Mnemonics are wonderful things, even if there isn’t one for remembering how to spell “mnemonics,” as far as I know. The first mnemonic many of us learned was “Thirty Days Hath September, April June and November. All the rest have 31.” Then my teacher wrecked it by adding “Except February, which has 28. And sometimes 29.” (To me, good mnemonics should not need qualification. But I digress…)
There are a number of mnemonics that have served me well over the years. In Biology class, I learned the mnemonic for the order of taxa: “Dear King Phillip Called On Fannie G. Smith” standing for Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Genus, Species. And we all know that “in fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
From my piano lessons, I remembered the lines of the treble staff with “every good boy does fine.” I must have been a bad boy, judging from my piano virtuosity or lack thereof.
And how else would one remember the names of the Great Lakes? HOMES, of course.
So, mnemonics are our friends. But there is one mnemonic that should die a quick and painful death: “Spring Forward, Fall Back.”
That, of course, is the mnemonic we use to remember what we are supposed to do with our clocks twice a year to adjust to Daylight Saving Time (DST), which will happen this coming weekend. (Don’t forget to change the battery in your smoke detector, while you’re at it – another sort-of mnemonic promoted by the National Fire Protection Association.)
Daylight Saving Time has been around for a very long time, but it officially became the law of the land in the United States with the passage of the Uniform Time Act of 1966. The act called for most Americans to reset their clocks each April and October – an hour forward in Spring, an hour back in Fall, hence the mnemonic.
There has never been widespread agreement that DST is a good thing. It was intended to add an extra hour of daylight in the summer and winter, but it has not come without a cost. Traffic accidents increase significantly in the week following “Spring Forward,” presumably because everyone loses an hour of sleep. Researchers have found it can take people up to five days to adjust to the new waking hour.
Then there’s the pain-in-the-ass factor of having to go through the house, resetting every clock, watch, microwave, oven, and at one time, VCR to the correct time. Even the clock in the car had to be adjusted, which some people attempted to do while driving, another reason for the accident uptick.
Then, to my delight, some manufacturers programmed their appliances and devices to change automatically on the last Sundays of April and October, greatly easing the process of adjusting to DST. Until 2005.
That is when Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which, among other things, changed the start and end dates of DST — now it starts on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday in November.
There were a number of proponents of the change – not surprisingly, most had a commercial interest. The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association believed that the change would enable Americans to play more tennis and shoot more deer if the days were longer. The National Association of Convenience Stores said that people would shop more after work if the hour of darkness were put off.
The National Restaurant Association seriously suggested that fast food restaurants would sell more French fries if the measure passed, which garnered the enthusiastic support of the two senators from Idaho. I did not make that up.
And Massachusetts’ brainy Senator Ed Markey, who sponsored the legislation, suggested that the measure would save energy by allowing storekeepers to wait longer before having to turn on the lights. Have you ever been in a store that did not have the lights on at all times?
All of this crossed my mind Monday morning as I lay awake waiting for our clock radio to come on at 6:58 AM. (That’s when the local NPR station gives the weather forecast.) It didn’t. That’s because our clock radio was designed to switch to DST on the last damn Sunday in October and that’s just what it did. And so did every other device that was made before the 2007 implementation date of the new DST policy.
So now, I have to spring forward an hour so that I can fall back again a week later.
I have a proposition for the Beltway Braintrust that created this mess. Eliminate Daylight Saving Time once and for all and I’ll “spring” for a new clock radio.
Categories: Random PR Thoughts