Hay: Springing and falling forwards and backwards

  • Mar. 18, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Twice a year I’m not quite sure if I should be springing or falling. Oh I get the seasons and everything, it’s just that I’m confused as to whether I’m springing backwards or falling forward. Or visa versa. No wonder surveys show that a whole lot of sleepy people want Daylight Saving Time to go the way of the sundial and the windup wristwatch.

In fact, just this week a bill was introduced in the Alberta legislature proposing that we adopt the DST all year round, for once and for all, and no more of this springing or falling stuff anymore. But it’s the legislature so that probably won’t happen in time for your grandchildren’s grandchildren to enjoy.

Blame all this temporal tempest on Benjamin Franklin. It was his idea back in 1784 when he posited that people wouldn’t waste candles by having to burn them longer. The idea flickered until 1908, when the world’s first Daylight Saving Time was introduced by Donald Trump so that he could keep golfers paying for green fees longer each day.

Actually, it’s Canada’s fault. Thunder Bay, Ontario of all places was the first community in the world to spring forward and fall back. The idea was to conserve fuel. One more hour of sunlight in the evening meant they didn’t have to burn as much coal for heat and to generate power to keep their TVs and computers going.

Still, most people think DST was instigated by farmers, but history shows that farmers wanted a time change about as much as they wanted a plague of locusts. According to at least one occasionally reliable site on the interweb: “Energy saving is not the big driver. It’s people wanting to take advantage of that light time in the evening.” I can see that. When I was a kid there was never quite enough daylight in those summer evenings, and baseball at the playground just wasn’t quite the same in the dark.

There are some good things about Daylight Saving Time of course. As TV host Stephen Colbert puts it: “Daylight Savings Time started this weekend, and I finally won the four-month battle with my oven clock.” Beloved piano man Victor Borge doesn’t mind it: “With inflation, the hour will be the only thing I’ve saved all year.” And Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous is being positive: “I don’t think of it as losing an hour of sleep. I think of it as being an hour closer to breakfast.”

Today, the Daylight Saving Time (and it is “Saving” not “Savings” – it’s not a bank!) is used in some 70 countries, shining one more hour of evening light and confusing one fifth of the world’s seven billion people. But a bit of falling and springing confusion is nothing compared to the gong show DST was in the 1950s and 60s. For instance, in the state of Iowa alone there were 23 different start and end dates! And on one Ohio to West Virginia bus route, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles! And the situation not only gave poor time sensitive citizens raging migraines; it left a hole their wallets too. DST led to millions of dollars in transportation and communications industries costs and records show the extra railroad timetables alone cost the today’s equivalent of over $12 million per year.

Sometimes I guess we smartypants humans just shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature or Father Time.

For now though, to paraphrase David Letterman: “Don’t forget when it’s Daylight Saving Time. You spring forward, then you fall back. It’s like you trying get out of bed on a Sunday morning.”

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author.

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