Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall Back

I love Daylight Savings Time. Give me late July evenings when it’s still light at 9:00 and the air has begun to cool. Darkness at six in the evening in mid-December is beyond depressing.

My father-in-law, a farmer, despises Daylight Savings Time because it meant he had to get up before daylight even in the summer. He claims politicians, city-folk mostly, forced it on us because they like to play golf after work. “Politicians,” I assured him, “would never make laws based solely on such self-serving, mindless reasoning”. Oh. Wait a minute.

In the early seventies, Nixon instituted Daylight Savings Time year round to save energy. A famous political cartoon from that time showed two tiny kids waiting for a school bus in pitch dark and snow up to their necks with the caption, "I'd impeach him for daylight saving alone."

One thing I don’t like about Daylight Savings Time, though, is resetting clocks.

What did I miss? Eight clocks, three clock radios, oven, microwave, timer on the hall lamp, three televisions, four timers on landscape lights, four cars (the kids never change theirs), wireless handset phone base, three digital cameras, a video camera, two programmable thermostats, a VCR (why do we still own a VCR?), a digital voice recorder, several watches. Changed batteries in the smoke detectors.

My grandparents spun the hand on their mantle clock and moved on.

In fairness, some of these are unimportant. In particular, I don’t care if my cameras record the wrong time of day so long as they have the right date. I’m working my way through editing a box full of family home videos, many of which were recorded on analog tapes that don’t record a time code. Now, I’m not sure when many of them were recorded. (“Honey, do you remember when your wore your hair like this? “No, do you remember when you wore those stupid-looking giant glasses?” “You had hair, doesn’t that help you date it?”)

I can’t remember when I ever looked at my wireless handset phone to check the time. If I’m on the phone and need to know the time, there’s usually an easier way to find it than to take the handset away from my ear and look for reading glasses to see the tiny clock on the receiver. An easier way, like yelling, “Honey, what time is it?”

I never check the time on my digital voice recorder. I think the manufacturer added a clock just because they could. Like the MP3 player and photo viewer features on my car’s GPS; what’s that all about? If my car stereo, iPod, cell phone and satellite receiver all fail on the same trip, I suppose I could listen to music on my GPS as a backup. Or, maybe this is what they had in mind. “Yes, officer, I was speeding. But before you write me a ticket, can I show you some pictures of our baby here on my GPS?”

I say these are unimportant and that would be true were it not for my OCD. I mean, really, why do I care if the car my daughter drives has the right time if she doesn’t care and I never drive it? I am certain that at some point in the next few months I will notice the time is incorrect on my digital voice recorder and I will correct it for no other reason than my unexplained compulsion. Might as well do it now. That’s the problem with the microwave and oven clocks, too. They’re so close together I see them at the same time and if they are more than a minute apart, I’ll fix them. When the power goes off in our home, I’m a nervous, constantly-blinking wreck right after it comes back on.

Not all clocks can be ignored with impunity. I remember years ago, a lady with two small children rushing into church with a confused and horrified expression as the rest of the congregation looked up at her during the closing prayer. (Note to architects: there are many good reasons to design the church entrance from the rear of the Nave.)

Forgetting to reset a watch can make you late for all sorts of meetings, of course, or require you to kill an hour in the waiting room, depending on the season. That’s assuming it’s a watch that you wear. I found a few watches that I apparently haven’t worn since last spring, or wore but didn’t notice the time was wrong, and having forgotten to advance them an hour when Daylight Savings Time began, I can now also forget to set them back. Yet another example of two wrongs making a right. Who makes up those sayings, anyway?

Those programmable thermostats are great for saving energy, but miss setting them back in the fall and you risk having to jump out of bed on a November morning an hour before the furnace kicks in. That’s the very definition of rude awakening.

Technology is lightening the load. DVR’s and computers reset their own clocks. Our computers then reset our iPods. I have an outdoor clock, hanging high on the rear wall of our house so we can see it from the pool, that resets itself from a radio signal sent out by the government from a station in Fort Collins, Colorado. It saves me getting out the extension ladder twice a year to reset the time, though I still have to replace the alkaline battery once a year, so I guess it only saves me one climb.

There are so many clocks and timers in our lives nowadays that this entire time changing process can take a while. If you want to annoy the teenagers in your home (and be honest, who among us doesn’t?), then sing while you’re walking around the house resetting everything that ticks or blinks. Sing The Times They Are A-Changin', but do it in Dylan’s stylized voice. They’ll stone you 'cause you tried to make a pun. They’ll stone you when you don't sound like Dyl-un. It’s a sure sign you’re getting to them. Savor it.

Or, do the Chambers Brothers' 1966 hit, Time Has Come Today. “What does that even mean?” they’ll snark. Smirk back at them like they just don’t get it.

Don’t tell them that 43 years and 86 time changes later, you still don’t know what the hell it means, either.

[Fall Back  is currently a featured column at Intrepid Media.]

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