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Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

Jackson: The simple joys of saving daylight

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I like daylight saving time. There, I’ve said it.

Sure, it’s not fashionable to say so. I’ll bet your Facebook and Twitter feeds have been full of righteous vitriol targeting the senselessness of our lost hour. But is it? Senseless, that is. I say, without equivocation, no.

Sure, it’s a pain in the neck for a few days, forcing your circadian rhythms to synchronize with having leapt ahead an hour. But right there in the previous sentence is among the immediate charms of this human-made season. Discussing daylight saving (note: not “savings”) time allows us to drop “circadian rhythms” into columns and conversations, causing us to think anew, with wonder and appreciation, about our fundamental nature, and how our basic processes are little changed from our ancestors who painted tales of survival on cavern walls.

And yet, we have grown in sophistication such that we are no longer enslaved by these rhythms, as befits humans so advanced they post their adventures on virtual walls.

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I concede, also, springing forward creates more problems than generalized grumpiness. For instance, a slightly elevated risk of injury is associated with activities you’re warned to avoid after taking antihistamines, such as driving or operating heavy machinery. If your job involves using a computer, your boss gets a little ripped off, because when we feel sleep-deprived, we are apt to “cyberloaf,” wasting company time on non-work Internet sites.

These downsides would not be hard to fix. If Congress is convinced DST is, on balance, good for the country, it ought to declare a Spring-Forward Monday holiday. A Fall-Back Monday holiday would be unnecessary, because those same studies discovered – duh – we cope just fine when that lost hour is restored and we get to sleep in.

While we're on the subject, maintaining DST permanently, as proposed by a couple of Democratic legislators, is unreservedly dumb, if only because it would require school-aged kids to make their way to campus an hour or more before sunrise every December through February.

Once you’re past that awkward readjustment, however, you have the better part of eight months with a bonus hour of daytime after work or school. What’s not to like? It’s great for golfers, obviously. I had lunch last week with a Brooksville retiree who, though he already plays four days a week, was looking forward to joining his working pals in an afternoon league made possible by DST.

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That extra hour of daylight sheds equally on other outdoor sports, too, while also triggering in us an impulse to hit the malls, visit restaurants with outdoor seating, tackle home-improvement projects or gardening or barbecuing we’d otherwise leave to the weekend, or simply go out for an extra-long after-dinner stroll. DST allows us to do it all and still get inside before the mosquitoes come out.

Consider, also, this: Daylight saving time is practiced almost without exception by Western democracies. (In the United States, only Arizona and Hawaii opt out.) Almost all the countries of the European Union, plus the United Kingdom and Ireland, spring forward. So does embattled Ukraine. Russia, China and India did but quit. Afghanistan and Indochina never did. So, all you hating on DST, think about with whom you’re lining up.

Still, this business of fiddling with the clock is not without complications.

Here’s a wrinkle I’ve never seen addressed. What happens with the otherwise poor souls who draw the overnight shift on the weekend we spring forward? Do they still clock out at their regular time — thus getting paid for an hour they didn’t work — or do they work their full shift and create more scheduling problems by bumping back their relief? Or do we expect the boss to find room in his payroll for an hour when there are twice as many people on the job as is needed? Does the Department of Labor have a rule?

Then what happens when it’s time to fall back? Our hypothetical worker will have put in his time and there still will be an hour before the day shift is scheduled to arrive. Does he stick around and get overtime?

Questions such as these are why I will never own or manage a business that has to be open 24 hours a day.

I prefer, instead, the simpler pleasures that are rendered all the more appealing by a daily windfall of 60 extra daylight minutes every afternoon through All-Saint’s Day. What a blessed season, indeed.

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