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Time to end daylight saving time

Lead Summary
Note: Jim Thompson's column will resume in a few months. Meanwhile, The Highland County Press is republishing some of "the best of" his columns. This one was first published in 2014.

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Now, I must admit, I start to get depressed along about the 22nd of June each year. The days are starting to get shorter. But the day I really get “down in the dumps” each year is the fall Saturday night when we “fall back” – and change time.

In recent years, I have deliberately found things to do late on the following Sunday when the sun goes down at what seems like 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

Then, when I have a business appointment in the unique state of Indiana, I always synchronize my watch with my appointment a few days in advance. For in the state of Indiana, especially if you are visiting the southwest or northwest corners of the state, the current time changes street to street or farm to farm.

If Congress can do only one thing as a united body, surely straightening out our time mess would be a good place to start.

Forget the high-minded ideas and ideals, let’s start with the dogs who become confused each fall and spring when the stupid humans change the times of their daily walks for no apparent reason.

It takes Fred, our dog, two weeks to figure out what the heck is going on. This says a lot about the human condition and how messed up we can make a naturally occurring event – the rising and the setting of the sun.

The origins and history of Daylight Saving Time are tortured and convoluted. The modern idea of this (Benjamin Franklin discussed it in some of his papers) was conceived by Germany in World War I.

It waxed and waned until Feb. 9, 1942 when FDR instituted DST which was called “War Time.” It lasted until the last Sunday in September 1945.

Keep in mind, at that time, a still significant minority of the population received light from kerosene lanterns – thus, daylight was important. After that, it was a haphazard occurrence in the United States until the Uniform Time Act of 1966. Other changes were implemented and disbanded between that time and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which is what we live with now.

Legend has it that an Indian chief, upon hearing of daylight saving time, characterized it as a typical “white man” solution to a non-existent problem solved by cutting six inches off one end of a blanket and sewing it on the other end. True or not, this neatly sums up the situation.

In today’s developed world, the predominant loci of clocks, we live in an artificial world nearly all the time. I work in an office without windows. If I am at home and not traveling, it is the dog that reminds me of the folly of daylight saving time every afternoon this time of year when he is ready for his walk (that is after I get over my own time adjustment by going to bed and getting up at a different time than my body says I should).

The reality is that today, daylight saving time is an arcane idea that has outlived its usefulness. Back when the world was very local, it made no difference what time showed on local clocks.

With the coming of the railroads, standardized times became important for schedules, and more importantly, to assure trains did not collide with one another.

However, with the next leap in transportation, air travel, local time zones meant little except as related to passenger schedule. Air travel executives quickly adopted “Zulu Time” or “Greenwich Mean Time” – now known as UST – for all cockpit time accounting. With this adaptation, air travel eliminated the need for time zones.

And maybe this is where we need to go. If UST were universally used, communities could really go back to local time preferences of their own. If your town wants to start schools at 18:00 UST and the town next door wants to start theirs at 17:35 UST, who cares?

If company A’s working hours are 13:00-19:00 UST that’s fine. We don’t have to “adjust” anything to adopt UST – it simultaneously provides a recognized time and allows each community, entity and business the flexibility to do whatever they want without conforming to any arbitrary dictates.

It is an idea whose time has come.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga., following decades of wandering the world, and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.

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