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Doubling Up on Daylight Saving Is a Bright Idea

April 01, 2001|STEVE CHAWKINS

Leafing through some letters from Mrs. Fry's intelligent and perceptive fifth-graders at Meadows Elementary School in Thousand Oaks, I came across a remarkable observation from a student named Ariel Downs.

"Well, as the world goes round, plenty of strange, unbelievable and sometimes weird things happen," she wrote. "Hey, who knows? I might wake up tomorrow to find a 600-pound giraffe munching my frontyard begonias!"

Nobody has ever said anything truer, Ariel, but let me offer a vision even more strange, unbelievable and weird than your petal-popping giraffe.

This summer you might look out your window well after 9 p.m. and see an absolutely glorious sunset.

This summer you might get to play outside in unrelenting twilight until well after prime time, soaking in the day's nightly sunshine just as do the fifth-graders in Lapland and Labrador and other northern climes.

The giraffe snuffling through the garden is certainly a fine and admirable possibility, Ariel. But more likely is the prospect that this summer, you could be living in the land of the midnight sun without ever leaving the toasty environs of Thousand Oaks.

If you want to thank anyone for this miraculous extension of the best time of day in the best time of year, write your congressman.

To cut the use of electricity in our kilowatt-starved era, a bill from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) would allow states in the Pacific time zone to monkey around with time in any way they choose.

In itself, this breaks no new ground.

Daylight Saving Time, whose latest incarnation started at 2 this morning, began in 1918 to save fuel for the boys fighting the war to end all wars. During the next war, the U.S. observed Daylight Saving Time year-round from 1942 to 1945. It was the same story at times in the 1970s, when drivers lined up at gas pumps for hours and many an official passionately vowed to end the energy crisis once and for all.

Sherman, however, would like to see California do Daylight Saving one better.

His suggestion: Double Daylight Saving!

It's remarkable enough that government has the authority to treat a cosmic philosophical concept like time as if it were a salami, to be sliced thick or thin, depending on the moment's need. But what's even more amazing is that it makes so much sense.

Under Sherman's Double Daylight Saving, the clock would be moved forward yet another hour on May 1, and stay that way until Labor Day, when the kids return to school. On the summer solstice in June, the sun would rise over Ventura County at 6:45 a.m. and wouldn't set until 9:13 p.m.

The sun will shine on rich and poor alike, and well into the night. People trudging home from work will feel no need to turn on the lights. Children running through the sprinkler will feel no need for video games. Idle couples chatting on lawn chairs will feel no need for air conditioning.

If I were a congressman, I would augment Double Daylight Saving with the Firefly Importation Act of 2001, wherein California children would experience the summer evening of their Eastern counterparts by trapping lightning bugs in their hands and watching the insects' abdomens periodically glow a pale yellow. Mayonnaise jars with pre-ventilated lids would be distributed free of charge for mass roundups.

But even without the lightning bugs, Double Daylight Saving offers substantial benefits.

The smell of grilling chicken will waft through the neighborhood for an extra hour nightly. Softball games will go extra innings, just for the fun of it. Parents will have an extra hour in which to take their kids out for ice cream. The TV could be off an extra hour, conserving both electricity and brain cells. The northern lights will shine in our eyes.

"So this will be like family time in, say, Siberia," I suggested to Matt Farrauto, Sherman's press secretary.

"I don't know if I'd put it that way," he said.

No matter: Double Daylight Saving is clearly an idea whose time has come.


Government can push time around like an old broom, but it can't do a thing when the time comes to say goodbye.

So goodbye, pals.

This is the last installment of Ventura County Life, a column I've been honored to write three times weekly for the last three years. As I take on other writing responsibilities here at The Times, I thank all of you who have responded kindly to my small efforts, and apologize to those I haven't yet written back.

I'll still be in these pages, and still want to hear from you. When you sight the giraffe in your garden--and I hope you sight many--treasure it and give me a call.


Steve Chawkins can be reached at 653-7561 or at

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