Friday, March 18, 2011

The real story behind Daylight Savings Time

                Today the sun shines. If you live anywhere else besides Rochester, this may not be amazing news. For those of us who live in the cloud belt it is miraculous. In fact, after a long winter of cloudy bleakness, when the sun reappears from behind the perpetual cloudbank, many residents take their small children outside to explain what that big yellow-orange ball hanging in the sky is. Children often wake up on days like today, see the clouds are gone, break into panic, and start to cry. It is almost as if some horrible person has taken away their comforting blanket.

                The only people who find no comfort in the appearance of the spring sun and the warming temperatures are, to be gentle, flakes—if you get my drift. Therefore, now we concern ourselves with spring and summer things like gardens, lawn care, and sunburn. Soon I shall be out in the yard, sweating, swatting mosquitoes, and wishing for cooler weather.

                One of the unfortunate problems with spring is the switch to Daylight Savings Time, which is the invention of lawmakers. As history tells it, one day a group of lawmakers were hanging around with nothing in particular to do. Now if ordinary citizens are hanging around with nothing to do, it is called an unruly mob. When politicians hang around together with nothing to do, it is called a committee. This committee was discussing the fact that during winter the days get shorter, and after a long day of sitting around, making laws, and wandering around town in committees wreaking havoc and causing general chaos, there was not enough daylight left to go home and accomplish anything worthwhile.

                Thus, the committee contrived a way to save daylight, or as we now know it, Daylight Savings Time. Delighted with themselves they went home and immediately bragged to their wives about the wonderful shiny, new law they had made. Their wives told them it would not work, since it was obvious there were only a certain number of hours the sun shines every day; changing clocks may make the sun set later, but it would not shine any longer. The lawmakers explained to their wives that they could not understand the process of lawmaking and saving daylight. These things were important law-stuff. It took unruly hordes, or rather committees, to properly investigate these sensitive issues, generate large important looking reports, and to make the important laws necessary to save daylight.

                The wives scowled at their husbands, told them to wash the children’s hands, and help them set the table. And things were fine— until the first day of Daylight Savings Time. When the lawmakers wives had to call their husbands hundreds of times, “Are you going to get up?!  You have to be to work in less than half-an-hour!” The lawmakers, looking at their clocks and realizing what time it was, rushed out of bed, griping at anyone who would listen about how late they were, how they had to get to work and make laws, and how important they were.

                While in lawmaking session, lawmakers sat and listened to each other talk about all the problems in their constituencies (which is a fancy word for the people who elected them). When they drifted off to sleep, other lawmakers would nudge them with heavy law books to keep them awake or someone would bang a wooden mallet on the desk to startle the offending snoozer (they used a wooden mallet because no one trusted them with a real hammer). Finally, after a long day of trying to make up laws, but being too tired to really think of anything to law about, they went home. The lawmakers strolled up the walks to their houses feeling good and self-important; since the sun was still shining, because they had saved it.

                He said to his wife, “I am sorry I am late, there were many accidents on the road today, but look dear, the sun is still shining at this late hour, and it is because of the law my committee wrote. The wife simply shook her head. Our intrepid lawmaker fell asleep sitting on the couch, content in his self-satisfaction in saving daylight. Wholly oblivious to the mayhem on the highway and the mayhem in his living room, as his grumpy kids fought and argued. 

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