The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

SPRING FORWARD. FALL BACK: And so daylight savings time is upon us once more. That daylight savings time is an abomination, the creation of a sick and perverted mind beyond the help of psychological intervention is a fact beyond the most gifted logician’s power to dispute. What galls me, however, is why millions of otherwise levelheaded Americans go along with this diseased idea every year. No daylight is actually saved in this yearly exercise in mass delusion; the planet receives the same amount of sunlight whether or not we turn our clocks backwards or forwards or even toss them into the garbage can along with today’s junk mail and the mashed lima beans little Johnny wouldn’t eat for dinner last night. Why should we as a nation, with the exception of Arizona and Indiana, lose an hour’s sleep and go in to work half asleep when we are being run ragged as it is? The United States already leads the world in the number of shirts, ties, and shoes damaged by the half awake pouring hot coffee on themselves. Doesn’t the government, which insists on this annual foolishness, realize that there are not enough hours in the day now without taking one away? This nation already has a city that never sleeps; I see no rational reason for the rest of the country to stay awake as well.

An ugly rumor credits Benjamin Franklin with the idea of daylight savings time. This is a foul calumny against a great American. Recent research by French scholars at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris suggests that the infamous Marquis de Sade was responsible for the idea. An examination of an early draft of Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom, a draft recently donated to the Bibliotheque by an anonymous German named Schmidt, clearly puts the idea at page 167, between the Marquis’ recipe for brownies and instructions on how to play “Frere Jacques” on the strumpet. The idea appears in the manuscript as a way of allowing the Marquis, a late sleeper, to pick up streetwalkers during the daylight hours. The Marquis originally proposed the concept of daylight savings time to the government of the Bourbon monarchy, then to the government of the First Republic, and then to the government of the First Empire; all of them threw the Marquis into prison. Napoleon tossed Sade into a lunatic asylum, where he spent the rest of his life staging avant-garde plays and appearing in movies with Kate Winslet.

Given the provenance of this vile concept one would expect that no true blue American would ever try to implement it; daylight savings time, like many French ideas, such as deconstructionism and eating garden pests, seemed too irredeemably silly to the Founding Fathers to be really dangerous, and one would think that the imposition of such a depraved idea stood no chance in the highly moralistic American marketplace of ideas. If you thought this, you were wrong. American politicians, for reasons best known to themselves, decided to abandon their usual caution vis-à-vis odd French ideas, and in state after state passed daylight savings time into law, with the exception, as mentioned, of Indiana and Arizona. I don’t know how these two states managed to avoid jumping on the bandwagon, but they did, and now people from out of state complain when they call these states because they are an hour ahead or behind, as the case may be. But daylight savings time, I fear, is going nowhere. Having passed this foolish notion into law, politicians would be loath, as if they were not loathed enough as it is, to admit they made a mistake; they don’t want to explain why the emperor not only has no clothes, but is falling asleep as well. And let’s face it, no politician wants to admit that he swindled his constituents out of an hour’s sleep simply to get a contribution from the coffee lobby. That wouldn’t be right.


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