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This morning, we’re going to join the coffee klatch at the Crow Town Bakery. This is an amorphous group, one that contracts and expands and changes membership from day to day. Today happens to be an all-guy day, and they’re discussing the recent changing of the clocks.
“Who’s idea was this, anyway?” Andy Cooper grumped to the morning coffee klatch gathered in the corner booth at the Crow Town Bakery.
“Some guy named George Hudson, a Kiwi,” Amos Handy said.
Andy gaped at him. “Seriously, Amos, how do you know these things?”
The older man shrugged. “Working with the books in the Swap Shed, I get to read a lot.”
“Go on, then, tell us,” Charlie Cooper, Andy’s younger brother, said. “Why did some New Zealander want to monkey around with our clocks so that we all lose sleep in the spring, and then have to deal with the sun setting at 3 p.m. in January. If there’s any time of the year when I’d love to have a bit of extra daylight in the afternoon, it’s January.”
“Hudson was an entomologist, a bug guy, and he wanted more sunlight at the end of the day so he could collect specimens after working his day job,” Amos said. “That was back in 1895 or so but the idea didn’t get anywhere until World War I.”
Hillary Talbot stopped by the table, a pot full of steaming coffee in her hand. The members of the morning klatch paused to admire the bright yellow beads in her hair, and her mismatched socks—one kelly green and the other magenta. “Are you guys talking about Daylight Savings Time again?” she asked.
The men looked at one another like small boys caught with handfuls of verboten candy. “What do you mean, again?” Charlie finally asked.
Hillary rested her coffee container on the table. “Every year, you guys complain about going on Daylight Savings Time in March and then you complain about going off Daylight Savings Time in November. We just switched the clocks so I figured that was the topic of conversation this morning.”
She looked down at Peter Foster, and they smiled at one another. “I like the beads in your hair,” he said.
She touched them with her hand, her smile spreading wider. “Yeah? Some nice guy I know bought them for me.”
Ted Owens, the local postmaster, glanced from Peter to Hillary and back. “So tell me, when are you two finally going to get married?”
The couple blushed, and Hillary got busy topping up the coffee cups on the table.
“Well?” Andy asked.
“Well, you’ll just have to wait and see, Andy,” Hillary said. “But in the meantime, I have a question for all of you.”
Five faces turned up toward hers. “And your question is?” Amos said.
“When we go back to standard time, we fall back an hour, right?”
The five heads nodded.
“So we have one day a year with 25 hours in it, am I right?”
“So I want to know if you’re going to waste that extra hour complaining about something that will literally take an act of Congress to change…”
“Ha, and we all know that Congress can’t be bothered to do anything at all, especially if it’s useful,” Amos said.
“Right,” Hillary said. “So you’ve got an extra hour in your day. Time’s kinda precious, right? So how are you going to spend it?”
And with those words, the bakery’s star waitress hustled off to pick up her next round of orders, and deliver them to her customers.
Most of the coffee klatch quintet watched her go. Hillary had a way about her that each man appreciated, though for different reasons. But Ted took the moment to study Peter’s face, wondering why his friend wouldn’t answer the marriage question.
“What?” Peter asked when he caught Ted staring at him.
“Did you two already get married and not tell anyone?” Ted asked, riveting the attention of everyone else at the table. The prospect of new gossip was irresistible.
Peter’s face went up in flames. “No, no,” he said, shaking his head. “Nothing like that.”
“So what is it, then?”
“Ahem.” Hillary’s throat clearing was audible across the restaurant, and Peter’s eyes flew to her face. When she had his attention, she raised her hand to her tightly closed lips, and twisted it in a locking motion.
“Ooooh,” the men at the table chorused. “A secret.”
Peter stood up. “Yep, and it’s going to stay that way.” He grinned. “At least for now. I’ve got to get to work.”
The men waited until the bakery door closed behind Peter before they resumed their conversation. “So how long do you think that secret’s going to keep?” Andy asked.
Amos pressed his lips together, considering. “Won’t make the end of the day,” he said decisively, “whether we’ve got an extra hour or not.”
“So to get back to what we were talking about, why are we saddled with Daylight Savings Time?” Charlie asked.
“World War I,” Amos explained. “The Germans decided to put more sun at the end of the day so they could save on coal during the war, and then the U.K. and the U.S. followed suit because if you want to kill people, you have to get up at the same time they do. We did it again during World War II but then abandoned it until the oil shortage in the early 1970s.”
“Did you know that was mostly a manufactured panic?” Charlie interrupted. “It was more the perception of shortages that drove prices up than actual scarcity.”
Amos’s eyes lit up. He liked nothing better than a good conspiracy theory.
“So what did the oil shortage have to do with Daylight Savings Time?” Andy intervened before Amos could get cranking.
“What? Oh yeah, well, Congress thought we could save oil by pushing the clocks ahead,” Amos explained. “Of course, no one knows whether it worked or not because Congress wouldn’t fund a study to see what happened.”
Charlie suddenly yawned, stretching his hands high above his head. He couldn’t decide whether he was tired or it was just that his normal sleep pattern was off. “I suppose we could just ignore the change, and keep our clocks set the same year-round. You know, Carding time.”
Andy laughed as he drained his cup and reached for his wallet. “I thought that was what we already lived on, Carding time.”