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Just in time

By Staff | Mar 6, 2015

The time to think about time has arrived once again.

It’s time for that annoying annual activity called daylight savings time, the curious cultural custom wherein we all reset our chronographic instruments.

The mnemonic tool to remember what to do and when is spring forward, fall back. Except at our house, it’s more like lurch ahead, stumble backwards.

Benjamin Franklin was the first American to suggest the adoption of daylight savings time. In 1784, Franklin published an essay decrying how much candle wax he’d burned through during a night of participating in Founding Fatherly activities.

Just imagine how much wax could be saved, he said, if we did our partying, um, that is, social networking during daylight hours.

Many readers missed the fact that Franklin’s tongue was firmly in his cheek. That’s right – he was only kidding.

Some took Franklin’s essay as a bedrock truth because, as we all know, Founding Fathers never lie.

Sadly, some of the folks who took Franklin’s comic noodlings as actual advice had nothing better to do other than make life miserable for the rest of us.

More than two centuries after it was written, we are still dealing with the repercussions of what was basically a come-here-and-pull-my-finger essay.

It’s always stressful at our house when we make the jump to daylight savings time. My wife is one of those who thinks that if you’re not ahead, you’re behind. It’s not good enough to simply be on time.

My philosophy is more lackadaisical. For instance, if your tax return is due on midnight of April 15, there’s no reason to even begin the process of thinking about starting on it until 11 p.m. on April 15.

My wife insists that we set our clocks ahead before we go to bed. I would much rather adjust to daylight savings time during the daylight. I can never get enough sleep as is and don’t like the idea of an unseen time thief stealing a whole hour of shuteye.

Then there is the issue of figuring out how to reset the time on all our digital devices. Each has its own set of intricate rituals that are detailed in the doodad’s Owner’s Manual.

The instructions might include such verbiage as “Press the RESET button (item C, diagram 42(f), Appendix vii, page 379) while simultaneously pressing the HOUR button (item 4, diagram 86(e) ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) repeatedly as you rub your tummy and tap your head. WARNING: failure to follow these instructions precisely will void the warranty and could also launch a Minuteman missile.”

It wouldn’t be a big deal except that I tossed the Owner’s Manual seconds after unboxing the gadget. This is why many of the electronic gizmos at our house think it’s midnight.

And it would help if we understood our electronic thingamajigs. Perhaps my wife and I should hire someone who has a better grasp of modern electronics, such as an average 7-year-old boy.

If only we lived in the simpler world portrayed by the movies. All we would need to adjust our time is a flux capacitor, a slightly modified DeLorean and a Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor.

When I was a kid we had an old Norwegian bachelor farmer neighbor named Martin. He was known as being somewhat of an oracle, a reputation that he carefully cultivated.

One midsummer’s day, Martin noticed that I had a new wristwatch.

“I bet it’s an hour off,” he said.

I checked my new timepiece and it seemed correct. Martin showed me his pocket watch; its time was exactly an hour later. “I go by God’s time,” he said, gesturing at the noon-day sun.

He had a point. My watch said 11 a.m. even though the sun was directly overhead. I was off by a cosmic hour.

But I wonder if Martin wasn’t pulling a Ben Franklin on me. Because despite what his watch might have said, Martin always managed to show up at our farm just in time for dinner.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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