DUCK SOUP: The Light That Fails

If Daylight Savings Time performs as advertised, why does summer go by so fast? If it really saved anything it would work like a dam, holding back summertime to be parsed out gradually when the days turn icy and short. But, no, it is more like a miner's sluice, a full tilt boogy straight shot down the gorge. If we're lucky we keep a few nuggets, but the water is long gone. Part of the problem lies in the fact that by the time summer starts it is half over. Between the astronomers and the calendar makers we have been semantically duped. What they call the first day of summer is actually the beginning of the end. The next day is shorter. And the next. And soon we are schussing toward that chill December night when the ancients feared the sun would disappear completely, never to return. It was probably in such a gnawing darkness that the whole idea of Daylight Savings erupted. Some of the folks were wailing and beating their breasts, moaning over the sun god's imminent demise. Others warmed their toes by the Yule log and tried to remember what the warm beach felt like when their ancestors emerged from the sea. Over in the corner of the cave a woman held a flaring pine knot and scratched numbers on the wall with a piece of charcoal. "Hey!" she called to her clan. "Check it out. If we just put away some of that summer time, at say, 4% simple interest, this place will be like Tahiti next winter!" The idea alone made the rest of the winter easier to take, and the clan agreed to start saving time once the days turned warm enough to spare a little for the piggy bank. It worked so well, they did it every year. Later on, governments got into the Daylight Savings and Loan business and with the expertise evidenced by bureacracies everywhere, they turned it into a shell game. With great flourish an announcement is made that the savings plan will begin on such and such a day at midnight. Don't forget to set your clocks forward! Has anyone ever seen an entry in the federal budget for that saved time? If it were available, don't you think the Social Security Administration would offer folks in their golden years a little warm weather dividend? Isn't this the real reason Ronald Reagan cancelled national solar energy research for fear investigators would figure out what happened to all of the daylight saved over the years? Do former presidents and senators play golf and sky dive and hobnob in balmy endless summers diverted from the public trust? It isn't like we don't do our share. I know a couple who ran a mountain vacation ranch this summer. Up at 4:30 every morning cooking pancakes for bikers and bankers and artists and account executives, and still moving full tilt as the sun fell into the Grand Canyon. Another acquaintance is up in pre-dawn darkness, ready to start painting when first light creeps into his studio, and he is still there, or in his garden, when dusk and mosquitoes wrap up the day. From my perch near a ridge I can hear chainsaws, rototillers and lawnmowers in the next two valleys from dawn to dark. And that's just the noisy folks. The quiet ones are weeding, hoeing, washing their cars, painting their porches, canning and freezing, sweeping, scrubbing, and shaking rugs. I'm composing this essay before sun-up so I can put aside my writing and work outdoors when the night has fled. We're all saving daylight to beat the band.So, I ask you. Where does it go? It seems like only last week the early daffodils were freezing and folding their tents. Yesterday we were waiting for seedlings to pop out of the ground. And tomorrow we'll be raking leaves and harvesting pumpkins. Daylight Savings is a cruel hoax. Please note: The state of Indiana doesn't Spring Forward or Fall Back. They chug along with regular time year 'round. Are Indianan summers longer or shorter? Do Indianians all play volleyball til midnight and sleep late? Are they still wearing sandals when we start sleeping on flannel sheets? I think we have a right to know.

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