Cheating Time

9 Nov

The alarm barked with anger as 5:00 flashed scarlet. With a long yarn and a muffled swear, I reluctantly scampered across the cold hardwood floor to heed  its warning and begin my race against time.

Forty-minutes later, a fist-pump of triumph escaped as I skidded out of the door with 10 minutes to spare before the train. While locking the door behind me, I noted the presence of the sun, peeking over the horizon. What a pleasant surprise, I thought.   I paused for a moment to bask in its glory.

It was Sunday, November 7, 2010—the day the U.S. designated for toying with the hands of time.

In many ways, it’s understandable. Time is our most valuable nonrenewable resource—one that certainly once lost is gone forever. Each of us is enslaved to it. And constantly seeking ways to master, capture and freeze it.

I find it hilarious that something that something we all obsess over and stress about can be altered by a mere twist of a hand.

“Spring Forward, Fall Backward.” The simple slogan is a gentle reminder of the clock’s half-yearly motion. I’ve always been told that the move was inspired by the sheer desire to capture more daylight.

But of course, I had to investigate.

And by investigate, I mean Google it.

I found some interesting stuff. Like how moneyman Benjamin Franklin was allegedly the first person to propose time-warping, ahem, Daylight Savings Time. And how Germany was the first to implement it. And how London began by increasing the time incrementally by 20 minutes every week for four weeks.

Daylight Savings Time in the U.S. began during World War I. “[To] save energy for war production by taking advantage of the later hours of daylight between April and October,” the government enacted Daylight Saving Time. It was resumed again in World War II. In times of peace, between the wars and afterwards, the federal government allowed states to decide whether or not to change its time.

This resulted in a myriad of time zones across the United States. Sounds like sheer chaos. I can hardly get a hold of this whole Standard Time, Central Time thing. Imagine having Texas time, Oklahoma time and Louisiana time to consider. Of course, initially, the differences weren’t too crippling. But with the spread of the railroads across the States, creating a schedule became a nightmare. In fact, it was the Department of the Transportation that was charged with creating the Uniform Time Act.

The Law did not require all regions to toy with time. Instead, the legislation simply mandated that all regions following Daylight Savings Time must start and end at 2 a.m. on a specific date.

Arizona, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico don’t fiddle with their clocks. Those nearest the equator haven’t the need.

Though time travel and time shifting that is imagined in sci-films and books seems to yet elude us, year after year after, we tinker with time, warping reality in a small yet notable way.

I’m certainly not complaining. To begin my morning trek to North Dallas minus the mask of darkness was definitely comforting.

And now the sun’s absence no longer excuses me from my morning run.

But above all, Daylight Savings Time offers an important revelation: Time and its record is all arbitrary.  It’s measurement merely gives us a sense of control  and stability.

Our ability to shift it by turning the hands of a watch proves its relativity and reveals just how fragile and artificial our realities really are.


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