Herald Journal Columns
April 10, 2006, Herald Journal

Missing an hour of my life

Getting a grip on daylight savings time in the spring can be like grasping for a flopping fish covered in oil.

Maybe not quite as messy.

It’s only an hour, but when it’s all over it feels like you lost a day of your life.

This could be attributed to the fact that the hour usually comes out of an already scarce supply of time set aside for sleep.

I blame the way it is designed.

Daylight savings time happens at 2 a.m., when most people are sleeping. (If you aren’t, I don’t think you can blame daylight savings time for your sluggishness Monday morning.)

If I do try to get to sleep early, I most likely will not be able to fall asleep. I will just stare at the ceiling, unable to rest.

As soon as my eyelids start getting heavy, panic will set in, and I’ll jolt up – just like when you get the feeling you are falling suddenly.

Did I remember to set my alarm clock ahead?

I’ll glance over. Of course I did.

Repeat this cycle several times, until my so-called sleep is interrupted by the call to get up.

I roll over, shutting off my radio. Dazed and drowsy, I realize I might as well have gone to bed at midnight.

Don’t be fooled, daylight savings time will get you, no matter what measures you take to prepare for it.

Why can’t it just happen at noon? You would hardly notice it then.

It might even do the dieters among us good.

At 11:57 a.m., you start thinking about eating. But as you reach for the leftover pizza slice, the clock suddenly skips noon and goes to 1 p.m.

That’s too late to eat, if you want to go to your friend’s BBQ at 5 p.m.

So, you munch on a couple crackers and call it good.

I know what you’re thinking. So why don’t I just set my clocks ahead at noon?

Good idea in theory, but in practice, it is too risky, because then, I would show up an hour early for the BBQ.

We’ve all known people who have forgotten about daylight savings time (and I say “known” because I know we’ve never done it), and shown up an hour after an event.

Such a mistake is humorous and easily forgiven.

But what kind of social oddball shows up for a BBQ an hour early, the day before daylight savings time?

Imagine standing at the door, picnic basket in hand, with that stylish red-checkered bandana, five pounds of raw hamburger, and a “Kiss the Cook” apron.

It’s a funny get-up to show friends, but since you arrived an hour early for dinner, a visiting relative opens the door and a room full of people simultaneously turn to ridicule the walking grill master.

Now, that’s just embarrassing.

There are also other types of over-zealous daylight savings time participants – we’ll call them double-timers.

In one household, the wife goes through and sets all of the clocks an hour ahead. Then, unknown to her, her husband goes through and sets them ahead, again.

Not only did they lose an hour of sleep, they lost two.

Daylight savings time is not only a nuisance, it is a home wrecker. I wouldn’t want to be in that house, already crabby and running on two less hours of sleep, with only you and your spouse to blame.

It’s like a ticking time-bomb that we set for ourselves.

So why do we keep performing this ritual every spring?

I’m going to go with my conspiracy theory that it was conjured up by society’s elite in an effort to make the peasants work harder.

If it was light out longer, the working class could slave in the fields for hours after supper.

Thankfully, we are no longer required to add an hour a day to our work week with daylight savings time.

But we do get more time to enjoy the outdoors. Redemption, at last!

The history books would have us believe the idea for daylight savings time first started with our friend, Benjamin Franklin.

Leave it to over-achieving Ben to recognize how an hour of sun was wasted early in the morning when everyone was still asleep.

Of course, there are benefits to daylight savings time. It saves energy because the sun is out longer and less electricity is necessary.

This came in handy in Europe during World War II, when Britain instituted “double summer.”

Well, that sounds like fun.

But before you start seething with jealousy that we only get “single summer,” understand that they employed this tactic to save energy and work longer to support the war effort.

Clocks were set ahead by two hours in the summer. But people weren’t using these extra hours to frolic in the park or attend a friend’s BBQ.

I think I’ll stick to gaining one hour of summer, in lieu of another world war.

With that in mind, I guess daylight savings time isn’t so bad.

It takes a little more effort up front, but then, who would want it to be light out at 4 a.m.?

And I know, more often than not, I’m taking advantage of the late evening hours, which are some of the nicest times all year in Minnesota.

I know the mosquitoes think so.

As for now, I have the whole rainy month of April to get over my sluggishness (I figure I can blame it on daylight savings time for at least another couple weeks – at least it’s a good scapegoat.)

Just remember when you are finishing up that summer baseball game and the sun is still shining at 9 p.m., you paid your dues in April – and since the sun stays up all game long, you can blame dropping that fly ball on the sun, too.

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