Earlier this month, Americans — all except for those living in Arizona, Hawaii and several American territories —“leapt forward” an hour in time to follow what we call Daylight Savings Time.
The rest of us continued doing what we have been doing for almost exactly 105 years. We changed the time of day, and will do so again in the fall, largely to suit commercial interests which may or may not align with our own.
Benjamin Franklin, a man of both great learning and original ideas, suggested Daylight Savings Time in 1784 as a way to conserve candles for the same reason we turn off lights and appliances we are not using today.
It was not officially adopted anywhere until the 20th century when parts of Canada and some European nations tried it, and the United States jumped on the bandwagon in 1918.
The idea was to give people more daylight hours for work, especially farm laborers, and it has since morphed into more daylight time for shopping, golfing and other commercial activities.
Increasingly, though, we Americans are telling pollsters we have had enough of time changing — that we are no longer interested in “springing forward” or “falling back.” Poll findings differ, of course, but most of them report at least half of us have had enough.
The problem is that we have not agreed on which time system to adopt and stick to, permanent standard time (known in our neck of the woods Eastern Standard Time or EST) or the relatively newer DST.
Permanent standard time advocates argue that it is more in synch with natural movements of the sun and with the human body’s inner clock, often referred to as our circadian rhythm. Daylight, they say, wakes us up naturally, and earlier sunset allows us to sleep longer and better. DST, they contend, upends our inner clocks, making us more prone to serious health conditions like obesity, metabolic problems, cardiovascular issues, and depression just to name a few problems no one wants.
Despite these arguments, permanent DST has its fans, many of whom say such a switch would be a boon to most Americans who are more productive during sunlight. They also promote Franklin’s candle argument, updated to electricity, of course, and contend daylight deters crime and promotes greater road safety.
As in so many situations, we can find a poll or an argument to support most any point of view, but the reality is no one really knows. What we do know, though, is that Americans are ready to stop time’s semi annual time hopping.
A number of states have already adopted permanent DST and are awaiting federal blessings. Hawaii, Arizona and several territories are already in permanent standard time, but there is no national consensus.
If I were Queen of America, I would wave my magic wand, and we would all be on standard time, which appears to be a human construct developed over eons to suit the human body’s need for both sun and rest.
That said, I could also live with DST if it prevailed.
Our neighbor, Mexico, saw the light late last year and abandoned DST and all the switching of clocks, apparently saying good riddance.
The point for me and millions of other Americans is that we pick one system of time for our nation and stick to it. We have had enough springing and falling.