Is Switching Back to Standard Time Worth the Trouble?

November Sunset

I woke up today confused and out of sorts. At first I thought I overslept – by one hour. And then I remembered. We’re back to Standard Time. Supposedly, I gained an extra hour of sleep at 2 am when time reset itself back to 1 am. I guess I should feel a little more rested today, but I don’t. November SkyInstead I’m kind of cranky. The time change signals that winter is on its way – my least favorite season.

It usually takes a while for me to adjust. It doesn’t help that I intentionally won’t reset one battery-operated clock for a couple days just because I want to remind myself of what it was like outside before falling back to Standard Time. It takes my cat far longer to adjust to waiting an hour longer to get fed! Fluffy Cat

I especially hated it during the years I was commuting to work. Leaving the office in the dark was so depressing! So, while working as sole content writer for my last full time employer, Freedom Disability, I decided to do some research and write about it. This is what I wrote for the company blog:

Why Do We Add an Hour in the Spring Just to Lose It in the Fall?

Time is measured by the sun’s position in the sky. It is what it is and has been measured this way for millions of years.  So why is it okay to push our clocks forward one hour in the spring and then push it back again in the fall? Why do we do it? And who came up with this idea anyway?

Ben Franklin’s Whimsy

The original idea dawned in the great mind of Benjamin Franklin when he was startled awake at 6 am on a spring morning in 1874 to discover his room flooded with light. Usually, the curtains were drawn until noon when he would get up for the day.  Upon further astronomical investigation he discovered that the sun rose earlier and earlier each day until the end of June.  Revelation struck! Had he not awakened as he did, he would have slept through six hours of daylight, as always, and stayed up six hours longer by candlelight, as usual.

And so, he wrote a humorous essay “An Economical Project” to suggest an idea. If people were forced awake earlier in the summer months they would make better use of daylight hours. Then they wouldn’t stay up as late, which would save on tallow for candles. They would be conserving candlepower!  And so he came up with all kinds of whimsical incentives to make it work, which, of course, would not. Years later, the idea of taking an hour away from the morning and adding it to the evening made more sense.

Why We are Confused

The concept of Daylight Saving Time (DST) is to extend daylight into the evening to conserve energy, and to also enjoy more of summer daylight. However, DST has caused a lot of confusion over the years.

Daylight Saving Time first became law in the United States on March 19, 1918 during World War I. Lots of people didn’t like it. So it was repealed in 1919. However, some states kept the law.

It was re-instituted year-round during World War II.

After the war, there was no federal law at all. It was a matter of choice made by any state, city or town to decide when it should start and end.

In 1966 the Uniform Time Act was established for all of the United States to make time consistent, except for those state legislatures that voted against it. And then there were several revisions after that, until 1986.

At that point, the law stated that DST began the first Sunday of April and ended the last Sunday of October. It stayed that way until 2007 when another revision changed DST to what it is now: the second Sunday of March until the first Sunday of November.

But wait. Congress has the right to change the dates again if there is no significant gain in energy savings due to extending the span of Daylight Saving Time.

And, then there’s the rest of the world.  There simply is no consistency, whatsoever. Just a lot of confusion.

Why Bother at All?

Many people don’t like Daylight Saving Time. Some say the change upsets sleep patterns and affects productivity for days.  Parents think it’s too dark in the morning for children waiting at school bus stops. Poultry farmers say it takes weeks for their chickens to adjust! And, then some say, there’s no real energy savings.

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So, there you have it! This is why I’m cranky today. Looking out my window, the sun is already low in the sky, and it’s only 4 pm. In another hour it will be DARK!

Waxing Crescent Moon

What do you think? Is the time-change practice to “fall back, spring forward” worth the trouble? I say it’s served its time!

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A Memory of a Long Ago Summer Stays with Me Still

Zinnias and Polished Shoes

It’s odd how a taste, a smell or an action can stir the senses into recalling a memory. The zinnias in my garden have that effect on me, as does biting into a peach or rubbing shoe polish into old leather. All these things make me think of another summer, when I was a little girl, with my grandfather.

