This morning, the sun rose at 4:59 a.m. So did I.
We have been making our early morning appearances like this, in tandem, for weeks now. The sun and I rose together at 5:12 on April 10, at 5:20 on April 3.
I don't know what the sun does at 4:59 in the morning. But let me tell you there is very little that people can do at that hour. I can, of course, worry. But generally I like to do my worrying while it is still dark outside. It helps the paranoia.
I could also get up. But something in me rebels at beating the newspapers to the doorstep. I could also take aim at the feathered chorus in my neighborhood. This particular collection of the smog-throated baritone- beaked urban birds have bio-rhythms that refuse to adjust to digital time.
But my favorite activity these April mornings is to stare at the ceiling and think about daylight wasting time.
The culprit of early April risings, I tell myself, is not in our stars but in our government. It isn't nature but Congress that arouses me and my fellow Americans, especially those below the age of three. It is Washington, believe it or not, like it or not, that tells us what time it is.
Daylight Savings Time, alias "fast time," alias "war time," alias "peace time." The whole business has had a checkered history in our lives. We adopted it in World War I and then again in World War II. In 1966, we stretched the savings from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, for every state except those that abstained. In 1973, during the oil crisis, we went to year-round daylight savings, and then went back again to the six-month rule.
For the past six or seven years, a plan to transfer one hour from the morning (when we don't want it) to the evening (when we do want it) has been a perennial blossom in the nation's capital. Year after year, it comes up and collapses.
This February, two congressmen sponsored a bill that would make the switch the first Sunday in March instead of the last Sunday in April. On Tuesday, there were Senate hearings on a similar bill.
The sponsors each year talk about respectable things like energy savings --an estimated 100,000 barrels of oil a day--and safety savings. But it's the light savings that is our real attraction. Most Americans are, after all, people who run their lives by clocks and their sleep by electricity. They go out with the light switch and wake up with the alarm.
We no longer go to bed and go to work with the sun. We spring forward and fall backward with the government. I grant you that it's peculiar to have our time federally mandated. It's a bit like controlling the tide. But as long as Washington is in this business, let it be a popular one.
There are people who disagree. Some of them live at the western edge of a time zone, and see dawn an hour later than easterners. Others farm for a living and prefer an early start and a darker evening.
John Watt, the secretary of the American Farm Bureau Federation, who testified Tuesday at the Senate hearings, grew up in a Pennsylvania farmhouse with two summer clocks. His father's stayed on standard time; his mother's on saving time. His father's on farm time; his mother's on town time. But most of us are on town time now.
Of all the rules and regulations our government makes, time may be the strangest. But if we're going to manufacture it, punch in and punch out of the day, let's do it right.
I lie here, at the end of daylight wasting time, lobbying for the change. The powers that be should take an hour of spring from the morning and give it to the evening. This year, O Washington, let there be light at 7:26 at night instead of 4:59 in the morning.