Ask anyone across the nation what bothers them most these days and they will invariably answer: “Why do we still practice daylight savings time?” My first response is to remind them that actually it’s daylight saving time, not daylight savings time, since the word “saving” acts as part of an adjective rather than a verb. Once I mention this, they immediately express their gratitude since most people love to be corrected.
Benjamin Franklin usually gets credit for DST, but he never really mentioned changing the clocks. In 1784, he merely suggested getting up earlier which would lead everyone to fall asleep at a more reasonable hour and use less candle wax at night. He even devised a formula by how much candle wax and lamp oil was being used on average and money being spent for something that could be provided by the sun at no charge. Franklin was a man ahead of his time for his early thoughts on solar energy, but then again, this was a guy who liked to fly kites in a thunderstorm.
The first man who actually did suggest changing the clock was a New Zealand resident who wanted more time to hunt bugs at the end of the day. In 1895, George Hudson, an entomologist (fancy word for bug hunter) presented the idea to the Wellington Philosophical Society. The society felt Hudson’s proposal lacked merit and didn’t have legs (a statement they couldn’t say about his collection of centipedes.)
In the U.S., Daylight Saving Time was first adopted in 1918, but was repealed seven months later. I guess there were too many complaints since the farmers were having a difficult time explaining to their chickens, “Listen, starting tomorrow, you’re going to have lay your eggs an hour earlier.” Rumor had it that the stubborn chickens refused to cooperate.
During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted DST, but when the war was over, he let the states decide for themselves. This led to many different versions across the country, and in 1965, when Minneapolis and St. Paul couldn’t agree on a start date, there was a one-hour time difference between them that lasted two weeks. A permanent stain in Twin Cities history that still haunts us every time an outsider brings it up: “You couldn’t even agree when to start daylight savings time?” And all we can do is hang our heads in shame ... And remind them that it’s daylight saving, NOT savings.
A year later, Congress would pass the Uniform Time Act and after a few tweaks and changes over the years, it would become what we have today: A reminder to change the batteries in our smoke alarms, and also that we have waaaaay too many clocks.
At least these days, technology changes most of our clocks for us, (thank you, Alexa) but I still find myself precariously balanced on a stool in the kitchen changing a wall clock or googling my watch manual to refresh my memory on how to reset the time. Oh yeah, I have to hold down the fourth button while tapping the first button while simultaneously pressing the third button ... all while standing on my head.
Even though there are fifteen states that have passed laws, resolutions or voter initiatives to abolish DST, and dozens more that are considering it, for now most of us still have to change our clocks and readjust our sleep habits. The good news is that this time of year, we gained an hour. The hard part is in the spring, when losing a whole hour in one fell swoop can be a difficult adjustment.
Therefore, come spring, I propose we change our clocks in five-minute increments every day for twelve days. It will wreak havoc on the bus schedules, but the adjustment will be easier.
I will be presenting it to the Wellington Philosophical Society first chance I get.