Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Steamboat Springs What time is it?
Is it new time or old time?
I've been asking myself these important questions a couple of bazillion times a day since we all dutifully "sprung forward."
The advancing of a timepiece by 60 minutes throws me into a state of time-nesia. For days, I bumble around the house, hungry at all the wrong times, looking at clocks that moments ago I'd determined were set correctly only to ask myself, "What time is it?"
"Is that old time or new time?"
It's not nice to fool with Greenwich Mean Time.
It's also not nice to mispronounce daylight-saving time. That's right. Saving is singular. Daylight-saving time. Because it's hard to say and sounds awkward, everyone adds an "s." The solution to this linguistic conundrum is to eliminate the phrase, "daylight-saving time," in favor of "old time/new time." If you've ever tried to make plans to meet someone on the Sunday of daylight-saving time, your conversation probably went something like this:
You: "Let's meet at the gondi at 9.a.m."
Friend: "Old time or new time?"
You: "I don't know. What time is it now?"
Friend: "7:30 in the morning, and I haven't had my coffee yet."
You: "It's 6:30 here, but I must have forgotten to change this clock. Let me look at my cell phone."
Friend: "How 'bout I see you in 90 minutes?"
You: "Old time or new time?"
Friend: "Just be there!"
Whatever the time, I am here to tell you there are two types of clocks. Hard to change and impossible to change. Some clocks are clearly labeled with helpful words such as, "hour" and "minute." Other clocks only have infinitesimally small hieroglyphics that require a flashlight and magnifying glass. The smaller the clock, the harder it is to change, but the easier it is to throw out. Unless it's attached to a kitchen appliance. Then you have to drive to the dump. Once you're in your car, you might want to leave it at the dump, too, because the only thing easier than changing the clock in your car is quantum physics. Strictly speaking, digital clocks should be changed from 01:59:59.9 to 03:00:00.0.
You figure it out.
Who decides these things? Where to address that letter of complaint?
We can shake a finger and blame it all on two men. Benjamin Franklin (who sometimes gets all the credit) and a British chap, William Willett. Benji was the clever author of the catchy phrase, "early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise." However, Ben-baby did not practice his proverb. As an American delegate living in Paris, he stayed up late into the night playing chess. In 1784, he wrote a humorous essay, postulating how many candles could be saved if Parisians woke up a little earlier.
His essay went on to suggest rationing candles and the ringing of church bells and even the firing of cannons to awaken those sleepy-headed Parisians.
Mon Dieu! Le cannon!
The French found this all so amusing they immediately deported Monsieur Franklin back to America. (Not really, but I'm sure they thought about it.)
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief until London builder William Willett, penned the 1907 pamphlet, "Waste of Daylight." Willy's motive was golf. He wanted more daylight hours to sink that hole in one. He advocated, "advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and retarding them by the same amount on four Sundays in September." Germany adopted the idea in 1916. The United States jumped on board two years later, in 1918.
And so, what began as a joke remains in effect today.
Clearly, the last laugh is on us.