Friday, March 10, 2023

Andy Young: One tiny adjustment

By Andy Young

Abortion. Guns. Race. Vaccinations. Climate change. Interest rates. Immigration. Name an issue: you can bet polarized, under-informed and/or misinformed Americans will shout incoherently at one another about it, settling nothing.

The United States desperately needs a unifying issue everyone can agree on before the current fault lines widen even further, ripping our 247-year-old experiment in democracy irreparably asunder.

Thankfully just such an issue exists. Daylight Savings Time, if handled correctly by the nation’s elected officials, is the key to reunifying America.

In the past DST has caused more divisiveness than unity. Its advocates contend the extra hour of daylight in the summer saves energy, encourages healthy outdoor activities, and positively impacts public safety, since statistics show extra daylight in the evening decreases crime.

But DST’s opponents claim evening light suppresses melatonin, which adversely impacts the ability to fall asleep. That can lead to misalignment of the body’s innate Circadian rhythms, triggering depression, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Children going to school in the dark during winter months is problematic as well.

But the biggest problem with DST comes annually during the second week of March, when Americans outside of Hawaii, Arizona, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands “spring forward.” Nothing makes red American blood boil faster than the vaporization of a precious weekend hour, yet that’s precisely what’s going to happen this Sunday morning, when one minute after 1:59 magically becomes 3 a.m.

Naturally nobody complains about the first Sunday in November, when Americans “fall back,” causing 2 a.m. to become the second 1 a.m. of that day. Except for gravity, electricity, and the wheel, mankind has never benefited from a better invention than the 49-hour weekend.

Everyone loves those 60 extra weekend minutes in November, but does that offset the righteous indignation we’ll feel this coming Sunday, which will consist of a mere 23 hours?

One simple bit of reform could permanently eliminate that problem. The current “fall back” date and time can remain the same (2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November). But the clocks should get turned ahead an hour in the middle of a weekday (rather than on a weekend) in early March.

Imagine “springing forward” at noon on a Monday, taking a half-hour for lunch, and getting back on the job at 1:30? Productivity (not to mention morale) would undoubtedly skyrocket, so much so that every decent employer would happily compensate their workers with a full eight hours’ pay that day.

Wednesday is another ideal candidate for setting the clocks ahead an hour. It’d be a lot easier to get through a dreary midweek workday if it were shortened by 12 1/2 percent, which it would be if legislators enact a law designating the minute after 9:59 on March’s second Wednesday morning to become 11 a.m.

But declaring 4 p.m. on March’s second Friday the official “spring forward” hour would be perfect. It’d legalize an early start to an hour-longer-than-normal weekend, something the only non-summer 31-day month without a legal holiday desperately needs. (Sorry, Ancient Order of Hibernians; St. Paddy’s Day doesn’t count.)

Revamping DST won’t alter the USA's current political climate all by itself. But wouldn’t it be great if Americans could all celebrate the legalization of one less work hour per year and an annual extra weekend hour in November thanks to revamped DST laws?

And it’d be even better if the resulting enthusiastic, high-decibel din drowned out all the grandstanding politicians and blow-dried infotainers currently growing richer and more powerful by knowingly fomenting suspicion, discontent, and hate amongst their non-thinking, perpetually aggrieved true believers. <

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