My grandparents lived in Ottawa, Ontario. We visited them every summer for two weeks. It was the only time my Canadian mom got to see them. I remember how she’d cry in the car each time we left to go back home. She’d cry until we crossed over the border back into New York State and then she’d stay quiet throughout the 10-hour ride home to Connecticut.

That summer, for whatever reason, my parents decided to let me stay with my grandparents until it was time for school. They would come back for me at the end of August. Maybe it was to give me my first experience away from home. Maybe it was to give my mom another visit. I don’t know the reason why. I was never told. I was nine years old.Garden Zinnias

On this summer day, as I cut zinnias for a fresh bouquet, I can actually see myself walking hand-in-hand with my grandfather. Our walks were ours alone.

He was a cobbler with his own shoe repair shop. I thought that was pretty special. It became a ritual for me to meet him there at the end of the day to share his walk back home. I did this all by myself. I walked one block down Second Avenue, then took a left onto Bank Street and walked two blocks more until I reached a storefront with a large plate glass window. Looking in I could see him standing behind a worktable, a dark apron covering a blue work shirt with sleeves rolled up showing sinewy arms. His hands were large and his fingers were long, with fingertips stained black from his work.

Polished Shoes and ZinniasI’d open the door and breathe deep the smell of leather and shoe polish that filled the small room tinged with cold fluorescent light. Behind my grandfather were shelves from floor to ceiling filled with neat rows of shoes and boots in all sizes and colors, made to look new again.

My grandfather was tall. He would look down at me, his blue eyes peering over the edge of silver-framed glasses. A smile would soften his angular face and, in a low voice he would say my name with a hint of an accent. “Kalinka. Is it time already?” (The nickname he called me, which was a variation of my name, is Russian and means “red juniper berry.”)

He would wipe his hands on his apron and then take if off and carefully hang it on a peg in the corner of the room. Next to the apron was a metal circle of keys. He’d take them down and prepare to lock up. He didn’t say much but that was fine. I was content to just sit there on a stool by the customer counter and watch him as he put his work “to bed.”

After locking up, we would always stop at the fruit stand outside the small grocery store next door to his shop. Peaches were in season then. He’d let me select enough to fill a yellow mesh bag. He’d weigh the bag and then pull out some coin from his pocket and help me count out the exact amount to pay the grocer. (It was my grandfather who taught me how to count change. He always said to start with the quarters.) Then he would cradle the bag in the crook of one arm, take my hand, so small, in his big one, and we’d start our walk home.

Zinnias in the GardenSometimes we’d walk a different route from the one I’d taken, through a park that had several large circular flowerbeds full of zinnias in different sizes, shapes and in brilliant colors – the flowers that were in bloom that time of year. I loved to run around the perimeters until I got dizzy. My grandfather would quietly laugh – his voice was always soft and low – as he watched me. “Come Kalinka, it’s getting late. Your Nanny and our supper are waiting for us.”Zinnias and Peaches on the Kitchen Windowsill

Then we would continue on our way with me trying in vain to match my steps with his long, slow stride. We would always make it home just in time – 6 o’clock – for supper.

Afterwards, we would sit together in green wicker chairs on the long veranda of my grandparents’ house until it got dark, listening to the quieting city – eating peaches.

As I arrange my fresh-cut flowers this serene summer day, I can almost hear the sound of his voice. “Kalinka, will you be coming to meet me at the shop tomorrow? ”

“Yes, Bompa. (My name for him.) And let’s go to the park again. I want to see the zinnias.”

It is a satisfying memory, so sweet in its simplicity. Why it has stuck with me all these years, I don’t know. It represents but one small fraction of the whole of me, recalled every time I taste a peach, sniff polished leather, or pick zinnias from my garden.

To this day, I love that he called me “Kalinka.”

Zinnias Shu Crop

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