Saturday, March 14, 2015

Trying real hard to fast time

Life is a series of adjustments.  We adjust to kindergarten or to a new little sister or brother;  then comes middle school, a new school, high school.  Goodness knows we must adjust from preteen to teenager, from that awkward not-sure-who-we-are stage to a strutting we-know-it-all period. We adjust to college, hopefully, and/or, eventually, to a work-every-day career.

We adjust to marriage or to being single or to being divorced, or to our parents divorcing. We adjust to parenthood, which qualifies as a mammoth modification. We adjust to sickness, death and taxes.

We adjust to a new job, losing a job, looking for a job, retiring from a job. We gladly adjust to a promotion or raise, and we -- most of us who've lived in corporate land -- will someday have to adjust to a restructuring, which is a business term for mandatory adjusting.

We adjust to a new hair do -- like that perm I thought was a great idea in the 1980s. We adjust to changes in fashion, interest rates, weather, music and which way the wind blows.

Bottom line: If we are to survive, we learn to adjust.

This week, we had to adjust to Daylight Saving Time -- that extra hour of daylight before it gets dark, and that added hour of darkness before it gets light.  

“It’s this new time,” we said to each other this week as we woke up still sleepy and went to bed not even drowsy. The new time -- the springing forward we did last weekend -- messes with our circadian rhythm, that built-in 24-hour cycling that controls many human functions. Also, as DST begins, we have to try to fool our sleep/wake homeostatis, our brain’s built-in monitor of our need for sleep based on how long we’ve been awake.

I don’t know about the rest of the daylight saving world, but I’m still trying real hard to adjust. 

In the long run, we probably like the idea of daylight saving time in the summertime. But, initially, most of us struggle to bend to this man-made time travel called DST which officially began during the first big war of the 20th century and has evolved and required our adjustments ever since.

Getting used to DST means we balance not being sleepy at bedtime, when our bodies KNOW it’s really an hour earlier, with trying to wake up bright eyed and with bushy tail while it’s likely still dark and our bodies KNOW it’s not time to get up yet.

It's like in that long-ago margarine commercial, you can’t fool Mother Nature. However, Daylight Saving Time tries to, and we have to try along with it. We learn to trade darkness at the break of a later dawn for that extra hour of light in the evening.

Until I researched in my effort to adjust, I thought the fall-back and spring-forward deal was an idea born of the 1970s energy crisis. However, Daylight Saving Time (it's single-- Saving, not Savings) originated during war time, first in WWI and again in WWII.

A change in standard time aimed at energy conservation and maximizing sunlight, Daylight Saving Time was first introduced in the U.S. as “fast time” in 1918 by President Woodrow Wilson who signed it into law to support the World War I effort. This change followed the lead of Germany and the United Kingdom, who were first to initiate war-time DST.

The U.S.’s 1918 time change was repealed seven months later. But cities including Pittsburgh, Boston and New York continued to use it until President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted year-around DST in the U.S. in 1942, again part of the war effort.

Year-round DST, also called “War Time,” was in force during World War II, from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945. The change was implemented 40 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and during this time, the U.S. time zones were called Eastern War Time, Central War Time, and Pacific War Time. After the surrender of Japan in mid-August 1945, the time zones were relabeled “Peace Time.”
After WWII, states and localities were free to choose when and if to observe DST, creating much confusion, especially for train, bus and broadcasting schedules. Congress fixed that in establishing the Uniform Time Act of 1966, stating that DST would begin the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October. But, localities and state could still choose to participate or not.
Following the 1973 oil embargo -- when I remember DST and the controversy around extending it -- Congress extended fast time to 10 months in 1974 and eight months in 1975. The extended period was estimated to save 10,000 barrels of oil a day, but early winter darkness caused controversy and fear for school children’s safety. Congress adjusted it back, and more changes were made in 1987 and in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. That 2005 legislation set the current schedule of DST -- if a state or locality chooses to implement it -- to begin at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and end at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.
So, we have a kind of uniform fast time, and we all have to adjust – unless we live in Hawaii or U.S. territories or a hamlet that refuses to make the DST change. More than 70 countries worldwide have a version of DST, so we are not alone in our rhythm, sunrise and sunset being knocked around.
It's been almost a week since we sprang forward, and, just as surely as the sun rises (an hour later), we'll soon be on target and will stop staying up too late or sleeping past the alarm with the justification that it's really an hour earlier. 
Our fast move into fast time is just another of life’s adjustments -- and likely one of the easier and predicable ones. And, like with so much else in this changing world, we’ll try real hard, and we’ll adjust.

Song of the day:

Old Hippie

-written by David Bellamy, The Bellamy Brothers

He’s an old hippie and he don’t know what to do.
Should he hang on to the old
Should he grab on to the new
He’s an old hippie…his new life is just a bust
He ain’t trying to change nobody
He’s just trying real hard to adjust.”

Picture of the day:

Darkness at the break of dawn: DST brought late sunrises this week.
This dawning picture was taken at 6:58 a.m. Wednesday,
March 11, 2015, from the eastern side of our back porch.