Springing forward


Melissa Stagnaro

That day each fall when the clocks go back is my favorite day of the year. Having an extra hour to sleep in is like heaven to someone who routinely rises well before dawn. I always experience something of a honeymoon period for the first couple of days after the clock “falls” back, as it is easier than ever to get out of bed when your mind still thinks you are sleeping in.

My least favorite day of the year? The bittersweet day when the clocks “spring” ahead. Sure, the event heralds the coming of warmer days and budding trees, which is the sweet part. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to move beyond the bitter phase.

I’m categorically opposed to anything which deprives me of sleep. I’ve already got something of a sleep deficit, and I don’t need anyone stealing an hour of the commodity my fatigued body holds most dear.

And it’s not just about that one hour of sleep I was cheated out of on March 9. For a couple of weeks, I’ll end up going to bed later than I’d like because of some kind of “time change” lag.

Not to mention that I’m once again driving to work in the dark. The last couple of weeks have been wonderful, with the sky already brightening as I start my commute. Driving in the dark made me cranky this morning, which the pouring rain did nothing to help.

I know the bitterness won’t last for ever. Once I move into acceptance, I’ll be enjoying the extra hours of afternoon sunlight. And gradually the days will get long enough that it will once again be light when I head to work in the morning.

I’m not quite over it yet; I’ll need at least another day or two. But never fear, the process will no doubt be expedited once I’ve mellowed out from going to bed an hour earlier than usual.

But while I was still riled up, I decided to do some research. I had no idea how little I actually knew aboutour country’s Daylight Savings policy. I really was surprised by what I found and, rather than being the sole repository of all that useful information, I decided to share. Lucky you.

Maybe, like me, you thought we’d first adopted the habit of adjusting our clocks forward or back depending on the season during World War I. We did. But did you realize that the policy actually came from the railroad industry rather than the military?

Before the railroad came along, time was determined by local authorities. I can only imagine what a mess that must have been. (Can you imagine towns, counties and states arguing over who got to set the time?)

With the rise of transcontinental rail corridors, the need for standardized systems of time became apparent and, as a result, the railroad came up with our current time zone system near the end of the 19th century.

Not seeing the need to re-invent the wheel (or clock, in this case), the US adopted the railroad’s system in 1918. The piece of legislation also included the observance of a daylight savings time, which was intended to conserve energy and make people more productive by shaving daylight hours off the morning and tacking them on in the afternoon. The initial attempt at enacting the policy was less than successful and that portion of the legislation was actually repealed the following year.

Daylight Savings Time made another appearance during World War II, and after that it continued to be observed in some areas. It was not standardized again until 1966.

Another thing which surprised me was who is actually in charge of Daylight Savings Time. Can you believe it’s the US Department of Transportation. (Once again, it goes back to the railroad.)

After reading all of that, I’m more confused than ever. I’m starting to think Arizona, which is the only state which has chosen to opt out of the whole Daylight Savings Time thing, might have the right idea.

Maybe if I sleep on it, it will make a little more sense. I’m a little short on that now, however, but I should have an extra hour around 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 1.