Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spring Forward--and Pay in the End

To me, this represents a swirling vortex of time-change hell!

Well, people, here we are on the verge of Halloween.  Last weekend, I spent half a day helping to turn my tiny grandson into a temporary pterosaur.  This weekend, I will try to restrain myself from eating all the candy we laid in to buy off potential tricksters, before they get here.  
Some years back, my scary Halloween moment took place in a coffee shop bathroom with a positive pregnancy test.  (Long story.)  I should have know something was up, because that year I did mow down the candy and have to buy more.  The ensuing pregnancy was harrowing, but the outcome was one of the great joys of my life.
This year, Halloween ushers in the last week of Daylight Saving Time.  I saw a menacing countdown clock in a Squidoo article about whether or not we should abolish our semiannual practice of time-shifting.  As I write this post, the seconds and minutes tick away. . . leading inexorably to (gasp!) November 7, this year’s Fall Back Day.
Like others who struggle with mood, I dread this change and its companion, now scheduled to occur each year in March.  And I have never understood the logic, or the "science" of this mass manipulation of our chronobiology.  For one thing, how is daylight "saved" by moving it to another part of the day?  And for another, why would we be concerned with saving daylight during that time of the year when daylight is most plentiful?  I, for one, am much more worried about surviving the winter, with its dearth of daylight.  And I am totally thrown for a loop when our already slender allotment of light suddenly gives out before I get home from work.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this video that encourages us to "lighten up" about the whole daylight saving time issue.  But I don't buy it.
Paul F. Tompkins - Daylight Saving Time
Funny JokesFunny VideosDaniel Tosh Stand-Up
And, as it turns out, neither does the scientific community.  For example, there is this upbeat little bulletin from Bora Zivkovic, chronobiologist at A Blog Around the Clock, whose post entitled "Daylight Savings Time Worse Than Previously Thought" tells us about
the latest study - The Human Circadian Clock's Seasonal Adjustment Is Disrupted by Daylight Saving Time (pdf). . . [which] shows that the effects are much more long-lasting and serious than previously thought. It is not "just one hour" and "you get used to it in a couple of days".   Apparently it takes weeks for the circadian system to adjust, and in some people it never does. In this day and age of around-the-clock life, global communications, telecommuting, etc., the clock-shifting twice a year has outlived its usefulness and should go the way of the dodo. 

Rachel Maddow recently conducted an interview ("Does Daylight Saving Time Make Any Sense at All?"  Short answer, no.) with Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward:  The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Timettp://, in which he pretty much debunks every claim I've ever heard for its merits.  He begins by laying to rest the old "good for farmers" myth, explaining how farmers are in fact particularly inconvenienced by losing an hour of daylight before they can get their goods to market.  He also cites an important Indiana study conducted after the entire state adopted Daylight Saving Time, which found, not the expected energy savings, but a substantial increase in energy cost.

A fun little page on provides a great deal of information in a "cloud view," which allows you to click on various aspects of the subject, including anecdotes.  It was here that I gleaned such fascinating tales as the one about 
Laura Cirioli of North Carolina [who] gave birth to Peter at 1:32 a.m. [in November 2007] and, 34 minutes later, to Alison.  However, because Daylight Saving Time reverted to Standard Time at 2:00 a.m., Alison was born at 1:06 a.m.
Thus little Alison became her older twin's older sister!

Another anecdote concerned a Vietnam era draftee who argued successfully that, because of Daylight Saving Time, his actual birthday had been registered incorrectly, and that he had, in fact, a much higher draft number.  He thereby avoided going to war.

I also discovered some anxiety-producing research findings about the spike in heart attacks that accompanies our yearly time travels.

My jury is no longer out on the whole enterprise.  While I agree that the long summer evenings are a gift, and that winter days are going to be excruciatingly short no matter what we do, my psyche can ill afford the cost of Daylight Saving Time.  That cost for me comes due most painfully in the fall.  I experience the abruptness of the earlier arrival of night, effected by our return to Standard Time, as a blow.  One that I remember more keenly with each passing year, and begin to steel myself against with the turning of the leaves.

So bring on the goblins, the over-sugared princesses and the axe-wielding serial killers.  I'm even ready to face down the bowls of over-bought treats.  But deliver me from the end of Daylight Saving Time!

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