Over Easy: Throwing shade at the time change

For the Valley News
Published: 12/4/2021 8:16:41 AM
Modified: 12/4/2021 8:16:11 AM

Who turned out the light? I’m sure you’ve noticed, as have I, that yet another time change has robbed us of the vigor of the late afternoon sun.

After the joys of summer, when days hung around like they’d never leave, your average day now starts up like an old car with a bum battery, gets up to speed around noon or so and then begins to poop out (the meteorological term) after just a few hours. Light dims, heat seeps, seniors in comfy chairs drift to sleep.

The shift change happens fast. Afternoon collects its coat and lunch pail, shuffles its keys, and if you turn your head for a second, it’s gone. Night is on the clock. You check the time; could it really be 5? It feels like 7. Next stop: pajama land.

We fiddle with the clocks so people don’t have to leave for school or work in the dark. Experts — who believes them anymore? — say that it saves electricity and reduces pedestrian accidents. According to WebMD, other experts see downsides: “A 2019 report found a higher risk of heart attack after both time changes, but particularly during daylight saving. Interruptions to circadian rhythm can also impair focus and judgment. A 2020 study found fatal traffic accidents increased by 6% in the United States during daylight saving time.”

All I know is that after the recent switch to so-called “Eastern standard time,” I woke up at 4 a.m. for a week or two, a crime against man and nature. As a member of Team Medicare, I don’t sleep like I used to (and have come to grips with that) but nothing good happens before 5. Some people claim that you could write novels in the wee hours, but my books would be Misery Before Dawn, Walking Into Walls or Give Me Coffee or Give Me Death.

Morning leads to noon, then afternoon. And darkness comes an hour early. Around 3 p.m., when the solar dimmer switch is turned, I sigh. I am a popped balloon.

Although I do not ski and, believe it or not, never took up figure skating, I am not a winter hater. The cold doesn’t bother me much. Summer heat is worse; it melts me like a popsicle. It’s just the lack of light.

There doesn’t seem to be any legislative relief in the offing. The powerful time lobby holds us in thrall to their manipulations. All we can do is yawn and bear it.

I suspect the light shortage contributes to seasonal strange behaviors, like binge shopping and tolerance for bad holiday music. Some people cover their properties with manic light displays, mixing themes both religious and secular. If your display seems to suggest that Charlie Brown and the gang were at the Nativity, you may be overdoing it. If your display is so bright it’s changing the nocturnal patterns of neighborhood critters — birds at the feeder at midnight, bears and skunks up for all-night poker games — you might want to tone it down. If your display seems to be affecting air traffic patterns around the Lebanon Municipal Airport, the FAA may be sending you something other than a holiday greeting.

On a brighter note, I have found that daily walks at noon on winter days are restorative. Just avoid frostbite, treacherous ice, winter complainers, etc. I have tried a really, really bright SAD light meant to treat seasonal affective disorder, but the full cure seems to come around in May or June, so the efficacy is not proven.

I have been mulling a couple of solutions, since I’m not one to just sit and complain. (I can stand and complain just as well.) My best idea is to shorten the winter workday, for those who still have one. I propose federal legislation to cease all work at least two hours before sunset. This week, many of us would have worked from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Just pay us for eight hours and we’ll call it even.

This would have to be adjusted for shift workers, but my point stands: When sunlight is in short supply we all deserve more access to it.

But perhaps I portray myself too much as a victim. The other day my wife Dede and I were checking out at a retail store on Route 12A around 4:30 p.m. I was feeling sour about the shortness of days when the clerk, who I think had only recently reported to duty, told us how pretty the sunset had been — pink and purple and something else that had him nearly in a rapturous state.

He saw the light, and I could only anticipate the darkness.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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