Falling back for a quiet hour

Daylight Savings Time (DST), which we recently celebrated with an hour of quiet reverie, was first proposed in 1885 by George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist who wanted more daylight after work so he could collect bugs. The idea crawled along slowly, gathering momentum like a spider scuttling down a drainpipe, and eventually garnered some pretty high-brow support. Winston Churchill even chimed in on DST’s behalf, saying that it enlarges “the opportunities for the pursuit of health and happiness among the millions of people who live in this country.” Germany and its WWI cohort jumped on board first, in 1916, with Great Britain and its allies following shortly after. The United States, not wanting to be left behind (or get too far ahead, depending on the season) adopted DST in 1918.

The concept has been controversial (the usual problems with money, politics, energy use, health, public safety, technology, and, of course, more money), and globally DST use has been sporadic and inconsistent. Many countries have been ticked on for a while, then been ticked off; currently it’s mostly North America and Europe who jump over the sun twice a year, although there are little enclaves of DST proponents (and opponents) in other places in the world, too. Even some parts of some countries have chosen not to play along: for instance, here in the United States, Indiana has its own system (something about basketball), while in Canada, Saskatchewan said “no thanks” (politely, of course, though no one’s quite sure why) and down under, much of southern Australia has clocked out (too hot).

Farm animals in DST countries have always had trouble with the semiannual time shift, with roosters, in particular, getting all ruffled up about it (they protest by crowing nonsensically at all hours of the day, like politicians).

Way out here on Route 93, our family takes the whole DST thing in stride, falling back and springing forward whenever the nice folks on TV tell us to. It doesn’t really mean anything, after all; I still have to get up and go to work at a ridiculous hour in the morning, and 5:30 is still, oddly, 5:30 — no matter what the sun says. And so we gain an hour in November and lose it again in March, and at the end of the year, we come out even. Hey, in this economy, that’s not a bad deal.

It was harder when the kids were little, especially in the spring when we would lose one hour due to government mandate and then lose at least another half hour the next morning because of the colossal amount of extra crowing that went on as we got ready for church. Children, like roosters, are about as flexible as fluorescent light bulbs.

But, the kids have fledged now, and it’s just the two of us. Things are more serene. The refrigerator door stays closed and there are fewer piles around the house. Even the washing machine seems a bit bored.

Last Saturday evening, it was just my wife and I and one cat, on the couch all tangled up under blankets and watching a movie. Me and the cat kept dozing off. At some point, Karen got up to turn the clocks back (really, you wait until 2 a.m.?), and then she crawled back in and we did that cuddly, drowsy hour all over again. It was warm and quiet and peaceful and we knew our kids were happy and safe and even after 30 years we’re still in love. I don’t know, but I think when next spring comes around I may not give that hour back.

S. Peter Lewis won first place in the “Local Column” category of the 2011 Maine Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.

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