Time is Relative

Dali clockLast weekend Daylight Saving Time went into effect. After some confusion on social media, it was decided that we shouldn’t “Turn Back Time,” like Cher told us, but that instead we were to “Spring forward,” like we were told to as children. Either way, most Americans lost an hour of sleep over the weekend.

I don’t remember a time when we didn’t have to deal with this twice yearly change, but I was curious about the history of this event. In preparing my facts for this post, I started doing some research on the history of Daylight Saving Time. There was a lot more to the story than I was aware of.

According to TimeAndDate.com : “In the US, “Fast Time” as it was called then, was first introduced in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law to support the war effort during World War I…Only seven months, later the seasonal time change was repealed. However, some cities, including Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York, continued to use it until President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted year-round DST in the United States in 1942…Year-round DST, also called “War Time”, was in force during World War II, from February 9, 1942, to September 30, 1945, in the US and Canada. During this time, the US time zones were called “Eastern War Time”, “Mountain War Time”, “Central War Time”, and “Pacific War Time”. After the surrender of Japan in mid-August 1945, the time zones were relabeled “Peace Time”…From 1945 to 1966 there were no uniform rules for DST in the US and it caused widespread confusion especially for trains, buses, and the broadcasting industry. As a result, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was established by Congress. It stated that DST would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. However, states still had the ability to be exempt from DST by passing a state ordinance.”

David Prerau, author of Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time, cites the example of an early-1960s bus route from Moundsville, West Virginia, to Steubenville, Ohio: “Because some of the towns along the way observed [daylight saving time] and others did not, passengers had to change their watches seven different times along that 35-mile [56-kilometer] route,” 

I can’t even begin to imagine living in a world where the management of time was not standardized. I live in a city that has a state line running through the middle of it, and if each state chose to follow a different time zone it would be constantly confusing. It gets confusing enough going from time zone to time zone when I travel.

The current Daylight Saving Time schedule was introduced in 2007 and follows the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended the period by about one month. Today, DST starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

I am fascinated by the ordeal some people make of the change. Most people travel through time zone changes when they travel for work or pleasure, but you rarely hear anyone complaining about the lag after the first day or two. I am most impressed by those people who travel from continent to continent for work with very little recovery time.

According to WebMD:  “Moving our clocks in either direction changes the principal time cue — light — for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm. In doing so, our internal clock becomes out of sync or mismatched with our current day-night cycle…. Though a bit simplistic, a rule of thumb is that it takes about one day to adjust for each hour of time change. There is significant individual variation, however.”

My mother, who spent the last 25 years of her life with no schedule being forced on her, was one of those people who struggled with each time change. She would not sleep well and would complain daily. It would take her weeks to get used to each shift in the clocks.

As I’ve gotten older, I have had less and less problem coping with the change. Since I altered my schedule away from the standard 9-5 work shift it’s gotten even easier. My weekends are usually so crazy busy that the Sunday morning adjustment feels like just another blip on my radar.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I perceive schedules and time limits to be mere suggestions. I try my best to be on time, but I have spent a lifetime underestimating how much time it will take me to get ready to leave the house. In my mind, I know very well that it takes me 30 minutes to get ready even though experience has shown that it really takes me 45 minutes to get ready. I realized this gap between perception and reality years ago, but as of today, the realization hasn’t changed a single pattern of mine.

According to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, time is relative. I could tell you exactly what that means in scientific terms, but I won’t go there right now. Our clocks have changed again and we will all adjust soon enough. Instead of grousing about the changes, I think I’ll just enjoy the late afternoon and evening sunshine every chance I get.


2 thoughts on “Time is Relative”

  1. I Never knew the exact history of the time changes, and was surprised to see it was related to the wars. For some reason I always figured it was an agricultural based concept. Thanks for sharing Jean 🙂

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