There’s an old song by the rock band Chicago which includes the lyrics, “Does anybody really know what time it is — does anybody really care?”
That question has become relevant once again as we are about to undergo our yearly change from standard time to daylight saving time (DST), on Sunday morning. No one might know what the time really is, as Chicago sang, but it is certainly something to care about.
What I find objectionable about time changes, in addition to being forced to adjust clocks back and forth, is that someone is able to wield such ultimate authority over how we keep track of hours and schedules.
OK, I admit it, I am jealous that I have no such authority. How many times would I have loved to magically grant myself an extra hour to write articles before deadlines? Or to go back in time and correct some dumb mistake, like betting on the Forty Niners to win the Super Bowl?
Better yet, how nice it would be to spring forward to next week to get the winning lottery numbers, then fall back in time to buy the corresponding tickets.
And how many of us have wished we could push a pause button occasionally, just to make time stand still regardless of whether standard or daylight saving is involved, and catch our breath from life’s chaos.
But as it is, we possess no such power, although someone sure does. And as it turns out, this power belongs to that entity responsible for bringing so many other forms of cheer to our lives: the U.S. Congress. Yep, as scary as it might sound, the lawmaking body that can’t even manage the country’s finances properly or solve any other major problems we face is in charge of time.
Take, for example, the impending change to daylight saving time early Sunday. If you think this switchover is coming earlier than in years past, you’re right. In a period stretching from 1986 to 2006, daylight saving time ran from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.
In 2005, as an energy measure, Congress mandated that it begin on the first Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November, with this system actually getting under way in 2007.
Now who is Congress to tell us how to keep time? Some of us might prefer, for example, that DST go from the first Sunday in February to the last one in December, but do we have any kind of voice in the matter?
Or what about those who would rather we stay in one mode year-round, which could be standard time or daylight saving time — since each tends to have its own camp of supporters.
The truth is that one’s concept of the official time can be as varied as the world’s peoples themselves.
While we go back and forth between daylight saving and standard time twice yearly, China, for example, a sprawling nation that spans five time zones, does not observe DST at all. Meanwhile, Iceland, Russia and Belarus are on “permanent” daylight saving time.
Even in our own country, there have been many variations.
Until 2005, Indiana had its own unique and complicated system in which that state was split between two time zones and the majority of Indiana opted not to observe DST while only some parts did.
I personally subscribe to daylight saving time, particularly the symbolism associated with emerging from winter’s darkness and doldrums into the bright promise and reawakening that accompanies spring. Like many others, except for any roving vampires who happen to be in our midst, I also appreciate the practical benefits of having more daylight available for evening activities.
Yet I bristle over the audacity of paper pushers in Washington arbitrarily dictating when I get up in the morning or go to bed at night. The clock might say noon after DST kicks in on Sunday, but I’m probably going to get hungry for lunch when I regularly do based on “real” time.
At that period of the year when daylight saving time is in effect, and I happen to 15 to 20 minutes late for an appointment, I also don’t like it if someone gives me a nasty look as a result. I really want to glare back and inform them that I actually would be 45 minutes early if somebody hadn’t decided to tinker with the time.
Since there are more than just the clocks on the wall to consider, but our body clocks as well, I object to someone in Washington being able to pull the strings affecting our biorhythms. I don’t know about you, but my sleeping patterns usually don’t get back to normal until just before it’s time for the time to change again.
As I take a step back to once again spring forward, I just think the power to control such an important system is too important to be left up to an entity as dysfunctional as Congress. We might as well let it be decided by a Twitter or Facebook poll — which would at least be democratic.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.