Messing With Time

Congress is quietly about to extend daylight-saving time by two months. If President Bush signs on — and, after all, it is his energy bill — DST will end the last Sunday of this November and resume on the first Sunday in March.

Since 1986, DST has begun on the first Sunday in April and ended the last Sunday in October.

For sticklers, the actual time of the changeover will remain 2 a.m., and we suppose the old mnemonic for changing the clocks _ “spring forward, fall back” _ will remain even though the first Sunday in March is still winter by the solar calendar and the last Sunday in November is practically winter as the National Weather Service measures it.

The places that do not observe DST _ Hawaii, most of Arizona, part of Indiana, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands _ will continue not to observe it.

What’s interesting about extending DST is how little attention it has drawn. Benjamin Franklin is credited with the idea. It was the province of cranks and visionaries until World War I, when Europe and, for a year, the United States adopted it to get more work out of the war workers. It lapsed here, was reinstated during World War II and then lapsed again into an issue of local option. Each time it was the subject of heated national debate, generally pitting country folk against city folk. Now it’s mostly parents of children who have to get up for school in the dark who object.

Congress bills extended DST as a way of saving energy, although in northern latitudes it couldn’t be much since there are so few hours of daylight to play around with. Also in northern climes a cold, wet, windy November or March afternoon is hardly a big deal leisure-wise.

The old DST was an opportunity for people to check the batteries in their smoke detectors as they went around the house resetting their clocks. The drawback in the new DST is that nine months between battery checks is stretching it. Maybe Congress could decree a special Battery Day in mid-July.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)