Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Daylight Savings and Atomic Clocks

I know Daylight Savings isn’t “celebrated” everywhere in the world, but it’s one big happy party for Americans. Let’s see, we can go to bed an hour early and get up at our normal time, thereby not “losing” an hour’s sleep, or we can go to bed at our normal time and sleep in an hour, so we get the recommended daily allowance of sleep for the night. The trouble is, if we do either, the next night—you know, the night before Marvelous Monday and work again—we can’t fall asleep at our normal time because our body tells us it’s an hour earlier than the clock reports; therefore, we lose the hour of sleep anyway. It’s totally a lose/lose situation. I guess the bright side is that in just six short months, we change our clocks again, and everything will be back in balance in the universe.

By the way, do intelligent-thinking people ever wonder what is the actual value of Daylight Savings? I hate to warn the government agency or political genius that this idea doesn’t make sense…but it doesn’t make sense. On Sunday, March 10, 2013, in my home town, there was 11 hours and 39 minutes of daylight. If the political genius rearranged the clock so that the sun would rise exactly one hour later, by all my calculations, it would set one hour later too, giving me 11 hours and 39 minutes of daylight. Only a naïve political genius and/or government agency would think that some daylight was “saved.” I mean, if I cut a foot off the top of a board and attached it to the bottom of the board, the board would not be longer. Or if educational spending is cut by a billion dollars but then an additional billion dollars is handed out to a foreign country, the budget wasn’t cut.  So what daylight is being saved?

Enough ranting. I have another serious issue with Daylight Savings Time. My atomic clock doesn’t change. Oh, there’s a setting in there somewhere that a person could find if he or she had instructions, but what red-blooded American man would keep those around? So here’s the problem. On Saturday, March 9, and Sunday, March 10, my wife and I performed the happy labor of changing numerous clocks ahead one hour (including the one on our DVD player that took about a half hour to figure out). Awesome funness is what I call the clock-changing experience. But if I change my atomic clock ahead one hour, it rethinks itself and changes back. What this means is that six months out of the year, it projects the wrong time.

Let me explain some things. I’m blind. Okay…not literally because if I was, I wouldn’t have any reason to read my clock. But 20-500 vision is nearly blind. That’s why I flood the bathroom with blazing light in the morning—light which challenges the sun in wattage. I can’t see in the shadows and such…especially now that it’s dark again in the morning! But I digress. Until I put in my contact lenses, I’m blind. But I don’t wear my contacts to bed and my wife was getting tired of me crawling all over her body in the middle of the night in an attempt to get my face three inches from the clock on her nightstand to find out how many more minutes I could sleep. So she purchased me an atomic clock which projected in giant red numbers on the wall just above my head, and I could see it! And for six months out of the year, it projects the actual time. The other six months of the year, starting on Sunday morning, March 10, I have to do math in the middle of the night.

Math in the middle of the night doesn’t sound impossible. I should be able to add ONE to the number on the wall right? Wrong. This is what happens. I roll over and glance up at that beautiful red projection, and it says 3:37, for instance. My mind at that time is working at about .0073% capacity, so I think, “Crap! Something in my mind, way back in a dark place is nagging a notion that it really isn’t 3:37. I wonder what time it really is?” Well, it’s 3:38 because a whole minute has passed while I formulated that thought. Then I think, “Oh, yeah, my clock is an hour off. Great! Do I add an hour or subtract one?” I can’t believe how I can be staring at those once-gorgeous digits, that once-satisfying projection, while my neck is cramping from the sustained effort to decide what time it really is. Well, it’s 3:39—somewhere. Just not in my room.

Eventually, after two full minutes of concerted brain exercise, my mind begins to function at 2.3892% capacity, and I remember that my clock is behind by one hour—which means, I have to add one hour to the 3:39 projection which has just changed to 3:40, and I find that it’s a very difficult problem. I mean, I’m pretty sure I could handle it at most times during the day, just not at 3:40 a.m….I mean 3:41. So I strain, maybe even create a visual image of a piece of paper with 3 + 1 = ____ , and eventually I reach the conclusion that it’s 4:41 a.m….I mean 4:42…and I have some more time to sleep. The trouble is, my brain has by then awakened to somewhere near 3.1216% capacity which I’m fairly certain is Pi. Unfortunately, I believe that number also to be the perfect scientific degree of awakedness that guarantees a sleeper to not be able to fall back asleep.

I’ve read that Daylight Savings was Ben Franklin’s idea—he’s had better ones. I’ve read that the Germans devised the evil scheme to save energy during World War I—danke not! To me, it means six months of blissful bedtime convenience turns into six months of mental acupuncture. It’s been four nights. The countdown—to the day that there is balance in the universe once again—has begun.