It's about time.
Sunday morning, at 2 to be exact, all but three of the nation's states and three territories will turn their collective clocks, digital watches and bodily functions back one hour, thereby switching from daylight saving time to standard time.
What a difference 60 minutes can make.
"I hate it," said Judy Hubbard, a Cleveland Park housewife and mother of two small boys. "I don't even like to think about it. For the first week or so, you're just zonked. The kids are hungry at the wrong time and tired at the wrong time."
Question: If you hire a baby sitter Saturday night and say you will be in by 2 a.m., do you get to stay out an extra hour without having to pay more money?
"I don't know," said Hubbard, president of the Cleveland Park Babysitting Co-op. "Nobody ever stays out that late."
Murray Melbin, A Boston University sociology professor who has researched the effect of seasonal changes on our collective psyche, says the transition can be disorienting.
"After all, it's only a one-hour change isn't it? But people can't seem to remember whether to go backward or forward, which is why they had to think up something like 'spring forward, fall back.'"
Because a certain segment of the population foregets to do anything with its clocks, Melbin said, the annual rituals tend to increase anxiety and "social embarrassment."
"They say, 'I know it's one of these weekends, I know it's coming,' Then they get ready to chase around the house changing clocks. I know I've forgotten and missed appointments the next day. It's very embarrassing."
"Personally," Melbin said, "I like the switch to standard time. I feel like I've gotten something extra that weekend. That's a little triumph for people."
Although a triumph for weary hospital interns who can snooze an extra hour, the change to standard time nevertheless depresses many others.
"I hate it when it gets dark early," said Dr. Richard Maisel, a New York University sociology professor who has also studied the seasonal psychological effects. But, he said, melancholia on the whole does not increase as the days become shorter.
"In the summer, people describe themeselves as happy, but bored," he said. "In the fall, they become anxious but involved."
"Personally, I feel gloomy about it because we no longer have daylight when we leave work," said Don Sobel, manager of the Vienna Clock Shop, home of 500 timepieces.
Sobel said it will take him nearly two hours to set the clocks back an hour, but he does not mind.
"The thing I dread is Monday morning when I'll get a hundred phone calls from people saying they set their clocks back and now it's chiming 10 times at 9 o'clock," he said wearily. "This is a perpetual thing we go through twice a year."
The freshman class at Marymount College in Arlington has a normal Saturday night curfew of 2:30 a.m. Does that mean. . . . ?
"We'll give them the extra hour," said a school spokesman, meaning the students may sign in at 3:30 a.m.
But will bars be able to stay open an extra hour?
"There's some debate on that," said Mike Openlander, manager of the Hawk and Dove Restaurant on Capitol Hill. "It all depends on what police lieutenant is on duty." Last year, he said, police made him close at 3 a.m. daylight saving time even though it way really 2 a.m. standard time.
"I wasn't aware that had happened," said Dallas Evans, deputy director of the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Evans said the ABC allows the city's drinking establishments to stay open an extra hour in the fall, but asks them to close an hour earlier in the spring. "It more or less works itself out," he said.
Sometimes more, sometimes less.
Jerry Mercuri, manager of the Limited Edition in Georgetown, said it stays open an extra hour in the fall, but does not close early in the spring. "We've never had any problem," he said brightly.
The Naval Observatory, America's official timekeeper, has never had any problems either.
"We don't turn our clocks back because we'r on Universal Time," said Glenn Hall, the observatory's chief of scientific operation of the Time Service Division.
Universal Time, which used to be called Greenwich Mean Time, is actually four hours ahead of daylight saving time. The military also uses Universal Time, Hall said, but calls it Zulu Time.
Question: Does anybody really know what time it is?
"It is confusing," Hall said, "but you get used to it."
Bleary-eyed callers to the C&P Telephone Company's recorded timekeeper, synchronized with the atomic clock in Colorado Springs, Colo., will hear the actual switch Sunday morning: "At the tone, the time will be one fifty nine and fifty seconds (beep). At the tone, the time will be 1 o'clock, exactly."
District policemen whose shifts happen to fall within the time switchover will be paid for the extra hour of work, a spokesman said yesterday.
Metro buss drivers will also be paid.
"Runs that start to work before midnight Saturday Oct. 25 will begin and complete their schedules on daylight saving time," the Metro bus notice reads. "Owl runs starting to work afte 12:01 Sunday Oct. 26 will set their watched back one hour before starting work and will operate on Eastern Standard Time."
"Our operators understand it pretty much," said Leroy Bailey, general superintendent of bus operations. "It's not confusing at all."
In 1971, 23-year-old Charles William Brinton of Delaware decided to make a federal case out of it.
Brinton was born at 11:03 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, on Aug. 11, 1948. But years later, during the draft lottery, the Bureau of Vital Statistics listed his birth according to daylight saving time, which put an hour later, at 12:03 a.m., Aug. 12.
Normally, Brinton would not have minded, but the time change meant Brinton went from lottery number 324 to 142. He went to U.S. District Court in Wilmington, which agreed that under state law, the correct legal time in Delaware in 1948 was Eastern Standard Time.
The history of daylight saving time vs. standard time in this country is a textbook case of confusion, democracy and lunacy.
It all started in 1784 when Benjamin Franklin, said to be a late sleeper, was lying in bed and the Paris sun hit his eyes. So he thought about moving that hour to the end of the day "to save candles."
Meanwhile, in America, time was running amok.
Before 1883, there were nearly 100 time zones accross the country. A traveler from Eastport, Maine, to San Francisco would have been forced to change his or her watch 20 times to make the right train connections.
In 1883, the railroads established five time zones. One was in Eastern Canada and four in the United States: Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific.
In 1918, Congress passed a law establishing these time zones and put the country on daylight saving time to conserve energy. The measure was very unpopular and was repealed.
On Feb. 9, 1942, Congress again put the country on so-called "fast time" until President Franklin D. Roosevelt canceled it in 1945. It was then known as "war time."
The next year, with no federal law, states and territories observed daylight saving time willy-nilly. Some states, like Tennesse, outlawed it.
The lunacy reached new heights in 1961 in the Virginia town of Jarrett, where one half of the town observed daylight saving time.The other half did not. The demarcation line was the city's main street.
In 1966, at the benest of industry, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which fixed daylight saving time from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. But the government ultimately let the states decide.
The ensuing confusion is best illustrated by the debate in the Oklahoma state legislature. There, State Sen. Bryce Baggett told his colleagues that under daylight saving time, the sun would set "considerably after dark."
G. Edward Abbott, a semiretired Oxford, Md., waterman, spoke for many who have trouble sorting out time when he said, "Damn the clock, I live by the sun."