It happens every March — I am exhausted and it is still light outside. Yes, yes, it is the week of Daylight Savings Time and the effect of the switch is wearing on me and, I suspect, also on you. This is probably not the time to argue against the Sunshine Protection Act, Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposal to eliminate the time change, but here I am.
Last time we went through the machination, my friend and colleague Dennis E. Powell made the case well for why we should eliminate the twice-a-year clock switching habit. There’s very little I can say against his big points. Switching time twice a year does wear us down, lower our productivity and, it would seem, lead to more health problems.
So, if the time changes are largely negative — or, at least — unpleasant, why would I possibly be so insane as to say I’m sad about Rubio’s “Sunshine Protection Act” receiving passage by unanimous consent in the Senate?
It might have a little something to do with what I love about living in a place like Missouri in general. I love living somewhere that experiences very pronounced summers and winters. Consider Wikipedia’s description of my state’s climate:
Because of its location in the interior United States, Missouri often experiences extremes in temperatures. Lacking either large mountains or oceans nearby to moderate its temperature, its climate is alternately influenced by air from the cold Arctic and the hot and humid Gulf of Mexico.
Not exactly the stuff travel brochure are made of, but it describes what I love.
There are times it is miserably cold here and the last thing I want to do is venture out. There are times it is brutally hot and outside is only pleasant if one is in the pool. And, sometimes we get histrionic weather changes, such as this past week when the weather went from 14 degrees (Fahrenheit) to 75 degrees overnight.
(Great for the event I was leading outdoors, horrible for my sinuses.)
Despite the sometimes unpleasant times, herein is found a picturesque experience of the four seasons. Summer is hot and perfect for swimming and the other activities people picture for the season; ditto winter, which only disappoints by fewer white Christmases than I’d like. Spring here appears weeks before I’ve seen it in neighboring states and the range of trees provides often brilliant autumns.
I love these things and I also happen to love how the time change helps emphasize those changes.
The Sunshine Protection Act focuses on a permanent Daylight Savings Time. Daylight Savings Time certainly does help us enjoy the summer months more fully — it just seems right to have light still glowing at 9 p.m. For most of the year, “DST” is good.
But then comes the fall. As a kid I loved that Daylight Savings Time ended before Halloween. It would be dark and spooky and fun for trick-or-treating without waiting needlessly late into the evening. It provided happy memories that a 2005 act took away by delaying the change into November each year.
Childhood memories aside, the real reason I love Standard Time is that I much prefer earlier sunrises and earlier sunsets in the winter. In the leadup to the holiday season, I love when the Christmas lights can shine longer, and even into January and February, it is nice to sit by a warm fire on a long, dark winter night. Standard time, too, is good.
Therein lies the problem: both Daylight Savings Time and Standard Time have advantages during the parts of the year we observe them. Neither is ideal all the year ‘round.
Are these things enough to overrule the negatives of time changes? Probably not, but when Christmas dinner happens during daylight hours and yet the uncaring first mornings back to work in January are darker — I can’t say it will make life better.
Daylight Savings Time helps emphasize the seasonality and uniqueness of the passage of time. Seasons will still come and go, just a bit more blandly than in the past. In a world where more and more is made generic, this is one thing I wish we could just leave alone.