Saturday, October 27, 2001
Time Happening: Turning back to fall standards
By DONNA CALLEA | News-Journal Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH — If there's a time to every purpose, how come it has to fly when we're having fun? But more importantly -- at least this weekend -- where does the time go? By that we mean where does it go when we, as a nation, engage in the twice-yearly, nearly communal ritual of adjusting our timepieces?
Back in April, at the appointed "spring ahead" time, we lost an hour, so to speak, so that the sky would stay lighter later in the evening, and we could partake in daylight-saving time.
Now, we're getting the hour back. Sort of. At 2 a.m. Sunday, it will suddenly become 1 a.m. Sunday (assuming we all do our civic duty and set back our clocks) so that standard time can return.
Which brings us back to the question of the day. Where did it go?
To get the answer, we went straight to the top and contacted Mother Time, who's actually an attorney named Joanne Petrie at the U.S. Department of Transportation -- the federal agency responsible for matters of time.
"It's like having a pie and slicing it up different ways," explains Petrie, who doesn't mind the nickname given to her by her DOT colleagues, because her duties include regulation and enforcement work relating to time zones, daylight-saving and standard time. (If it's any consolation to taxpayers, Petrie says only about 1 percent of her time is spent on time.)
Anyway, the hour doesn't go anywhere, it just gets shifted around, she says.
"To make better use of the daylight hours," according to Mother Time.
During daylight-saving time, the sky stays lighter later in the evening, reducing the need for electricity. And now that standard time is returning, it'll be lighter in the mornings, which is a good thing for children waiting for school buses and walking to school. Unfortunately, it'll also get darker earlier in the evenings, especially as the days grow shorter. Shorter in terms of sunlight, that is. Days, as always, will still have a total of 24 hours. (And we have that on the highest authority.)
The Department of Transportation got to be the agency in charge of time "through a bizarre historical accident," says Petrie. It had to do with the railroad companies wanting time to be standardized, so people would have a better idea of when trains were due to arrive and depart. Standard time, divided into time zones, has been the law of the land since 1918.
Daylight-saving time, meanwhile, has been implemented in the United States, on and off, and here and there, since World War I to conserve fuel. It became law in 1966 with the Uniform Time Act, although it isn't exactly uniform. Arizona, Hawaii and the eastern time zone part of Indiana don't make the daylight-saving time switch.
Hot, dry Arizona abstained, Petrie says, because saving daylight in the summer didn't make sense there.
So is time money for us when we're in daylight-saving mode?
It's "very difficult to determine the actual impact," says Bob Coleman of Florida Power & Light Co. For the most part, weather, not light, makes our energy use go up and down.
"For example, this weekend it's supposed to be getting very cool, so our air conditioning load will go to almost zero," according to Coleman.
And it really doesn't matter too much how light the sky happens to be at any particular time.
Which is not to say that time doesn't matter.
It does, stresses Nick Maddox, a professor at Stetson University in DeLand, whose areas of expertise include time management.
"Time is the enemy for a lot of people," he says. But it doesn't have to be.
Time is on our side-- if we let it be, according to the professor.
And during "transitional periods" like the present, when we all have to get in touch with our clocks-- internal and external-- whether we want to or not, it's a good time to contemplate ways to make better use of time, he says.
"Block the thought that time is running out," Maddox advises, and "optimize the moment."
And remember, it's not later than you think. At least not Sunday morning.
HICI Special Report — Time: Friend or Foe?