As we’ve likely all heard by now, standard time is almost over. The U.S. Senate passed a bill last March in an effort to instate daylight saving time (hot) as the nation’s new standard which would effectively end standard time (not).
First things first; let’s clarify some things. Standard time is the portion of the year from November to March when Americans “fall back” an hour as we set our clocks back. In March, we “spring forward” an hour and begin daylight saving time.
The adorably named Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 would end this tradition. The bill passed in the Senate by a unanimous vote, but it has yet to convince House members of its merits as it has since stalled on the House floor. Before the bill can take any real effect, it needs to pass the House before being sent to President Joe Biden to sign.
So as we wait on the outcome of this momentous and totally critical use of Congress’ time, I’ve been contending with my feelings about the potential end of time as we know it.
On the one hand, the biannual shift in our clocks provides me with a moment of bliss in the fall when I wake to see I have one more hour of precious, scarce sleep left; but by 4:30 p.m., glancing out a window and into a sea of darkness, what little appreciation I had for my one extra hour of shuteye is quickly lost.
I always felt it was ridiculous that daylight saving time ended in the winter, the coldest and darkest time of the year. It seems almost punitive to force the nation to double up on its intake of darkness during the dreariest months. I mean if bears can practice their self-care routine of hibernation during the winter, then why can’t we lend ourselves the same grace?
There is a long, drawn-out history of daylight saving politics that does explain the reasoning for this cruel time setup, but frankly, they’re too long and boring to include here. All that’s really necessary to know is that standard time was officially implemented in 1883 across the nation and has remained a pain ever since. In 1918, the Standard Time Act was passed, which introduced the six-month handoff to daylight saving time to give Americans longer days in an attempt to conserve energy resources such as fuel during World War I.
When comparing standard time to daylight saving time, the loser seems obvious. Standard time is as dull as her name suggests. Standard time means no more afternoon solo hikes, walking home from class in the dark and reverting to my reptilian ways to find a warm rock to lay on whenever possible.
However, as much as I love to hate on standard time, there is one moment in the thrilling saga of U.S. time and date configuration that is important to discuss: when we tried permanent daylight saving time and everybody hated it.
During the national gas crisis in the mid 1970s, President Nixon signed into law the Emergency Daylight Savings Time Energy Conservation Act in an attempt to maximize sunlight and lower fuel usage by making daylight saving time permanent. For the first few months, polls reported that the majority of Americans supported the switch, but once those suffocatingly short winter days rolled around, thrusting some states in darkness until 9 am, the crowd lost their enthusiasm.
The National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago conducted polls in 1973, revealing that support for the switch among Americans dropped 37% from November to February as the full consequences of a late sunrise took effect.
By September of 1974, a mere 10 months later, Congress passed another measure that reverted the nation back to standard time right before winter. The voice of Americans had been heard by Congress: they decided that standard time was indeed “hot” and daylight saving time was totally not.
So what gives? Why does Congress think this failed experiment from 50 years ago will be any more popular in 2023, when Americans are surely more understanding and adaptable?
Who knows? Well, Congress probably. I don’t know, I didn’t ask them. The only thing I am certain of is that I am uncertain about my feelings toward a permanent daylight saving time. I am partial to the idea of later winter sunsets, but I also know that if my 8 a.m. class is beginning when the sun hasn’t even risen yet, I simply will not be in attendance.
As we are ushered into a new year and a potential new chapter of American time configuration, let’s hope that our congressional representatives are particularly prudent and timely (sorry, bad pun) in carrying out the end of time as we know it.