Monday, March 9, 2009

Shout out to Daylight Saving

It's that time of year again. Daylight Saving Time. Spring forward time. Be tired time.

In case you hadn't noticed, I am a very reluctant daylight saving participant. We didn't even have daylight saving in Indiana when I was growing up. I wasn't "exposed" to the insanity until I left the state. Imagine my alarm. I've never quite gotten over it.

Still, it comes every year. Spring is the worst, losing an hour of sleep. Sunday is okay. You can fake it through the day, but Monday morning? Oh, Nellie. I started dreading it yesterday afternoon, and come 5:45 a.m., a.k.a. 4:45 a.m., this morning when my alarm went off, I hated it. I grumbled, "Whose brilliant idea is daylight saving anyway?"

I decided to get behind the mystery of daylight saving. Now, I have to say, I should have realized who was behind the master plan. I really should have. There is really only one person to blame for "improvements" of this nature.

Yes, it's good ole Ben Franklin. His wasn't a new idea, however. The Romans - of course - practiced daylight saving, albeit in an oh-so-preindustrial-revolution-and-no-trains-on-schedules kind of way. They had 12 hours of sunlight every day. Period. In the winter, those twelve hours were shorter than in the summer. In the summer, the sunrise hour lasted 75 minutes. In the winter, a brief 44. Time really was relative. I can only imagine what the average Roman citizen thought of that.

Ben Franklin revisited the idea of saving time in the summer when he was in France (notice, not in the U.S. where farmers might have lynched him for such crazy talk). He was, ironically - or perhaps ever so pertinently - trying to find a way to save on energy costs. That's when he came up with his "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" saying. He suggested Parisians could save money on candles by getting up earlier. He even wrote an essay on it "An Economical Project," but the Parisians were apparently as loathe to changing their clocks as I am. They didn't embrace the idea at all.

And so it died for a while, until William Willett came around. Willett, an Englishman, was an avid outdoorsman and golfer. As he road across the English countryside, he was appalled at how much of the day people slept through in the summer - bad, bad loafers! He began to push for Fanklin's daylight saving approach in England. His idea, while supported by Edward VI and Churchill, wasn't enacted in his lifetime, nor first in England. Guess who was against it - farmers. They hated it (apparently, crops should be harvested when the dew has dried. Having workers in earlier means ineffective work time. The crops are still drying early in the morning. So it's a big waste for farmers to start the day with the sun.) They effectively kept DST from English lands.

So how did this whole nuttiness of changing clocks ever get started?

Really, the blame lies with the Germans. I'm married to one. He grew up there, the whole nine yards. Germans are all about efficiency, I'll give them that. But it was war, WW I to be exact, that drove them to enact DST. Not one of the sites I visited says why. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it was to cut on energy costs and get in more fighting time. WW I was fought in the trenches. No light. No fighting. When the U.S. entered WW I in 1918, we adopted daylight saving.

U.S. farmers weren't any happier than British ones about the change. Post WW I, they lobbied effectively to abolish DST in the U.S. It was enacted again during WW II, and then abolished again. In fact, DST as we know it now didn't come about until 1966.

And guess who is its greatest proponent today (I'd have never figured this one out) - convenience stores. More daylight means bigger sales for them. And, of course, the sporting industry. In fact, it was convenience stores and sporting manufacturers who lobbied for and got the present extension of DST that went into effect in 2007. Who knew.

So there you have it. It's a "huge conspiracy" dating back hundreds to thousands of years. My shout out today is to all of those forward thinkers who didn't have anything better to do than play with time. When the sand man is beating me to death tomorrow morning, now I'll know who to shake my sleepy fists at.


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Wow--thanks for all the background information. I just knew I despised DST, but now? Now I can justify it;)

Bee said...

Until I got to your second-to-last paragraph, I couldn't figure out why you were already been plagued by DST!! Lots of interesting info here . . . and as I am a late riser/nightowl sort of person by inclination (if not habit), I totally "get" why I don't like DST. BTW, you would have to be a real workaholic type to take advantage of all of the UK's summer daylight hours. At its peak, the sun is out from about 4 am until after 10 pm.

I spent about an hour grazing on your great writing yesterday. But then my husband hustled me out of the door and I didn't have time to leave a comment!

American in Norway said...

I too hate daylight savings... we however, have a few more weeks until we move our clocks forward... (you think we could all do it at the same time don't cha?)

Stacy Nyikos said...

When I lived in Germany, I thought DST was an American invention, which I totally did not understand there. I lived in northern Germany, on the Baltic Sea. The sun is just like what you describe, Bee, 4 a.m. it's up, 10 or 11 it's down. Daylight saving was a complete wash. So, I guess we all have reason to hate it, eh? No good to anyone but convenience stores and sporting manufacturers. Wow, the power of lobbying.