Getting Out Of The Terror Time Change Is A Hot Topic, But For All The Wrong Reasons
One of the first big events I remember from my childhood – besides the invigorating thrill of the 1969 moon landing – was the spectacular failure of the 1974 attempt to stay on daylight saving time all year round. The news picture were stark: the camera lights blindingly bright as they cut through pitch blackness to illuminate children exiting their school buses on a predawn winter morning. It was a national attempt to stop the biannual biological clock disaster that is daylight saving time. And it was a dismal failure.
Nobody likes the time change – not then, not now. Yet, while legislative bodies often discuss ending it, the “solution” most often considered is a non-solution – that of staying on daylight saving time all year round. Staying on normal time all year round is the only tenable solution. It’s also the coolest – and I mean that literally. But this is rarely considered.
Daylight saving time was introduced in the United States in 1918 as part of the war effort as a means of save energy because people would need to use their electric lights less during long summer days. This made sense in 1918, because – given the complete absence of other electrical appliances – the average household electricity consumption consisted entirely of lighting. Now, of course – especially since the invention of air conditioning – the use of light bulbs no longer accounts for the lion’s share of our electricity bills. With home air conditioning so much more ubiquitous, in fact, we are now being asked to use our other major electrical appliances – dishwashers, etc. – later in the day to avoid peak hours of electricity consumption in the middle of the day. Here’s the problem: these peak hours of electricity consumption roughly correspond to the daily peak hours of heat.
Consider this: when you’re on daylight saving time, the daily temperature peaks around 5 p.m. That means we choose the hottest time of day to leave work and get into our sunny cars to fight traffic, all the while desperately hoping our vehicle air conditioners will cool us down before we pass out from heat exhaustion. At normal time, the daily temperature peaks around 4 p.m., so the summer heat has already begun to dissipate by the time we leave work, and by the time we arrive home, our homes have also had the chance to start cooling. And yet, we still push our peak time at home by an hour each summer so that we are more in step with the peak hours of daily heat.
I realize that having an “extra” hour of sunshine during the summer is what makes DST so popular. Because I grew up in Arizona – one of some states who embraces sanity by adhering to standard time all year – I’ve always been baffled by this argument. When you live somewhere as hot as Phoenix, the sunset is a blessed respite from the sweltering heat given off by our blazing sun disk. When I lived in Arizona, the summer sun just couldn’t set too early for me. As the nation’s summers get hotter — think last year’s scorching heat waves — earlier sunsets are expected to gain appeal elsewhere.
The point is, staying on standard time year-round would make all your favorite outdoor evening activities — like watching baseball or grilling burgers — cooler. You may need to turn on some lights before you’re done, but they won’t make you sweat or heat your house like the sun does.
Anyway, while only two states stick to a colder permanent standard time, 19 states have passed legislation to observe daylight saving time all year round. However, none of them actually do. This is because such a change can only be made under federal law. Congress has been busy making daylight saving time year-round, most recently in March of this year when the The Senate passed a billbut has been unable to push legislation through either house since the 1974 debacle.
Interestingly enough, absolutely any state can choose to adhere to standard time year-round. without getting permission from Congress. That means we could, in fact, all be spared the torment of setting our clocks back and losing an hour of sleep next spring — and every spring thereafter — if our state legislators adopted the only solution that actually solves the problem of the time change.
If the United States House passes the Senate bill, I have no doubt that we will see a repeat of 1974. Parents will see their children go to school in the dark over the next winter and will make it deservedly a stink until the whole thing is once again discarded. Because unless schools across the country decide to change their start times every winter – which I suspect parents would hate even more than a pre-dawn start time – this problem is never going to go away. vanish. Then we’ll all be stuck jumping forward and back until enough people forget why we can’t observe daylight saving time all year round and start the whole dizzying process all over again.
As a native of Arizona, I was blissfully unaware of the semi-annual angst that is the time change until I moved to New Mexico. Thanks to our planet’s solar orbit, each day is slightly longer or shorter than the day before. This progression causes the seasons to change and, as is natural, it’s not something most of us find shocking. But when we “roll back” an hour every winter, we 9-to-5s are instantly plunged into darkness the next time we leave work. I’m well aware that it’s going to get dark by 5pm at some point every winter, but I like to get used to the idea gradually. You know, day to day, as nature intended. The spring time change is a nasty jerk for a whole other reason. This painful loss of an hour of sleep always takes my body at least a week to get used to it. My mind stays on edge even longer.
I’m willing to bet that if the whole nation switched to standard time all the time, few people would even notice that one hour of evening sun loss. Because, again, there is the whole natural progression.
BeltaneBaby is a writer who has lived in Albuquerque, NM since 1991. She was born on May 1 (AKA Beltane), which is way too soon after the spring time change. Aside from his family and friends, the one thing he misses in Arizona is the sweet happiness of never having to change his clocks.