Spring forward, fall back

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On Sunday, Nov. 4, daylight saving time for the 2012 calendar year will end.

Consequently, at the brink of 2 a.m., 48 states — with the exceptions of Arizona and Hawaii — will turn back their clocks one hour and revert back to standard time. Amtrak trains will stop dead in their tracks and sit perfectly still before resuming the rails an hour later to stay true to their published timetables. The number of births per hour has the potential to double between the hours of 2 and 3 a.m., and the expected 7:38 a.m. sunrise will rise instead at 6:38 a.m. On a more opportunistic note, bars and bar-goers in select states — California excluded — will take advantage of the extra hour of alcohol-induced merriment.

For the price of an hour, DST is quite the steal. According to British statesman Winston Churchill, the hour lent is paid back with “golden interest.” Energy is conserved, daylight is harvested, and Californian alcohol vendors and their respective bar-goers get their regular hours — some states even get an additional hour. More recently, the four-week extension of DST by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is even projected to increase voter turnout in elections. This is based on the notion that people are more likely to go to the polls if it were still light out when they returned home from work. Though DST toys with just one hour, it brings with it a flood of repercussions.

In theory, DST allows us to live in the future  from start of the second Sunday of March to the end of the first Sunday of November. Even those most practiced in procrastination are whisked away and propelled an hour forward. It’s an intentional crease in the fabric of time, and come November, we iron it straight. But four months later, we’ll jump right back to the future. We’ll adjust and readjust, over and over again.

Time is an arbitrary dimension. We’ve managed to fit it to a frame that, more or less, works, but in the gist of it all, today is no more than the lag between yesterday and tomorrow. In reality, time isn’t something that can be assigned to numbers and counted. Dog years and light-years — it’s all relative. Sometimes, an hour is just an hour. Sometimes, it’s a fleeting instant. But there are times — in class, in line, in waiting — when an hour is an eternity. Even as the seconds are pulling at our skin, we’ll doubt its passing and turn our eyes to the clock to watch.

Still, what we can count on — pun very much intended — is the trickling down of the sand in the hourglass, the coming and going of shadows. We can count on the simple, inevitable passage of time. Living in a world that runs on time, we’re governed by deadlines and timetables. We construct our lives on the daily promise of a rising and setting sun. To some, it’s is an ounce of comfort; to others, it’s the greatest curse. Seasons may come and go and hours of daylight may fluctuate, but the Earth will keep spinning. However long it takes or however fast, time will come.

Despite it all, this Sunday, we go back. We make our return to the present. Time travel and bizarre happenstances aside, for many, the end of DST — the “falling back” — is exactly that. It is something to fall back on. While the hour we get back is not the hour that was lost, it’s still an hour returned, and we can all breathe a little easier knowing that it’s ours. The hour is ours to sleep, ours to study, ours to parry away for a moment what fate lies ahead.

Image Source: thelastminute via Creative Commons

Contact Casie Lee at [email protected]