Is daylight saving just a waste of time?

An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts. We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.

-- Winston Churchill

California might be earthquake prone, close to bankruptcy and generally irritating, but the Golden State does have an extensive bureaucracy and some nifty Web sites.

That's where I found the results of some hard work from the California Energy Commission, which compiled about a dozen federal and state studies that looked at daylight saving time and came to the conclusion that its extension "had little or no effect on energy consumption in California."

Sorry, but the annual clockwork chicanery, which our nation undertook once again this weekend, is a holdover from some government efforts back in the 1960s and '70s. They tried to makes us save energy by giving us more daylight, and they tried to get us to take up the metric system.

As I recall, we rose up as a nation and rejected the metric system, which is logical and practical, preferring instead our traditional inches, yards, pounds and pints.

As for daylight saving time, we kept it because we thought we'd save on the light bill. Now we know it doesn't work, but we still do it anyway.

Yes, I know, we don't live in California. Maybe daylight saving time actually works in Georgia. I thought you might bring that up, so I called Georgia Power, which patiently crunched some numbers, diced some data and asked its energy efficiency expert whether we in the Southeast realized any great savings because we mess with our clocks twice a year.

No.

"In our view, changing the time of daylight hours does not change the length of daylight hours or the levels of temperature in the daylight hours," said Lynn Wallace, of Georgia Power. "Therefore, energy usage should be the same."

So why do it? Why, twice a year, do we alter our schedules for a purpose that seems noble and practical, but is actually a waste of time?

Beats me.

The best way I can explain it is that daylight saving time is sort of like Columbus Day, which we continue to celebrate each October even though we all know now that Columbus didn't discover America .

Likewise, daylight saving time might not help anything, but it apparently it doesn't hurt us much either.

I know, I asked a doctor.

Dr. Stewart Shevitz, the interim chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at Georgia Health Sciences University, was kind enough to respond to my curious inquiries about whether our time manipulation affected one's mental state.

"For most people," he wrote in an e-mail, "the time change is not a significant issue."

I, for one, hope it didn't make you late for church this morning.

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