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Five Lies You’ve Been Told About Daylight Saving Time

Is it all the work of Big Candy? Does it make any sense at all? Let’s find out the truth.

The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Daylight Saving Time! Do you spring forward and fall back? How many savings are there really? Let’s cast the light of truth on the chilly evening of nonsense with these Daylight Saving facts.

Lie #1: “Coming Quicker Than Fed-Ex, Never Reach an Apex, Just Like Coca-Cola Stock You Are Inclined / To Make Me Rise an Hour Early Just Like Daylight Savings Time”

Well done to Bloodhound Gang for incorporating a reference to ejaculating prematurely without experiencing orgasm, a reference to the stratospheric value increase of the Coca-Cola Company during the 1990s, a reference to a well-known international delivery company and an erection gag incorporating an internationally-implemented combination of climate and horological convention into just a few words in a song about enjoying sexual intercourse while watching television. But technically speaking, it’s not Daylight Savings Time, it’s Daylight Saving Time. It’s a period of time in which you save daylight. It should probably have a hyphen in it. 

Lie #2: “Here’s an Easy Way to Remember It: ‘Spring Forward, Fall Back’”

It’s always nice to have a reasonably complex thing reduced to four words — in this case, a snappy reminder of which way to adjust the clock depending on the season. But things spring backward and fall forward as well. In fact, if you think about all the times you’ve fallen over, most of them probably involved falling forward. You fall backwards if you’re pushed, shot or slip on a banana peel, but you fall forwards if you trip while running, fuck up jumping over something or drop to your knees dramatically after hearing terrible news. The vast majority of falls, surely, go forward. Plus there’s the alliteration, and the deeply-buried memory of the unheralded 2009 ABC series FlashForward

Springing back happens as well — one springs back into action after a long break, for instance. Plus, it sounds like “springbok,” which is a thing of some kind. Specifically remembering which way it goes is, really, no easier than remembering the thing itself — that before the summer, you put the clock forward an hour, and after the summer, you put it back an hour. Sure, it’s less catchy, but it’s less likely to be derailed by near-subconscious thoughts of antelopes or vague memories of an underutilized John Cho.

Lie #3: “Well, This Seems Pretty Straightforward”

Daylight Saving Time is so, so goddamn complicated. It applies in some places and doesn’t apply in others, and there is no uniform date when it’s applied, so the time difference between two places can change multiple times over the course of a few weeks. The time difference between the U.K. and Chile, for instance, is sometimes three hours, occasionally four hours and sometimes five hours. 

The U.S. and U.K. sometimes start it two weeks apart and sometimes three (depending on how many Sundays that year’s March has) and stop a week apart, except for Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and Arizona, which don’t observe it at all (apart from Navajo territory in Arizona, which does). 

Some Australian states use it and some don’t, meaning points like Poeppel Corner and Cameron Corner (where three states meet) have a situation where sometimes a hundred feet northwest of you it’s 9:30, a hundred feet northeast it’s 10 and a hundred feet southwest it’s 10:30. During Daylight Saving Time, Australia goes from having three time zones to five, and while these days the states that observe DST at least have the grace to all change at once, for a while Tasmania did everything shifted by a week, just to fuck with people.

Some areas are on Daylight Saving Time all year round, making it questionable whether it’s still even Daylight Saving Time and not just a time-zone shift. Argentina, Malaysia and Turkey all do this. Morocco uses Daylight Saving Time 11 months of the year, shifting the clocks back only for the month of Ramadan. There are also campaigners for “double summertime,” doing a year-round shift to Daylight Saving Time and shifting another hour in the summer, something which sounds great for barbecues and incredibly confusing for naps.

One of the reasons it gets so complicated is that different places have different aims and requirements from shifting their clocks. DST means it gets light later and gets dark later, the value of which can really vary for people. Benefits include fewer traffic accidents in the lighter evenings, lower energy use due to it staying light later (less of a thing these days when household lighting is more efficient and we have vastly more electronic equipment), increased time outdoors in general in the evening and less crime. Downsides include more traffic accidents in the darker mornings — especially the day of the change when you lose an hour’s sleep — and the whole thing being an odd, confusing pain in the ass. The nearer to the Equator you are, the less seasonal variation you have in terms of the length of your day, making the whole thing seem a bit pointless. But, if you’re a really long way from the Equator, an hour’s shift isn’t going to do anything, making it seem similarly silly. 

Lie #4: It’s All Automated and High-Tech Now

Not necessarily. You might assume that, in this day and age where everything is connected to the internet, it’ll all just update itself accordingly. Gone are the days when forgetting to wind your alarm clock in the evening could lead you to be late for work the next day — for the majority of people, the shift takes place on their phones, unseen, an hour removed or given to them in the dead of night.

If you’re particularly unlucky, though, it can affect you. Some cash machines go offline for an hour or two at the end of Daylight Saving Time, to avoid the potential for errors given the duplication of certain times (in the U.K., for instance, the clocks go from 01:59 to 01:00, meaning two transactions an hour apart could show up on records as taking place simultaneously). 

“The clocks changing cost me a fortune,” says Simon, a British man in his 30s. “I got a cab home from a party and didn’t have any cash on me so asked the guy to stop at an ATM on the way. It didn’t work, so I asked him to take a detour to another one. That also didn’t work. We spent an hour visiting half the ATMs in London, the cab meter running all the time, before I could successfully get any money out. I was drunk, and ended up peeing up against a wall on one of our 12 or so stops, which was hardly ideal. By the time I could get any money out I owed the guy something like $170 for what should have been about an $11 journey. I was, by this point, incandescent with rage. It was a proper month-ruiner.”

Lie #5: “Decisions Made About Things Like This Are Probably Made in Good Faith and Not for Any Sinister Reasons”

It’s money. It’s all money, always. Safety is great and environmental benefits are cool and all, but it’s money all the way. New York was the first place in the U.S. to fully adopt DST, largely because Wall Street benefited from being an hour closer to London time. Money! The move was also supported by the (pre-floodlight) baseball industry, golf industry and gasoline industry, because longer evenings mean more baseball, more golf, more driving and more money

When the U.S. extended DST to the first Sunday in November, it was due in part to lobbyists from Big Candy pushing for a lighter Halloween — more trick-or-treaters means more candy sales. The National Daylight Saving Coalition, who pushed for the change, included the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, the National Confectioners Association, the National Candy Brokers Association and the National Candy Wholesalers Association. Also pushing hard for it were the Barbecue Industry Association, the Amateur Softball Association, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the National Association of Convenience Stores and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. (Also, in a less money-money-money way, the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation representing those who suffer from night blindness.)

Children are safer when it’s light outside. Everyone is — there is a threefold increase in injuries at twilight. But in the eyes of a candy manufacturer, a kid’s safety is as valuable as how much goofy sugary shit they can cram in their stupid fuckin’ mouths.