Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
SPRING AHEAD, FALL APART
Once again the most exciting weekend of the year is upon us. No, I don’t mean Christmas, the Fourth of July, my birthday, or any other national holiday. This is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time (DST).
This weekend marks the unofficial start of Spring. It also marks the official start of “How Dumb are Americans?” week, since millions of citizens will spend at least the next seven days unsure of what time it is.
The premise of DST is fairly straightforward: we want an extra hour of sunlight during the day. Back in the early part of the 20th century (or the nineteen-hundreds, for those of us who find the “ith century” thing confusing), the United States Congress passed a law requiring the sun to stay in the sky an extra hour. When the sun ignored the new law, numerous sheriffs and F.B.I. agents were dispatched to place the sun under arrest. When none of them returned with the sun in handcuffs—in fact, none of them returned at all (“That’s correct, sir, Agent O’Malley got vaporized, too”)—Congress decided in 1918 it would be easier, and less of a drain on law enforcement personnel, to institute Daylight Savings Time.
So each year in the Spring, late on a Saturday night, the people of America move their clocks ahead one hour. Or at least they’re suppose to move their clocks ahead one hour, but as the Florida election results demonstrated, America has a large percentage of citizens who are—umm, how can I put this delicately?—who are no smarter than mushrooms.
If many folks cannot figure out how to punch a hole on a ballot, what are the chances they’ll figure out how to re-program a multitude of electronic devices?
Americans are up to their eyeballs in high-tech gizmos. And virtually all of these gizmos—TVs, VCRs, CD players, microwave ovens, Pez dispensers, Number 2 pencils—contain a clock. The only high-tech device nowadays that doesn’t necessarily come with a clock is the digital wrist watch. This microchip marvel can do anything else you want—send email messages, start your car, take your dog’s temperature—but displaying the time of day is now an optional feature.
Half the nation is unable to insert a VCR tape properly and press the play button. The other half knows how to do that, but cannot figure out which channel the TV should be turned to. Industry studies show that no one in the United States has ever successfully programmed their VCR to record a show while they were away from home. (One man in Maryland, a Mr. Vernon Dweebler, almost did it in 1998, but when he sat down to watch a recording of “Masterpiece Theatre,” his TV blared the most recent episode of “WWF Smack Down.”)
And they expect 120 million homes to set the VCR clocks to the correct time this weekend? Good luck.
Even when people are able to set their clocks successfully, the first weekend of Daylight Savings Time brings out two ugly personality traits in many folks: “dual time droning” and “lost hour lamenting.”
Dual time droners will spend the next six weeks reminding us of what time it would have been without DST. “Yeah, it’s 5:30…but it’s really 4:30. Yeah, it’s 7:15…but it’s really 6:15. Yeah, it’s 9:22…but it’s really—ack!…time…to…stop…choking…me…”
Lost hour lamenters act as if they’re the victim of an armed robbery. “The hour we lost last night really hurts,” they moan. “It’s not fair. We were suppose to gain an extra hour last Fall, but I didn’t feel it.”
Unfortunately, most folks were not thinking ahead last Fall and did not deposit their extra hour in the bank. If they did they could have received it back in the Spring—with interest. This Saturday morning, if you look very carefully, you will see a handful of forward-thinking souls filling out withdrawal slips at the bank and collecting exactly 67 minutes and 28 seconds. (Don’t worry, it fits in those small bank envelopes.)
It is interesting to watch an entire nation, normally obsessed with time-keeping accuracy, wander around in a fog for the better part of a week. You’ll see it beginning on Sunday morning: people strolling into church five minutes before the service ends. It will continue on Monday: kids waiting at the bus stop for hours because their parents got confused and sent them to school shortly after midnight.
Most of all, you’ll see chaos in the workplace: employees sauntering into the office just before lunch time because their watches say it’s 8 a.m. (I usually do this until at least Thursday.)
Let the excitement begin!
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