it, you know, Daylight. People who say they hate change also like keeping things simple. What’s simpler than Daylight?
It may be impossible to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but all it would take to get rid of Central Standard Time is to do nothing each November, which is a great month for doing nothing — other than preparing a large feast on the fourth Thursday. Believe me, it would still be plenty dark by dinner time on Thanksgiving if you love eating by candlelight.
Every year, we shake our heads and say, “We should eliminate this stale old tradition.” But then some killjoy drops the bomb: It would take an act of Congress. Well, that kills that joy. We don’t even have a functioning House of Representatives, so it’ll never happen. They operate on Congress Standard Time all year long, where the clock only moves backward. If it were up to the Republicans, they’d shut down time altogether, along with the government.
I suppose we should be grateful that whoever masterminded changing the clocks twice a year at least gave us an extra hour of sleep to go with the darkness. And by March, we’re more than willing to give up an hour of sleep in order to get that extra hour of light. Heck, a few days before Daylight Savings Time returns in 2024, we’ll be getting a full extra day thanks to Leap Year, which at least is based on something scientifically measurable.
What most of us don’t think much about, and fail to appreciate, is that we get an extra hour of light in the morning in November and an extra hour of darkness on March mornings. So it evens out somewhat. Maybe that extra morning light helps dairy farmers find their way to the barn to milk the cows.
Mostly, though, changing the clock is just an illusion. The sun and Earth don’t change. The only thing that changes is our clocks … for no discernible reason.
I have to admit, I love the extra hour of light in March, just as spring and the sandhill cranes return. It induces a mini-ecstasy for those of us with DAD (Darkness Affective Disorder). So maybe it’s worth the utter irrationality of switching our clocks.
The only other argument I’ve heard for sustaining this tradition is that change is good for us. Keeps us alert and on our toes. Livens things up. It’s also a good gag. Twice a year, it makes a lot of people either an hour late or an hour early for church that first Sunday.
Seasons change four times a year, and most people appreciate the breaks in routine, so maybe a couple of extra changes also does us some good.
Those are the only benefits I can come up with. We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, but twice a year (and not even every six months) we switch our clocks before going to bed for no reason whatsoever. Think about that. And we all meekly submit. You can’t even protest because if you refuse to change your clocks, you’ll either be an hour late or an hour early for anything you choose to attend. Besides, most of our clocks change on their own, without lifting a finger. To resist, you’d have to change them back to the way they were before.
Spring forward, Fall back. Sounds like a good metaphor for the change-averse nature of the American psyche. One step forward, one step back.
Which just gets us back where we started.
On a walk at sunset last Saturday, I think I heard the sun exclaim ’ere it rode out of sight: “Happy Central Standard Time to all and to all a good night.”