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Everybody Hates Time Changes – So Why Do We Do It?

By James Donahue

People all over the United States will be turning back their clocks one hour this weekend as they shift from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. There is a collective national moan when we have to do it, but everybody (almost everybody that is) marches in lock step and adapts to the change.

This writer never has adapted. When I used to wear a watch I refused to change the time on it. I just adjusted the times when I had to show up for appointments to an hour earlier, or later, than before. I occasionally run into other people who, out of defiance, do the same thing. If we have to acknowledge time, we run on Standard Time, no matter what.

Creating Daylight Savings Time was, in general, a very bad idea. People on the Navajo Nation, which covers portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, agree. They refuse to roll back their clocks even though the four states around them do it. So if you visit the Navajo during certain times of the year, they will be operating on a different time than everybody else.

They don’t change the time in Hawaii or the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands either, in case you are interested.

A national law forcing Daylight Savings Time was tried twice. When a national act was adopted in 1918 establishing uniform time zones, it called for a yearly switch to Daylight Savings Time. The idea was so unpopular it was taken off the books the following year. It went into effect nationally again during World War II, not to conserve energy but to help people cope with operating without lights for fear of being bombed.

That was about the only time Daylight Savings Time made much sense. Proponents of it today say it reduces the amount of time we must use lights so it saves energy, but that has been shown to be a false claim. People just use their time doing other things that demand the use of even more energy than they would if they just stayed home, read a book or went to bed.

The big arguments favoring Daylight Savings Time is that it provides for greater play time, mostly on golf courses, parks and other recreation areas, and encourages more evening shopping hours. It also extends U.S. office hours to periods of greater overlap with the European Economic Community, thus allowing for more business transactions from place to place.

And those are not valid reasons. There is no reason why offices can’t remain open later, with staffers overlapping their times on the job. As for people who want to put us all through hell twice a year so they can have more time on the golf course . . . they can shove those golf clubs and the balls . . . well you know where.

There is one other claim that may have merit. Researchers say that more daylight during the time people are most active tends to decrease the number of traffic accidents, traffic fatalities and incidences of crime.

Countering that, however, is a new study by a Swedish medical team that shows in increase in heart attacks during the first three weekdays after the spring shift to daylight savings time. They blame this on sleep deprivation and the shock on the natural biologic rhythms of the body. The people most vulnerable are those who are on uncompromising work shifts and punch a clock.

Older, retired people are the least affected by the time changes. They just stay in bed longer, or go to bed earlier, whatever feels natural for them.

Dr. Imre Janszky of the Karolinska Institute and Dr. Rikard Ljung of the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, said in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine the problem is noticed most in the spring when clocks are shifted ahead, and people lose that important hour of sleep.

When clocks are turned back in the fall, the heart attack rate appears to remain unaffected. If anything, the rate drops some.

So there we have it. Without daylight savings time we may have more traffic fatalities but less heart attacks. With daylight savings time we have more heart attacks and an entire society aggravated by having to adjust to the time change.

The whole concept of forcing workers to show up for specific periods of time to earn their payment for work performed stems back to the days of serfdom and slavery. But because of the dramatic way in which the world is changing, we may soon be forced to give it up.

As factory type jobs diminish, we are finding that more and more people are driving miles to work where they sit at desks and work at computers, telephones and other electronic devices. There is no reason why these people can’t do the same work in their homes, even in pajamas, thus saving the cost of having to buy costly duds and put up with heavy traffic jams while burning the last of the world’s fuel driving to and from their jobs.

Contrary to popular belief, employers do not have to stand guard over their workers with whips to assure that work is being done. Work output can be measured in a variety of ways, even if it involves answering the telephone and typing letters.

As the world’s oil supply dwindles, and economic conditions worsen, we also may be seeing a time when people return to bartering, that is trading skills for services or personal items for food. The old neighborhood Mom and Pop businesses, like corner stores where we can grab a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk without driving for miles, could be reappearing.

When this happens there won't be so much driving to and from jobs or to the store to get stuff.

With changes like these in the works, we believe it is time for states to consider giving up the yearly shift to daylight savings time once and for all.