Lighter Longer by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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A couple of days ago, we took our annual spring forward. It wasn’t much of a kangaroo leap—just one hour—but those 60 little minutes mean a lot. Sure, we “lose” an hour of Sunday sleep, but just think of all we gain! Spring seems that much closer when the sun sets an hour “later” and all that lingering light…well, it’s just more time to sit on the porch with a beverage and contemplate the accomplishments of another day.

We have Ben Franklin to thank for Daylight Saving Time. He was the one who figured out that by moving an hour of sunlight from morning to evening, more gets done. Extended daylight saves energy, too, although the advent of the modern air conditioner has put that idea to the test. Farmers seem to like DST: “Hold supper, hon. I’ve got a few more rows to plough!” but manipulating time also has its fair share of problems. Transportation schedules are disrupted, earlier bar closings in the fall have been known to cause riots, and then there are quirky regional disagreements like the one between Minneapolis and St. Paul, the twin cities separated by a river.

For several years, they couldn’t agree on when to start DST so you might go from one to the other and arrive before you left. Boggles the mind! Indiana is also a DST mess: it falls across two time zones and some counties observe DST and some don’t. Politicians of course get in the act: in 1968, gubernatorial candidate Rex Early (that’s really his name!) firmly declared “Some of my friends are for putting all of Indiana on Daylight Saving Time. Some are against it. And I always try to support my friends.” Down in Arizona, there is no Daylight Saving Time, unless you’re a Navajo living on the rez and then there is. Even criminals are confounded by summer time: statistics show that there is 13% less crime when there’s more light at the end of the day!

Not everyone is a fan of DST. There are the “clockers” who think it’s a waste of time to change the clocks and adjust to a new sleep schedule. Some folks just prefer moonlight to sunlight. In Israel, ultra orthodox Jews who recite early-morning penitential prayers during the month of Elul don’t like the imposed extra hour of darkness. Closer to home, a chicken farmer I know gets very frustrated because his chickens pay no attention to the time change: it takes a few weeks for the brood to get right with the clock twice a year.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot to be said for summer hours. Electricity usage declines; there are fewer traffic accidents, maybe because fewer chickens cross the road in the evening; and remember Ben Franklin’s adage? “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Maybe that’s why old Ben was so interested in manipulating time!

For my readers living on or near the equator, I realize Daylight Saving Time is pretty much of a non-issue. However, for all of you living in igloos up in the Arctic, I know an extra hour of daylight can be a really big deal! But for all of us in between, summer hours presage more porch time and that is time worth savoring!

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

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