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It's that time

Spring forward. Yes, today’s the day. Daylight Saving Time is upon us again, spurring fatigue, groans or confusion, depending on one’s diurnal persuasion.

We can revisit this strange edict’s history, harking back to Benjamin Franklin’s inspiration to save on lamp oil. It didn’t actually become a thing in the United States, however, until 1918 (yes, that was a hundred years ago), when World War I provided a motive to conserve fuel. After repeal in 1919, DST didn’t loom large again until the next big war initiative. FDR called it “War Time” in 1942. After the crisis, states were left to follow their own courses.

In 1966, the Uniform Time Act sought to get everyone more or less on the same page. There have been a few more tweaks since then. And Hoosiers didn’t really come fully on board until as recently as 2006.

While many of us somehow were led to think it was about farms or schoolchildren or energy savings, at this point, it’s really more about business. The extra daylight hours at the end of one’s work day translate to more shopping, driving and general consuming – that thing at which we are so incredibly practiced. Studies have not convincingly demonstrated energy savings; in fact, some show increases in energy use.

Now that technology conveniently updates so many of our devices for us, the clock crisis of finding and adjusting all our various time devices is not the operation it used to be. It alleviates much of the confusion, too, when you can confidently look at your phone and rest assured you actually know what time it is.

There’s still that out-of-whackness, however, as everyone suddenly adjusts their relationship to the sun and the moon in the context of our own wandering definition of a day. Some reports suggest the time change results in more accidents and heart attacks due to disrupted sleep patterns.

Good things come out of it as well. Some people will take advantage of the extra daylight to get to the gym or take a stroll in the park. Hopefully, many use the inspiration to check their smoke alarms.

Perhaps the real reason we all keep dutifully changing our clocks is inertia. Change is difficult for people, especially legislators. That’s the case even if the change you’d like to make is to stop changing your clock twice a year.

Could it be, though, that DST is something for which, ahem, time has come?

Last week, the Florida legislature decided they have finished fiddling with clocks. They are seeking to spring forward and be done with it once and for all, remaining on DST year round. The deal’s not sealed yet, even though the Sunshine Protection Act sailed through both state legislative chambers. Even if the governor has signed the bill, it can’t take effect without action from Congress.

Still, like clockwork, the rest of us have these DST discussions biannually while we find ourselves mumbling, “Wait, it’s spring forward, and fall back, right?”

And it is. It’s time to spring forward. Perhaps the best we can do with it is to simply use it as a reminder to ponder how it is we actually spend our days, and to find ways to make those days better and more meaningful.