Saturday, November 5, 2011

DC to World: We're No Longer Turning Our Clocks Back

by Bill Adler

It's time for the District of Columbia to put its foot down and say, "We won't change our clocks twice a year anymore. We like daylight saving time and we're sticking to it year round."

Imagine living in a place in which we didn't change the clocks twice a year. No more running around the house, apartment and office coordinating time zones between rooms. No more trying to remember whether it's two or three presses of button A followed by pressing and holding buttons C and D simultaneously to reset the time on your digital watch. Imagine stepping into your car Monday morning and not thinking, "OMG, I'm an hour late," only to realize some moments later that you haven't changed your car's clock yet (and don't remember how to, either.)

We have a centralized phone system that displays the time on each phone in our house. Unfortunately, the system, located in the basement, requires intense concentration and 10 steps to reset the time. I once threatened to keep the system on Greenwich Mean Time all year round, but my family mutinied.

It gets dark so early in the winter in the northern hemisphere. Standard time makes winter feel sad. Daylight saving time rocks.

The fancy and often flawed mental gymnastics needed to coordinate online meetings or phone calls with people in other countries because of the twice a year time change, which occurs in different countries on different days, is headache-inducing. Take a moment and watch Colin Gray's funny and concise explanation of of the unnecessary complications caused by our artificial clock changes at He points out that "In the space of three weeks, New York is five hours behind London, then four hours and then five hours again. And Sydney is either 11, 10 or 9 nine hours from London and 16, 15 or 14 hours from New York." That happens twice a year. DC's an overwhelmingly international city with so many of us communicating with people around the world all the time, and you can bet there's a lot of clock-change headaches here.

Then there's the productivity thing: Springing ahead may sound lively and energized, but suddenly getting a hour's less sleep every March takes a $480 million toll on American productivity. Falling back, which we'll be doing this Sunday at 2am, isn't as bad, but it still disorients our circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep until our bodies adjust to the time change.

If you happen to be on an Amtrak train this Sunday when the clocks fall back, your train will pause in an intermediate station for an hour till time itself catches up with Amtrak. In other words, your trip is going to be an hour longer. Obviously not many people will be on a train on Sunday morning at 2am, but that just shows how messed up things get because of the time change.

Needless to add, airlines can't pause their flights en-route, so the biannual clock change makes airline schedules unnecessarily complicated.

If you think that your computer can keep pace with this, you might be wrong. Even the iPhone has failed to get the date right for daylight saving time. More than once, the iPhone owners who thought that their phone's alarm was going to wake them, have overslept because the iPhone forgot all about the clock change.

DC wouldn't be standing out alone in the rain if we kept to daylight saving time for twelve months. This year Russia declared standard time persona non grata and will be on daylight saving time all year round. Yay Russia!

Interestingly there's no Federal law requiring a twice-a-year clock change. Arizona and Hawaii have abandoned this insane practice. The District of Columbia could join those states and stay on sensible daylight saving time all year round. Sure, Congress could nix this very clever idea, just as they've slapped down other bold and beneficial initiatives the City Council has passed. They could. But maybe they wouldn't.

Arizona and Hawaii would stand behind us. So perhaps would other Members of Congress who are fed up with having to reset their clocks every March and November. In 2007 daylight saving time was extended a month, so there's already some momentum in the direction of keeping us on daylight saving time all year long. The Members of Congress who might object the most would be those who live in Maryland and Virginia, who, during some times of the year, might leave home at 7am and arrive at work at 6:30am. It would be confusing, perhaps, but kind of cool to arrive at work before you even left home.

Tourists visiting the Washington, DC would be confused, but they're already confused by Metro, reversible lanes, zone parking, "Taxation Without Representation" license plates, and traffic signs that treat destinations in DC as top secrets. One more confusion isn't going to cause them any real harm.

It's time to no longer change the time.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, When he's not resetting his watch, you can find him on Twitter at

1 comment:

  1. If DC were to do stick with Daylight Savings Time, it would be typical DC -- out of step with the rest of the world. The trend around the world is to abandon Daylight Savings Time, not to embrace it. Indeed, the recent studies of Daylight Savings Time have demonstrated that it does not produce the savings in energy, etc. that have been claimed. Arizona and Hawaii do not change time because they remain on Standard Time. Thus, the suggestion in the article is just plain backwards and wrong.