Martha SeagleÂ Â Â Â Staff columnist
â€œI spent the afternoon resetting my clocks â€“ what a waste of time!â€
Thatâ€™s what my dad said on Nov. 7 this year. Little did he know that he was giving me an idea for this column: Daylight Saving Time â€“ itâ€™s a waste of time.
The annual practice of moving clocks ahead by an hour in the spring and moving them back by an hour in the fall has been in effect as long as I can remember. So, I set about researching who came up with this idea in the first place.
Turns out it was an insect hunter. Yes, an insect hunter.
New Zealander George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist (bug scientist), first proposed the idea in 1895. What was his motivation? He wanted more leisure time to collect insects and his original idea of shifting the clocks by two hours would have given him more time to traipse about catching butterflies and such.
About ten years later, Englishman William Willett jumped on the bandwagon for two more reasons. First of all, he was appalled that Londoners slept in during the summer, â€œwasting daylight.â€ Willett was also an avid golfer and wanted more time to chase the little white ball after working hours.
It wasnâ€™t until 1916 that a country first used Daylight Saving Time. Germany and its WWI allies adopted what they called â€œSommerzeitâ€ (Summer Time) as a way to conserve coal during wartime. The United States followed by adopting DST in 1918, and itâ€™s been a source of angst for many people ever since.
Take for example those people who have to work night shifts for essential services such as hospitals, police and utility company personnel. In the spring, they lose an hour of pay and in the fall they work an extra hour on already long 12-hour shifts. Having worked rotating shifts, I know that oneâ€™s body clock is already confused by the strange working hours. Pile on another hourâ€™s worth of time shift in either direction and it is enough to wreak havoc with oneâ€™s internal clock.
Then, thereâ€™s what I call â€œthe confusion factor.â€ Nowadays, some clocks automatically reset to DST. My digital alarm clock does, as do most computer clocks. So, when I get up on the Sunday morning after the clock shift, I go through the entire house and try to remember which clocks are already correct and which ones need to be physically changed. If I get one clock wrong, I risk having the entire householdâ€™s schedules derailed.
Some businesses benefit from DST and others suffer. A 1984 study by Fortune magazine estimated that adding seven more weeks to DST would result in $30 million of additional profits for 7-Eleven stores. Similarly, the National Golf Foundation projected a $100 million increase in golf industry revenues from the seven-week extension. Anybody else find humor in that?
Businesses that operate around the clock lose profits when they are required to pay overtime rates for the autumn shift of the clocks. Additionally, when the masterminds behind this madness decide to â€œchange the rulesâ€ for DST — as they did in 2007 — all of the behind-the-scenes computer applications work can be extremely costly.
On a more personal level, I remember what it was like to try to get the toddlers to bed on time during the summer when it was still daylight outside. Thom and I both worked jobs that required us to be up early in the morning (unlike those lazy Londoners that Willett despised), and it was a real battle to get to bed at a reasonable hour during those years.
I suppose readers have concluded by now that I donâ€™t like Daylight Saving Time, and theyâ€™d be correct.Â For me (and I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m alone on this), I just wish that weâ€™d leave the clocks alone and let Mother Nature determine how many hours of daylight we get each day.
And, since itâ€™s Mother Natureâ€™s standard time that keeps our children from going to school in the dark each morning, I suggest that we stay on her plan instead of the one developed by the bug collector.
Martha K. Seagle is a staff writer with the Lincoln Times-News.