Well, we are about to set all our clocks ahead one hour this coming weekend. As usual, I scratch my head to try and figure out why in the world we do that. Time and the keeping of time is a nebulous pursuit and what everyone thinks is the “actual” time is really just a fantasy.
I came to this conclusion when I did a little research on time and came up with some interesting information on how it has been perceived—and calculated—throughout history.
Here is what I found:
- Folklore has it that clocks were dangerous, and that 2 clocks ticking in the same room could bring “sure death.”
- In 1663, Massachusetts passed a law that made wasting time a crime. This created a demand for clocks, but the only ones available were expensive imports. It would be another century before America made clocks.
- By the mid-19th century, time (or the telling of it) became much more important, and each city set its own standard time according to “solar noon.” That meant when it was 12:00 noon in Chicago, it was 11:50 am in St. Louis, and 12:18 pm in Detroit.
- However, a problem arose as America’s railroad system was developed because train schedules were forced to follow the “solar noon” time of the cities. To solve this problem, in 1883 the railroads broke up the country into 4 different time “zones.”
- That meant that in order to work with the new train schedules, Chicagoans had to move their clocks back 9 minutes and 32 seconds. Louisville had to set theirs back almost 18 minutes—but the folks in Bangor Maine passed a referendum in 1884 (by a 3 to 1 margin) to oppose a 25-minute change to their clocks.
- Interestingly, the time zones set by the railroads in 1883 are the same time zones we have today. If you look at a time zone map of the U.S., you see where the land is flat the time zone is very wide (trains travel faster over the plains) and where mountains had to be climbed or avoided, the time zone is narrow. (The Pacific zone in Oregon is not even as wide as the state—due to the rugged Cascade Mountains.)
- Daylight saving time was first adopted in the U.S. during the First World War, and then it was rejected right after the war ended. It wasn’t used again until February 3, 1942 when “war time” (daylight saving time) was instituted, and then lasted without change until September 30, 1945.
- Daylight saving time is not (and never has been) consistent. Clock changes for daylight saving time in countries around the world have been made for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes, and 120 minutes. Of course many countries do not change their clocks at all. So, why do we select 60 minutes in the U.S.? No one seems to know.
- Of course, the states of Arizona and Hawaii do not observe daylight saving time at all, and several other states are considering opting out.
- Canada has 6 major time zones, and their daylight saving time matches the dates of the U.S. schedule—although in the far North where it is sunny almost around the clock in the summer, I’m not sure why they bother at all.
- Mexico has their own daylight saving plan—except in the North where the towns usually follow the U.S. time zones (which means that Mexico uses two separate systems).
- Egypt used to change their clocks 4 times per year, because of Ramadan. The new transitional government abolished daylight saving time on April 25, 2011.
- Iraq’s Council of Ministers abolished daylight saving time in Iraq in 2008.
- Russia eliminated 2 entire time zones in March of 2010, and has made daylight saving time permanent as of autumn of 2011. No more clock changes in Russia. (What do they know that we don’t?)
- What about the Southern hemisphere? Shortly after the U.S. moves their clocks ahead in Spring, Southern hemisphere countries normally move their clocks back one hour—making a two-hour gap for part of the year. Sometimes, because of the dates of change, there is no extra gap at all.
- I remember seeing a news clip on the evening news, during the last “changing of time,” which showed a row of employees in a jewelry store standing at a counter changing the time on all their watches for sale. Can you imagine how much wasted productivity daylight saving time causes—just fiddling with clocks?
- Apparently, it is not really the hours of daylight or darkness that matters—it seems to be the concept of “change” that creates all the problems with daylight saving time.
- Then, of course, every 4 years we throw in an extra 24 hours for good measure (or should it be a bit more, or a bit less than the somewhat arbitrary 24 hours).
- More and more studies are coming to light about: adverse effects of time changes on our health; increases in accidents (especially on-the-job accidents); increases in cost of energy; increases in suicide, and on and on.
As far as I can determine, every plausible reason for having daylight saving time has been struck down by thorough scientific studies.
Frankly, I don’t care what standards are selected for time zones—I just wish they would pick one and stick with it. Maybe Russia, Iraq, Egypt, Arizona, Hawaii, and (whomever) has the right idea.
In the meantime, we’ll follow the dictates of our leaders in Washington, because they obviously know what is “right” for all their subjects.
With the constant changing of clocks and times around the world—I wonder if anyone really knows what time it is?
Tell me what you think about changing all your clocks and watches twice a year. Does Daylight Saving Time benefit you?