I’m a night-person. Always have been. Just ask my grandma how, at age oh…6, I’d growl and bury my head under the covers when she’d come flip my light on in the morning during their visits. Even now if you catch me in the mid-afternoon you may find my head rocking and rolling as I fight valiantly to keep my eyes open. But most nights, around maybe 9pm, I’m ready to rock-and-roll in a whole different context. But I am not ok with the way ‘nighttime’ starts at the young age of late afternoon throughout the winter months. Besides, 2020 has been bleak enough. Do we REALLY want an extra hour of it, even if that extra hour comes while we’re sleeping?
Which leads me to the question of ‘Why on EARTH do we still change our clocks every fall?!’ Don’t get me wrong, I love to snuggle down in front of a cozy fire as much as the next sane person. And I’ve visited or lived in areas from the equator to arctic circle adjacent. Just out of college when I was still shiny and new, I was starting a career in teaching and was living near the 45th parallel (halfway between the equator and the north pole). Anyone who’s been a teacher knows fall, winter, spring, you pretty much live at school your first year as you try desperately to gain your footing about all the things regarding actual classroom teaching that college never bothered to inform you of. (Secretly, I’m pretty convinced they do that because they know no one would ever become a teacher if they spilled ALL the beans beforehand. But that’s a topic for another day.) But my first year of teaching … y’all … once the abominable ‘fall back’ by an hour arrived I would leave my little apartment in the pitch-black morning after letting my car warm up for 15-20 minutes just to get the ice adequately slushied to windshield-wiper it off enough to drive. Then I would be saying goodbye to my cute little 11-year-olds roughly 17 seconds before twilight began to descend and while I still had ‘hours to go before I slept’ (to bastardize a lovely poem from the great Robert Frost). The only times I saw daylight that winter other than occasionally through a window was when I had the dreaded ‘recess duty’ where I would stomp from one foot to the other in the frigidity in my best, and futile, attempt to avoid 15 minutes of frostbite.
It was a sad, trudging winter that lasted almost as long as 2020 has and I was as giddy as a young lamb when that ‘spring forward’ moment came. Speaking of lambs, I get it. The whole concept of Daylight Savings Time was instituted for farmers. But that was back in the prehistoric era of things like, you know, alarm clocks and such. We live in a day when 98% of our lives are governed by the clock and the roughly 143 brave souls still farming are no exception to that. We get it. We ALL know the days are shorter in winter! Why, oh, why do we need the added insult of changing our clocks back an hour?! It’s as if good old Mother Nature is just giving us all a hearty middle finger as we sadly shuffle home in the murky twilight.
I live in Southern California where, for all its weirdness, we at least don’t have to tussle with frosty windshields and hard-scrabble frozen dirt. But even here, sunset today is pretty much exactly 6pm which means it starts getting dark during the 5:00 hour. When I leave late this afternoon to go coach club volleyball we’ll be taking the girls’ temperatures (because you know, Covid) in the near-dark. I remember back about 37 years ago in 2018 that we in California voted for the ‘keep Daylight Savings Time all year’ (maybe the actual name?) bill with a resounding click of our collective flashlights. And yet I distinctly recall reading today that our clocks changed yet again while we slumbered. In this age of gadgets and i-things we don’t even have the excuse of forgetting to change our clocks any longer because they do it for us!
If there’s one executive order that Trump could have used to his advantage this year, it would’ve been to change the concept of ‘Daylight Savings Time’ to just ‘Time’. It would have been like the first beautiful snowflake whirling to the ground in the fall or a brightly colored butterfly flitting through flowers in the spring. It could have been an unprecedented way to unite Americans from Alex Jones to Nancy Pelosi under the banner of ‘no more late-morning sunrises or mid-afternoon sunsets’. I realize that would make for a rather long banner, but really, in the year of toilet paper-hoarding, isn’t that worth the risk? Instead, as we all doggedly march toward the presidential election in a couple of days’ time, we have the added tribulation of knowing that, by election day, we’ll be rising in the dark. Much like the warriors of Gondor riding off to fight against Mordor in ‘The Return of the King’, the vast majority of us will be waking up in the gloom of partial-light that has seeped into our bones during the 863 months of 2020.
I suppose we don’t dare hope for a last-minute stay against prolonging this year even by an hour. Instead, like the days when I was 6, I’m committed to burying my head under the covers and, if necessary, growling at the impending day. But spring will come again and with it, the lost hour of sleep which will bring longer, brighter, more hopeful days. And maybe we’ll still have the chance to make amends with ourselves and hope for a hero who will make DST a relic of history.