MCCULLOUGH: Daylight-saving time: cop-out, solution or simply annoying?

Will McCullough

In a letter that suggested Parisians change their lifestyle so that they would burn fewer candles, thus saving money, Benjamin Franklin was the first to mention the idea of daylight-saving time. Later, with the proverb, “Early to bed early to rise makes man healthy, wealthy and wise,” he repeated the notion in his “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” Most readers today, victims of daylight-saving time, would like to believe that the tones of the letter and the proverb were humorous and that both were meant as jokes. Franklin, a great scientist and philosopher, would not seriously advocate daylight-saving time in its current manifestation.

Unless you have been kidnapped, hibernating or otherwise detained for the last week or so, you have noticed that daylight-saving time came three weeks earlier than usual this year. We all know this to be the day when around 40-60 percent of the population forgets to change their clocks, at least for some period of time, throwing their planned or desired sleep length for a loop, resulting in the possible release of expletives. We all know the scene:

“Yo, wake up, it’s 9:30.”

“No, it’s only 8:30.”

“Daylight-saving time, man.”

“Ahhhhh [insert expletive here].”

This confrontation is one of the ways we all know it is spring; we know that this annual ritual of forgetting or reminding someone brings a sense that the twilight of the spring nights will last forever. It happened to me this year, and I even had a lengthy discussion in the previous week about its early arrival and its resulting effects: many more millions of dollars for anything golf or barbeque related, and more alarmingly, at the end of daylight-saving time, sunrise will be 8:15 a.m.

This year, at the time of this annual conversation, the early March temperature was struggling to rise above freezing. For those of you who left the Northeast for spring break, frolicking among temperatures that could be considered “too warm,” please indulge those of us who endured a combination of snow and freezing rain that was followed by a week-long period of temperatures in the 30s and 40s. I know, I know; Cancun or wherever was totally awesome! It was warm, and frankly, I do not care. (Well, I am probably just jealous.) Regardless, it was certainly not time to start thinking about the clocks.

The early arrival of daylight-saving time came after a congressional vote designed to save energy. The vote involved turning the clocks back three weeks later, lengthening DST by a total of six weeks. I certainly am not an expert on American energy consumption or ways to conserve it, but this effort seems wholeheartedly lazy. Instead of seriously investing in renewable and clean energy, or developing major changes in how we consume, the quick fix was just to change time to cut off a little bit of the amount of light we use.

Where does this stop? In, say, 20 years, perhaps less, when energy bills, and the situation as a whole, seem hopeless, should we turn the clocks forward in February? Maybe even January? If we’re changing time to solve problems, let’s fix a few more things. We could start with the deficit and Iraq; let’s go back a few years and switch some stuff around to make those situations better. As ridiculous as these examples may seem, they cover the essence of the purpose behind daylight-saving time’s early arrival. This one small step will do little more than provide a nice hole to stick our heads in, at least until November. It is completely American in its attempt for a quick fix while avoiding true solutions that would require a long time, a vast amount of money and serious lifestyle alterations.

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Will McCullough is a senior English major and economics minor from Plymouth Meeting, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]