An extra hour of light and Boston exhales, even amid debate
Across downtown Boston on Monday afternoon, tens of thousands of people emerged from their offices at 5 p.m. to find a glowing object hanging surprisingly high over their heads.
Witnesses identified this object as “the sun,” and reported that it made them feel a strange sensation that some described as “happy.”
It’s Daylight Saving Time again, and in the annual competition to identify the unofficial start of spring in the Boston area — there are too many to name, from the Red Sox “truck day” to the opening of Sullivan’s at Castle Island to the first blooms of the crocus flowers — that first golden hour when the 9-to-5ers leave their offices after we “spring forward” is perhaps the most palpable. The world simply feels different.
“I’m delighted,” Jon Vanderhoof, a 71-year-old Boston resident, said as he emerged from the State Street MBTA station and paused to look up at the sky. “I love all this light in the evening, and I don’t like it when it goes away” in the fall.
He is not alone, and this year, as that golden hour arrives, there is considerable momentum to make that extra hour of afternoon sun a permanent part of life.
A movement to stay on Daylight Saving Time year-round, which gained steam in Massachusetts before spreading throughout New England, is now national. More than 30 states are considering the shift in some form or another, though many — including in New England — are hesitant to make the move unless their neighbors come along.
Two members of Florida’s congressional delegation recently proposed measures to make the shift on a national scale, and on Monday morning the White House got behind it when President Trump tweeted “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!”
We can tinker with the clock all we want, but there is no way to change the amount of sunlight in a day without changing your longitude and latitude. Still, on the streets of Boston Monday afternoon, there was a definite change in attitude.
“It makes it feel like you can do something instead of just eating and going to bed,” Lee Thomas, a 35-year-old from Londonderry, N.H., said after leaving his downtown office Monday. “I don’t see why we can’t just stay on one time year-round. Having the light in the evening is nice.”
The downside, of course, is that we lose that hour of light in the morning.
“I did not want to wake up today,” said Sabrina Wright, a 22-year-old from Everett. “But I do like the way it feels leaving work. It’s a mental thing. The sun is out and you just feel like you can do more.”
The process of tinkering with the clock to shift sunlight in one direction or the other has been happening in different countries in different ways since the beginning of the 20th century. And it has often been met with controversy and resistance, for what is a gain for some feels like a loss to others.
The modern movement in the United States which caught fire after a Quincy citizen named Tom Emswiler published an editorial in the Globe in 2014, hinges not just on emotion but also safety. Studies have shown an uptick in car accidents, heart attacks, and workplace injuries during the first days after we lose an hour of sleep. (Opponents counter that with concern about children going to school in the dark.)
“This move will save people’s lives,” said Josh Yokela, a Republican state representative in New Hampshire whose bill to move to Atlantic Standard Time — the equivalent of staying on Daylight Saving Time year-round, overwhelmingly passed in that state’s house last month (with the contingency that Massachusetts and Maine also make the move). In Massachusetts, a similar bill sponsored by Senator John F. Keenan, a Democrat, is expected to come up for review soon.
But as the politicians hammer out what will or won’t become of our clocks, those roaming Boston during that golden hour seemed content to just enjoy the feeling that night felt a little further away.
“I’m just happy. I don’t feel like the day is over,” Lisa Murray, 25, of Boston, said as she made her way through Downtown Crossing just after 5 p.m. “I don’t feel like I want to just go home because it doesn’t feel like bedtime is evident.”
For Emswiler, the citizen who helped start a movement, Monday morning was a little tough, after staying up late trying to convince his children that it was in fact time to go to bed.
“But once we get through the transition it will be worth it,” Emswiler said, “because that evening daylight matches our lifestyle in the 21st century.”