Come Monday, millions more motorists will be driving home in the dark after work or fighting the oblique sunset glare.
That’s the fallout from the annual ritual of changing the clocks to standard time — this year, that happens at 2 a.m. Sunday — a traditional national wake-up call that winter is coming.
Yes, nights are arriving sooner, but it is worth noting that daylight saving time — once extolled by The Inquirer and others as the greatest thing since the discovery that cheese melted on a well-grilled steak — also has dark sides. In the spring, we are cheated out of a precious weekend hour and consigned to lose sleep for the good of the global economy.
Conversely, standard time has a decided bright side. This is the time of year when the low-rising sun transforms our long, angular shadows to gods on stilts. Now, instead of waking up in darkness, we can actually get up in time to enjoy them.
Here are other reasons to celebrate our one-hour payback.
The great darkening is starting to slow down
Since the equinox, we have been hemorrhaging light. We were losing 2 minutes and 36 seconds of daylight daily in late September.
We are now losing 2:18 a day. The rate of loss will decrease steadily, eventually approaching zero at the winter solstice.
It’s about to get brighter
Yes, the sun’s might is decreasing, but soon the stubborn leaves are going to drop from the branches of deciduous trees and take their shading powers with them.
In addition to brightening moods, that means that more sunlight will be reaching homes that are in the vicinity of trees, and that helps keep down heating costs.
The trees are about to share their inner lives
No, it’s not in a league with the annual foliage extravaganza, but leafless trees constitute an underrated visual pleasure.
Bare trees can show off their complex architecture, their branch systems standing out like nerve endings against the gray skies.
And almost nothing is as exquisite as the moon shadows cast by those bare trees. The next full moon, by the way, will be Nov. 12.
These are exceptional times. Nothing is ‘standard’ about standard time.
“Standard” time has become the anomaly. It’s in effect only about four months a year, including day-challenged February. Daylight saving time now constitutes two-thirds of the year.
This is a modern development in what is quite an old concept.
Benjamin Franklin mentioned it in a satirical letter to the Paris Journal in 1784. George Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist/astronomer, proposed it in 1895. Spurred by the war effort, several European countries went for it in 1916, including England, under the prodding of builder William Willett.
The Inquirer was among forces championing its use in the United States, proclaiming it would “save millions of dollars.”
Daylight saving time became reality in the U.S. on March 31, 1918. Initially, it did not go so well. That happened to be Easter, and church leaders weren’t happy about the confusion among the faithful. The law was repealed the next year, but it didn’t go away.
Local governments and states took initiative on their own. Finally, in 1966, Congress made DST the law of the land for about half the year, although Arizona and Hawaii remain holdouts.
The government snipped about three weeks off standard time in 1987, and then an additional month evaporated in 2005.
So have some sympathy for the deprived residents of Hawaii and Arizona, for whom standard time will be the same-old, same-old. Then again, it’s always light out that way.