Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Colossal Waste of Time

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

As the above riddle from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit attests, time is a terrible thing. And as if it weren't bad enough, we humans have contrived a way to make it worse. Last weekend was the end of daylight saving time for most of us here in the United States.* In our house, that meant resetting a dozen or so different clocks and timers—most of which are digital, each of which must be set by using a different sequence of buttons, none of which sequences we can ever remember from one time change to the next.

What a colossal waste of time.

Why do we even have daylight saving time? Some people think it has something to do with farmers, but the truth is that farmers have historically opposed it. Some credit (or blame) Benjamin Franklin, but he had nothing to do with it either. No, according to Wikipedia, the person who originally came up with the brilliant idea of resetting our clocks twice a year, needlessly complicating our lives and disrupting our sleep patterns, was one George V. Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist who proposed it solely so that he could have another hour or two of daylight at the end of the day to collect specimens.

The bloody selfish bug-loving bastard.

Trust me, I am not the only person who thinks the idea is idiotic. Every year, reasonable people question why we continue to torture ourselves with DST. Some advocate eliminating it. Others would like to see us stay on DST year-round. (We might as well; we are now on it for two-thirds of the year.) I would be happy either way, but I don't foresee a change in my lifetime.

Because, believe it or not, there are some people who like daylight saving time—and not just because of that extra hour of afternoon daylight in the summer. They look forward to setting their clocks back in the fall, because they think this gives them an extra hour of sleep. Fools! All you are getting is the same hour back that was taken away from you eight months ago, and most of that hour is wasted resetting clocks! And you aren't even getting interest for that hour! I calculate, at a modest rate of 1%, we should be getting at least sixteen additional minutes of sleep when we "fall back."

Personally, I don't get any extra sleep. If anything, I get less. This is because, unlike the dozen or so clocks and timers in our house, my body's internal clock cannot simply be reset with a button or two. It takes days to adjust. Here it is a week later, and I am still waking up and falling asleep at the same time I woke up and fell asleep last week—except now that time is an hour earlier. I feel tired and out of sync. I'm useless at work. (At least that much hasn't changed.) To me, daylight saving time is like a bad case of jet lag without any jet.

Animals understand this—or rather, they don't. We have two cats and two rabbits in our house, and I can attest to the fact that not one of them understands the concept of daylight saving time. They expect us to get up and go to bed—and, most importantly, to feed them—at the same time we did last week. They live their lives according to their internal clocks, with no regard whatsoever for the dozen or so clocks and timers in our house.

I can't wait until I can retire and do the same.

Real rabbits never do this.


* A couple of states have had the good sense to reject daylight saving time. My home state of Indiana used to be one of them, until they gave in and adopted it in 2006. (Really, Indiana? If the rest of the states jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?)

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