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The Delight Of Self Torture
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Time For All Slaves To “Spring Forward”

By James Donahue

Most people in the United States faithfully turned their clocks ahead one hour before they hit the sack Saturday night.  Yeah, it’s that seasonal Daylight Savings Time torture thing we do each spring and fall that throws our body clocks out of whack for a few weeks, triggers a few heart attacks and other physical disorders in the elderly and makes everybody feel tired for at least a week.

So why do we do it? The best arguments I have heard is that the time shift takes advantage of the extra sunlight as days get longer.

This in turn is supposed to save energy because people don’t have light on as long. This has been proven to be a fabrication. Maybe the lights aren’t burning, but television sets, computers, stereos, washing machines, dryers, and other household electric appliances are getting used, and people tend to drive more in daylight, so they consume more gasoline.

Other arguments are that people tend to have less automobile accidents during daylight hours, so Daylight Savings Time appears to save lives. Or does it? Because the change causes adverse effects on the biological clocks in our bodies, more people may be suffering from deadly medical problems. For example, studies have shown that sleep-shift workers have higher incidences of cancer, sleep disorders, and a variety of other issues.

Even though the time change occurs early on Sunday morning, when most people get to sleep in and therefore “adjust” to losing that hour of time, the biological clocks don’t fix themselves that fast. For those Americans still working, the next week will be a time of fighting unnatural tiredness and struggling to keep up with the demands of the job.

Experts say children suffer even more. Elementary-school children need 10 or 11 hours of sleep and adolescents need at least nine hours. That lost hour will have an impact on them as well.

Benjamin Franklin is blamed for thinking up the idea of saving time. But his proposal was to save candle wax by forcing everybody out of bed at sunrise. In 1784 he wrote: “Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing. And if that is not sufficient, let cannon be fired on every street to wake the sluggards effectually.”

Fortunately, Americans didn’t cotton to that idea. But in the rural areas of Michigan where I spent many of my years working, many of the smaller farm-oriented communities adopted wake-up calls somewhat like this. They rang the town fire sirens at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays, and sometimes even at noon.

We don’t know how long the fire sirens were used to jar folks out of their beds, but it must have started when few, if anybody worked midnight shifts. Police, service station, restaurant, hospital and other public service workers were constantly annoyed by the sirens when we lived there. Attempts to persuade town councils to turn off the sirens were strangely unsuccessful, however.

At one time the siren in Bad Axe, Michigan, where we lived for a while, broke down and stopped ringing for about two months. My wife, who worked the night shift at the hospital and I, who often covered night events for the local newspaper, were quite relieved not to have that noise jar our senses every morning at seven.

When I had a chance, I thanked the city council for not ringing it any more. I was told the siren was broken and they were waiting for a part to be shipped from Germany. They said they had so many complaints by people in the community who said they missed waking up to the shrill sound that they were going to repair it.

It is our opinion that most humans are conditioned to endure self punishment and torture. That is the only way to truly assess our determination to change our clocks by an hour twice every year.