The lamest day of the year has once again rolled around — that sad moment when for some strange reason we decide to turn our clocks back so it gets dark earlier in the day. Each spring we all greet the arrival of Daylight Savings Time with joy. It’s another hour of sunlight. It’s time to enjoy the outdoors. You can almost feel the bug bites.
Standard Time’s arrival is quite the opposite. Suddenly it’s dark at 4:30 p.m. and light at 5:30 a.m. Farmers are kicking it hard, but the rest of us are trying to adjust to a lack of light. For most of us heading back to ST means less time to do anything outdoors, kids huddled in front of the TV at 5 p.m., it feeling like midnight by 8 o’clock. When I lived in Washington D.C., I often felt like a nocturnal animal scurrying through the dark to the metro. But that may just have been a side effect from working in Congress.
I do recognize the switch to ST has one major advantage — you get an extra hour to sleep when the time changes. At 2 a.m. you are magically transported back to 1 a.m. in sort of a “Groundhog Day” way without any opportunities to repair the screwed up parts of your life. I suppose if you stay awake you can make sure your second 1 a.m. hour betters the first, but that’s about the end of the benefits as I can see it.
DST, on the other hand, has many benefits, not least of which is the possibility of their being a few rays of sunlight in the sky when you pull up to the house. Frankly, I’ve long thought the concept of flipping the time back and forth is antiquated and unnecessary, but nobody at the U.S. Department of Dumb Traditions asked me.
So twice a year we run around trying to remember whether we’re supposed to “spring forward” or “fall back,” and also whether we should act like we haven’t slept in a week or have just come off a beach vacation because of that extra hour. Sometimes I get mixed up and walk around saying, “I’m so exhausted” and people look at me and say, “Well you shouldn’t be, you just got a bonus hour of sleep idiot.”
The time change process can be very traumatic to some. I know at least a couple of folks who act like they’ve been kept awake for a month when the “spring forward” happens and they lost that hour of sleep.
State Sen. Rusty Glover was all set to try to lead Alabama to (day)light and introduce a bill that would have Alabama break from the herd and stay permanently with DST. His logic was that enough Alabamians were tired of making this rather useless change each fall and that the Yellowhammer State should join the likes of Hawaii and most of Arizona in saying “We will not reset our clocks again unless the power goes out or the batteries run down!” But Alabama would be the only state to stay on DST.
Alas, though, the feds have declared that states can either observe DST or not, but if they do they must adhere to the dates set by federal law. In other words, the daylight goes away when the federal government says so. But even the feds have shown some weakness on this issue, extending DST by five weeks a few years ago, so Glover has the right instincts on this one.
The idea for DST was pushed in this country initially by Ben Franklin, who argued it could save energy and money by having one more hour a day in which candles and other light-generating fuels weren’t necessary. Secretly he just wanted to be able to fly his kite longer each day.
Farmers hated the idea because it would upset the cows, but with the invention of the “Farmers Only” dating website, farmers are spending way more time romancing one another and don’t have time to oppose this change. Also robots now milk the cows and robots don’t care what time they get up.
One of the big oppositions to staying on DST is that it means it’s darker in the mornings when kids are standing at bus stops, creating a potentially dangerous situation. It hardly makes sense though, since especially the further north you go, kids are getting home in the dark on Standard Time.
In Mobile the argument could easily be made that any situation in which it gets dark earlier is going to result in increased danger to the population as a whole. While Mobilians are generally known to drink whether the sun is up or not, once it goes down it becomes safer for the Baptists to drink without being seen and judged by other Baptists, swelling the city’s already staggering level of drunkenness. Too many people around here feel a compulsion to have an alcoholic beverage in hand the second the last rays of the sun filter through the oak boughs, whether that’s at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.
Glover should crusade to change the federal law and lead Bama to become the first Southern state to reject Standard Depression Time. It would probably sweep him into the governor’s mansion. Yes, there will be some interesting results if it happens. For one, for several months out of the year we’ll be on Eastern Standard Time, meaning we’ll be watching television shows at the same time as the East Coast elite. Pretty swank.
But it does come with a few practical difficulties — the first of those being the confusion this will cause for people who live or work close to the Alabama border. My parents live less than an hour away in Mississippi, and I can see it causing lots of confusion about what time we’re doing something together. “I meant MY 10 a.m., not yours!” Some sort of slide rules and conversion charts may be necessary.
Since Alabama would be the only state in the South not flip-flopping time twice a year, perhaps a good marketing scheme for gaining support is to declare that we’re going to “Alabama Time!” We could then claim other states are moving to “Alabama Time” when they flip back and forth. Mainly this would serve to annoy other states who would probably not want to be on “Alabama Time.” Glover should also claim it will somehow fight terrorism if he wants the feds’ attention.
One final benefit of staying on DST is it might even cause Fred Richardson to get a third watch to wear on his ankle.
I hope Sen. Glover won’t let some dumb federal regulation cause him to drop this quest. It could be the first shot fired in getting the rest of the nation to throw off the tyranny of Standard Time, and move to Alabama Time.
THE GADFLY BY LAURA RASMUSSEN
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