(This is a piece I wrote several years ago for the late, lamented Metropole Magazine. I wrote it at the end of that year’s Daylight Saving Time, so in a way it’s not exactly timely; but I got so bitter about DST that I figured I might as well post it now, just so everyone can know how I feel. Because that’s what you’ve been waiting and hoping for, right?)
So I thought I’d got through that awful dark time okay, with nary a rant or a groan. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t try to tell me that the end of Daylight Saving Time isn’t your favorite holiday, too. I always celebrate by sleeping late without guilt. (I sleep late pretty much every other day of the year, but I get all angsty about it and can’t enjoy myself properly.) I was congratulating myself on having survived yet another summer of wrong-clockiness without any help from drugs — thinking that I must have finally, God help us all, mellowed or matured or something — when my plumber called and ruined it for me.
He wanted to know what time he could come by and put in a new toilet tank in one of our apartments, since the old one spent too much time muttering ominously to itself and was no longer welcome. “I’ll be gone all morning,” I said. “Can we do it late this afternoon?”
“Since when?” Late afternoon was generally his favorite time for a quick job, and if that sounds naughty let me hasten to assure the reader that I am a happily married woman who has taken only the faintest passing notice of the fact that the contractor I often call in the course of managing a cranky building bears a serious resemblance to a young Mel Gibson, with Mel suffering from the comparison. Plus all his helpers are hunky young U.K. fellows with terrific haircuts and big strong capable hands. And no, you may not have his number. I have a hard enough time getting him when I need him as it is.
Plus he’s apparently a crybaby mama’s boy who’s afraid of the dark. “I can’t start any jobs past four any more,” he said now. “It’s too hard to work out of a truck now that daylight saving time’s started.”
Started? Started? Is this what we’ve come to? Have we grown so accustomed to changing our clocks on command that we now consider letting them reflect true noon sick and wrong, some sort of aberration?
News flash to all plumbers and anyone else interested and listening: THIS IS THE REAL THING. WE’RE BACK TO NORMAL NOW. What just passed was nothing but a summer fling — fun if you enjoy that kind of thing, but nothing to plan your life and future around.
No one believes me, of course. Everyone looks at me like I’m some kind of imbecile when I start talking like this. But it’s true, damn it! Daylight Saving Time is weird! It’s stupid and pointless and, speaking as a representative of a small but ferocious minority, criminally cruel to the night people of the world. And we vote, okay? When we can manage to get up that early, anyway. If these idiots would just open the polls at eight at night instead of closing them, we’d get a lot more of the representation we need.
I digress. The point is — well, what is the point? What is the point of all this changing clocks back and forth? Do the non-parents of the world have any idea what a drag it is trying to acclimate your kid to a new time when you have a hard enough time getting him up in the morning as it is? Have the citizens of the planet in general noticed what fun it is to watch the autumn days get shorter and shorter and BAM! suddenly they’re really short and, with no prior warning, no gradual leading up to it, you’ve got a five o’clock curfew because it’s just too damned dark to play outside after that?
Which leads us to another point I don’t understand. What were those MacArthur grant recipients thinking of when they decided to mess with summer days, instead of winter?
It has been explained to me that it’s a matter of conserving power. It has not been explained to my satisfaction. We have how many hours of daylight in the summer? Fifteen, sixteen? What’s the point of shuffling them all over the map? Messing with winter, now, that I could see. But leave summer alone. It’s hard enough to get our kids to bed without their righteous complaints that it’s still light out.
In an effort to understand the mass hysteria that possesses our population every year, I looked up daylight saving on the web and found a site that had some wonderful information. Trouble is, most of it sucked. Like, get this: “A 1976 survey of 2.7 million citizens in New South Wales found 68% liked daylight saving.”
Oh, please. First of all, if you have to go that far back, just forget it. Admit defeat and get on with your life.
Second, you’re asking people in New South Wales? I mean absolutely no disrespect to our friends down under or wherever the hell they are, but I’d be willing to bet that the citizens of New South Wales don’t think that their opinion should be taken as any big whoop even in New South Wales, let alone that it should somehow stand as emblematic for the entire thinking world.
And liked daylight saving? That’s a little strong, don’t you think? Am I supposed to believe they said that in so many words, or did they just mean that fiddling with the clock a couple of times a year wasn’t as bad as, say, finding a dead rat on your porch before breakfast?
This web site went on to claim that daylight saving is also life saving, thanks to improved visibility and drivers having less of an excuse to plow down innocent pedestrians and then claim they couldn’t see them. Fine. What I want to know is, and I mean this almost seriously, did anybody do any study of what happens to pedestrians after daylight saving time goes away? Party’s over, kids. Eat asphalt.
But my biggest complaint is still my initial one. Daylight saving time leads people to live in a false paradise of long, lingering days. Change it back to normal and they don’t just shrug and say, “Oh, well, that’s winter for you.” No, they start griping about daylight saving time. Which they should do — but when it begins, not when it ends! Figure it out, folks! This is real life! It’s cold and harsh and nasty! That nine p.m. sunshine thing was just pretend! Deal with it!
And then tell my damned plumber to get his lazy butt over here and fixed the damned toilet, already.