2011-11-06

Normality has been restored

An hour ago, the last clocks in the Northern Hemisphere were freed from Daylight Saving Time (DST). Sadly, there are some in the Southern hemisphere which have recently began their ritual of madness; for them I offer consolation with my article on "Why I hate Daylight Saving Time".

I am content to be rid of the odd adjustment for a few months and was set on climbing atop my soapbox and repeating a few of the reasons why you should be too. However, I noticed something this last week which gave me a bit of satisfaction. Discussions (both online and off) about DST have turned largely to criticism. I would overhear people on the bus who were "glad that Daylight Saving Time would be over soon, so that they could have their mornings back". I read many postings through social media of friends complaining of the troubles they had starting their day due to the dark mornings.

You see, DST was extended in the United States in 2007 by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 introduced by Joe Barton, Texas Republican and member of the Tea Party caucus. It should come as no surprise that Joe Barton was a consultant for an Oil and Gas company [Joe Barton - House.gov]. Barton has also been involved interfering in matters of environmental protection. Joe's Act was a success, by the way, a boon for the corporations interested in shifting consumers home earlier in the Summer afternoon (meaning, more AC) and awake earlier in the Winter morning (meaning, more heating). I'm going to stop myself here though about the involvement of energy corporations, mainly because it's all been said already and -- to my satisfaction -- I think most people get it now. (See my article in 2008: "Ditch Daylight Saving Time".)

Observers of DST have a bit of a conundrum, similar to many other system we're seeing protested these days, we're all subjected to the system as long as we continue to participate in it. Unlike oppressive big-brother governments, big financial institutions, and mass food-chains, time isn't just something we can institute locally; in fact it's actually federally prohibited in the USA [Gazette, The (Colorado Springs)]. It was that inability that caused me to realize something about Daylight Saving Time which I hadn't considered before: the practice of DST is similar to the use of the US measurement system. Meaning, it's hardened into the minds of its participants.

In dealing with Metrication, I learned years ago that you cannot change to a new system through confrontation or arrogance; you change through education in the new system while simultaneously slowly moving the old practice toward obsolescence. By the time you suggest removing the old system, most people (which is what matters in democracy) don't care if you do because they've been primarily using the new one anyway. For DST, this means that behaviors have to be changed in such a way that it won't matter what "time" it really is. In keeping with my choice in March, I am still going to avoid telling you how you might choose to spend your day, but I will tell you what I've chosen to do for myself.

Daylight Saving Time is all about "moving daylight". Repeating some text from eight months ago:
The idea of Daylight Saving Time is to make the most of the hours of daylight available during the Summer. That's fantastic! Unfortunately, people use DST as a crutch to hobble a few days of good feelings out of "more" daylight. You've heard this before, but I'll say it again: If you want more daylight, then use it when it's there. Consistently.
All of this shift is around the accepted "9 to 5 day". In a "9 to 5 day", 13:00 (1pm) is made the center point. I thought that was odd, considering noon (12:00) is supposed to be midday, so I chose to rethink my "day" as beginning at 8, thus I reset my midday to 12:00. Under DST, "high noon" occurs at 13:00 for nearly 75% of the year. (You can imagine how much that screws up how to "Tell time using the Sun or Moon".)


Now, my shift in thinking does not mean that I get to leave my job sooner, nor does it mean that I always greet my alarm with happiness in the morning. Similar to my state-of-mind with measurement -- where I use SI (aka Metric) in my head, but convert for the convenience of others in conversation -- I still participate in the daily schedules of those around me. Work is work and if you're lucky enough to have a job right now, you work the hours to which you and your employer agree upon. I do enjoy at least one advantage though, because of my choice I have freed myself from the lock-step of the populace. My choice to change my thinking allows me to shift my non-work activities to whatever feels right for me: I'm able to get in a bit of exercise, while the "9-to-5er" is just waking up; I can stop by the store on a dark Winter morning instead of dodging shopping carts in the aisles in the afternoon.

Another reason that this works well for me is that other parts of society have shifted as well. In the hopes of drawing more customers and more revenue, businesses have been lengthening their hours of operation; some banks are now opening an hour earlier than they did years ago and some retail stores even earlier than that. The minds and traditions of society have also adapted, the American dinner hour used to be 18:00 (6pm), enough time for the bread-winning father to stroll through the door after his 9-to-5 and sit down at the dinner table with his patiently-waiting wife and two or three kids. Now, due to the prevalence and popularity of "primetime television", meal times have been shifted earlier. Besides, now father is expected to help out after the meal and if anyone in that household expects to do anything after dinner that evening, the meal will shift earlier out of necessity.

You see, our observance of DST isn't only about time, it's about lifestyle and tradition. And the beauty of humanity is how we change and adapt, replacing old tools and techniques with new technology and better understood ideas. Don't get too comfortable with those new ideas though, they'll change eventually too.
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