Daylight Borrowing

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For many of us, this first workday of Daylight Savings Time is our least favorite Monday of the year. It's as if we participated in an experiment in instant plate tectonics. We went to bed Saturday night and woke up to find that we've moved one time zone to the east.

That missing hour haunts me for a few days. Everything happens sooner than I was expecting. Meal times feel early because the clock jumped ahead while my stomach stayed in place. The morning alarm is a deadline that got moved up.

There's no media event or public ceremony tied to this shift, but maybe there should be. It would be more interesting than counting down to midnight on New Year's Eve. Inexorably 2:00 a.m. approaches on that Saturday night, and then, presto it's 3:00 a.m., as if there were a hole in the fabric of time.  And of course there would be the flipside celebration in the fall when we would count down to the big "do-over," a chance to relive the hour we just experienced.

There is something nonsensical about the term "daylight savings." Were it really possible, we'd be on our way to unlocking the key to immortality.

We aren't keeping any more of it for ourselves. It still ticks away at the same rate. We haven't worked out any sort of deal with the sun: its journey today across the sky lasts just a fraction longer than yesterday. It's not savings as much as shifting. Our government has decided that we can make better use of our daylight at the end of the day than at the beginning.


So, like so much else in our society, this hour wasn't saved, it was borrowed. Our resting selves lent it to our active selves. It's on loan right now, being used for a run after work or a chance to walk the dog at dusk instead of in the dark. It finances the real savings here, which is the energy we don't have to consume making artificial daylight. And in the fall we repay our resting selves and savor that 25-hour Sunday that is our small reward before beginning the cycle back into the darkness of winter.

With a Perspective, I'm Paul Staley.

Paul Staley works for a housing non-profit. He lives in San Francisco.