Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A Lesson In Daylight Savings Time

A Lesson In Daylight Savings Time

I may have preached on this before, but it's that time of year again. Time for the country and soon most of the world to come off daylight savings time (DST). You people wanted your precious daylight for the summer and now that it's gone, it's back to the winter grind.

The state I live in is only one of two states (I think) that does not observe daylight savings time. I always get "You guys are crazy!" No, you guys are crazy for changing your clocks twice a year and with it your internal physiological clocks wreaking havoc with your psychological makeup just so you can enjoy an extra hour of summer every day.

Even though 96 percent of the country observes DST, they don't understand how it works. It takes a guy in a state that doesn't use it to explain it to you.

I have bosses on the east coast that schedule teleconferences using Eastern Standard Time (EST). No one is even observing EST at the moment except maybe us (more on that later). So they schedule these meetings an hour off from the intended time and they don't even realize it. Fortunately, I know what they actually mean when they pick the time so I show up when they need me. Since everyone else out there misunderstands the timezones in the exact same way, they all show up at the same time too so no harm, no foul and problem perpetuates itself unless I speak up.

The country and most of the world is currently observing DST. Next Sunday, October 31, most likely while you're sleeping, this country will go off of DST and return to Standard Time (ST). When referring to timezones while observing DST, you either use DT or just T. If you're on the east coast, you refer to times in EDT or ET (phone home). Don't start using EST until after October 31 (this year).

Here's a tip that is usually the source of confusion. The timezones themselves do not change; you just hop to one when it's time. EST itself never changes. It is always -5 hours from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT); shorthand is -0500 GMT (a standard reference point for timezones always compares to GMT). Since GMT doesn't change with DST either, the number (aka the offset) is always constant for each of the timezones. So EST is always -0500 GMT, all year long. When they switch to DST in April, they leave EST and begin EDT. EDT is -0400 GMT. That's the extra hour they get during the summer.

Do you see how that works? When going from ST to DT, you shift closer to GMT, so currently, during DST, Eastern is only four hours from GMT and Central is five hours from GMT. I'd like to point out now that CDT has the same GMT offset as EST; minus five hours. Remember the timezones themselves never change, just the people. CDT is -0500 GMT. EST is -0500 GMT.

See how easy that is?

Here's my problem with DST. I have to deal with my east coast bosses who don't understand why my state doesn't observe DST and I have to remind them on a regular basis what time it actually is here. This isn't our fault for not complying with the norm, it's your fault for setting a faulty norm. If you don't think this country sets precedents for being the odd man out, metric system anyone? Convert 78 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius for me. Which side of the road do you like driving on?

Now, if you're interested in some tidbits about understanding a region that doesn't observe DST, read on. If your brain is already full from what I've said, I suggest you stop and come back tomorrow.

Indiana does not observe DST. It's a farmer thing. Although as more businesses set up shop here and as more farmers shut down, it's getting harder to fight off the DST advocates. I hope the day never comes when Indiana has to observe DST. If it does, I'm looking for houses in Arizona (the other state that doesn't observe DST). Ok I'm not that serious about it, but I'm pretty adamant.

So Indiana never changes its clocks. We actually have our own timezone. It's called, appropriately enough, the Indiana timezone. If you browse through the timezones on your Windows PC clock, you'll see it listed among the world's timezones. Since Indiana never changes and the timezones themselves never change and GMT never changes, Indiana, CDT and EST are all the same timezone; -0500 GMT. In the summer, we share our time with the Central location and in the winter, we share with Eastern. It's a lot of fun pointing out this discrepancy to non-Hoosiers. They just don't get it.

The biggest impact (to me) of having the country observe DST and us not having it is that it messes up my television programming. To make matters worse, it's not consistent on all stations. Some of our shows get bumped around an hour when the country changes and others don't. It's a network vs. cable thing; cable gets moved, the networks that have local affiliates in the state don't. This really screws us up because now we have conflicts we didn't have before plus our favorite shows are on later in the winter which means we have to stay up later to watch them.

So, I plead with you, United States, quit observing DST. You're just causing harm to you and to others and most important of all, you're messing with my stories.