Sunday, March 12, 2017

Only Time Will Tell

In the wee hours of the night, a strange thing happened. An hour disappeared.

It just vanished as time shifted from two to three a.m. with abrupt finality. Most of us were sleeping when it happened. We didn't even notice that an hour of our precious rest was stolen from us.

Some of us, fully aware and duly warned, adjusted our clocks before we went to bed. Others figured it out after waking up and realizing that something was wrong. While our electronic devices adjusted automatically, our clocks did not. The incongruity confused some people. Others reprogrammed digital time pieces and manually turned analogue clocks ahead to match the rest of the world. Some grumbled and complained. Others took it in stride. Regardless of any confusion or disapproval, life went on and the missing hour remained missing.

Daylight Saving Time (Yes, it is singular! We are not banking any daylight through this process.) has been in practice for 109 years in Canada. First implemented in July, 1908 in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, the trend across the country took some time to develop. In April, 1914, Saskatchewan adopted DST and Manitoba followed suit in April, 1916. Eventually, all of the provinces and territories got on board and DST became a thing.

Daylight Saving Time was designed to make better use of daylight. Farmers, for example, had more daylight later in the day for harvesting crops. It kind of made sense and DST was enacted primarily during the harvest season.

Strangely, DST created the illusion of longer days, a misconception that lingers even today. The stolen hour does not (however paradoxically), in and of itself, lengthen the daylight hours; it merely shifts them forward. So if the sun rose at 7 a.m. and set at 6 p.m. the day before DST commenced, it will rise at 8 a.m. and set at 7 p.m. the day DST begins (plus a couple of minutes on either end). The time shift has nothing whatsoever to do with the lengthening of the daylight hours. That is a result of the tilt of the Earth's axis in conjunction with its rotation and position in orbit around the sun. DST does NOT add any extra hours of daylight to the day. The days do lengthen here in the Northern hemisphere as the year progresses because the North Pole is tilted toward the sun. Daylight Saving Time allows the sun to set an hour later than it would if DST were not in effect. That's all.

The other misconception that pervades is that the hour that goes missing in the middle of the night is stolen. It's not! It's only borrowed. It will be returned to us in the fall when we revert to Standard Time. In the wee hours of the first Sunday in November an hour will repeat itself, sunrise and sunset will seem to occur an hour earlier. Time, as it is depicted by the numbers on our clocks, will shift. (The space/time continuum will remain unaffected.)

Daylight Saving Time has, however, been lengthened over the years. While it used to start at the end of April and end at the beginning of October, it now starts closer to the beginning of March and ends at the beginning of November. The reason for this is that it is believed that it helps conserve energy. Less electricity , it is theorized, is required for lighting purposes because of DST over the duration of its implementation. Farmers continue to benefit as well, I would imagine.

The popularity of DST is waning. Every year there is more and more kerfuffle over whether or not it is necessary. Indeed, this relatively minor shift of the numbers on clock faces does have an impact. When we spring ahead in March, people are late for work for a day or two until the adjustment is made. On the other hand, people working the night shift get paid for an hour of work that does not exist. In the fall, the opposite happens: people show up early and those working nights work (and get paid for) an extra hour to compensate. And the debate as to whether or not DST needs to be abolished continues to rage - at least for a few weeks prior to the twice yearly changes.

I'm not sure what the fuss is all about. I know that in a day or two I will adjust to it. There are, it seems to me, bigger and more important things to be making a fuss over in this world. At the same time, if DST were to go the way of the dinosaur, I don't think I would be overly upset about it. No more, at any rate, than I am by the fact that I crawled out of bed an "hour later" than I normally do and, therefore, was not ready on time to catch the bus this morning. It's not the end of the world!

What baffles me is that some people don't seem to connect the start of DST to the end of DST. It's like the time changes are two separate and unrelated events that happen with no apparent correlation to one another. A post that showed up on my Facebook news feed today stated that "The government takes away an hour in the middle of the night." I was somewhat stunned when I read that. Granted, DST is legislated in the areas in which it is practiced. But to say the government takes an hour away from us in the middle of the night just sounds like a deep, dark conspiracy theory. OMG! The government is stealing time from us! Whatever will we do!?

To be fair, the person who posted that statement did so in jest and was taking a humorous poke at the mindset of people who are truly incensed by the apparent loss of time that occurs (for convenience!) in the wee hours. The fact that the weather in the area where he lives was inclement this morning was the real culprit in inciting his displeasure, but there are people who will latch onto this notion of the government stealing time from us and run with it like a sharp pair of scissors through the halls of conspiratorially twisted imagination.

As for me, I am going to let the adjustment happen while I look forward to the bright evenings of spring and summer. If DST is discontinued where I live, I will adjust to that too. Change is a good thing, but I wonder what impact changing to not changing might bring about...

Only time will tell!