Perhaps you’ve heard. Daylight-saving time ends early Sunday morning, so after executing the appropriate “fall back” routine before turning in Saturday night, we will get an extra hour for sleep — or anything else we want to do.
OK, we’re just playing a game with ourselves. We “lost” that hour in March when we were ordered to “spring forward,” a much more aggravating scenario.
Most don’t mind the “extra” hour overnight, but we’re penalized Sunday afternoon, when there’s an hour less daylight for the things we wanted to do during the delightful November afternoons we’ve been experiencing.
Unless they live in the handful of states that exempted themselves, Americans have been forced to endure this “spring forward, fall back” oscillation for more than 50 years. The exact dates have varied depending on energy-saving whims, and Congress experimented with year-round DST from 1974 to 1975 during the gas crisis. The annual time changes became so common that makers of electronic devices programmed clocks to adjust automatically.
Motorists headed to the El Paso area know that two counties in far West Texas are on Mountain Time instead of Central. That part of the state has been on Mountain Time since standard time zones were established. But when the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was passed, no provision was made for states to be split by time zones.
The concept of Central Time didn’t work for El Paso and Hudspeth counties, so they simply ignored the act requiring Texas to be universally Central. Apparently, federal bureaucrats didn’t notice this passive revolt immediately, but someone in Washington finally asked Texas why the time zone legislation wasn’t being enforced. The reason, of course, was local preference, because El Paso is closely tied economically to New Mexico in the Mountain Zone. After all, El Paso is closer to San Diego, California, than it is to Houston.
I came to Howard Payne from New Mexico in the late 1960s, and traveled Interstate 10 frequently. While still two hours away from my destination in New Mexico, it nevertheless felt like I was almost there when I changed time zones between Van Horn and Sierra Blanca. Little did I know then that the federal government hadn’t yet made the boundary official.
It wasn’t until 1970 that provisions were passed to legitimize this situation. Similar problems created by time zones drawn strictly along state boundaries are found in several other regions in the country. One is in Alabama, a state that is officially in the Central Time Zone. However, Phenix City, Alabama, observes Eastern Time because of its proximity to the larger city of Columbus across the Georgia state line.
Quirks in the way time zones are drawn can create some interesting convergences, especially when daylight-saving time ends. One oddity is the fact that for 60 minutes before dawn this Sunday, cities in two states that touch the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans — 2,300 miles apart — will have the same time.
That’s Pensacola, Florida, and Ontario, Oregon.
It happens because western Florida observes Central Time, and a piece of eastern Oregon is in Mountain Time. When Central residents “fall back,” they are at the same hour as Mountain residents who have yet to officially change.
Of all the undesirable things that might happen when we start fooling around with Mother Nature, this is the least of our concerns. We’ll wait to address the problems faced by ranchers, motorists, and children boarding school buses until “spring forward.”
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.