My dear wife is complaining about Daylight Saving Time. She heard some fellow on NPR who has written a book that says DST is mostly hogwash, that we really don’t save any energy, and that all this fussing about with our clocks disrupts business affairs and sleep patterns. My wife’s main complaint, and it’s a legitimate one, is that kids have to wait for school buses in the dark, and that can be dangerous. For my part, I like having that extra hour of daylight in the late afternoon when I can enjoy outdoor sports, yard work, and other useless activities.
The idea of making the most of the day has been around for a long time. My favorite American, Benjamin Franklin, famously said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” While living in Paris in 1784, he anonymously penned a satire in which he suggested taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise. Get those lazy Parisians out of bed and on to their labors. None of Ben’s suggestions were followed, and thus Parisians did not become healthier, wealthier, or wiser.
The first person to propose Daylight Saving Time was the New Zealand entomologist G.V. Hudson in 1895. He wanted more daylight hours to collect bugs. His proposal fell on deaf ears. Then the British businessman William Willett brought up the idea again in 1907. He was an avid golfer, and wanted more daylight hours to pursue that nonsense. His idea also came to naught. It took the Germans and their allies in 1916 to actually do the clock shift thing as a means of saving coal during wartime. Well, we know who lost that war.
“Fast time,” as it’s sometimes called, has always been surrounded by controversy. I was a young reporter in Montgomery in the early 60’s when that august body, the Alabama Legislature, debated whether to put the state on DST. The Alabama Farm Bureau was staunchly opposed to the idea. I interviewed a spokesman for the Farm Bureau who explained with a straight face, “We believe it will confuse the farm animals.” I was too stunned to ask the obvious follow-up question, having to do with clocks in barns, etc. The Legislature, despite the Farm Bureau’s opposition, approved the idea.
My grandmother, Nell Cooper, had a simple solution to the confusion surrounding the clock shifting. In the winter months, she arose from her bed at 7:00am. During the months of DST, she slept until 8:00. She had it in her mind that she gained (or lost, I never quite figured which) an hour every day. Some of the members of the family tried to explain it to her, to no avail. Nell Cooper always had a healthy attitude toward time, which is probably why she lived to be 94 and said, on her deathbed, “I’ve give out, but I haven’t give up.”
My wife’s protestations to the contrary, most of us are now on Daylight Saving Time. The neighborhood kids are waiting for the school bus with flashlights in hand and I’m puttering about my yard at 7:00 in the evening. But I’m also considering laying abed until 8:00 each morning. Maybe Nell Cooper had it right.