yellow clock


Once a kid learns that three-letter word, look out. He’s gonna use it every single day for the rest of his life. He’ll point the why gun at any adult willing to bat back the question with an answer. Today, the why is directed at the ridiculous adult practice of biannual random one-hour changing of the clock–a practice which we follow like idiots.

The discussion goes something like this.

“Why is it dark at suppertime tonight but it wasn’t last night? Did you forget to cook?”

“Because it is Fall and on this day we turn the clocks back one hour.”

“Is today a holiday?”


“How does the sun know to set earlier?”

“It doesn’t. The sun doesn’t change–just the clocks do.”

“Why do the clocks change?”

“So we can have sunlight in the morning.”

“Do I have to get up earlier tomorrow?”

“No. You can sleep until seven just like every other day.”

“But will it really be seven or six or eight? How do you keep track?”

“It’ll be seven. Just look at the clock like always.”

“How does the clock know to change by one hour?”

“It doesn’t. Daddy changed them in the middle of the night.”

“Daddy can do that? Why doesn’t he do that every night and then he can get more sleep. He’s really yawny before his coffee.”

“No, Daddy can’t do it every night or after a week, night and day will be all messed up.”

“Why can he do it once?”

“He does it on the night that everyone else does it.”

“Hmm.” She looks at the clock. “Can I change the clock next time?”

“Next time isn’t until the spring.”

“Let’s not wait that long. I’ll change them next weekend.”

“No. Don’t. Don’t touch the clocks.”

Now on top of being ridiculous, the strange adult ritual of control of time is also tagged as forbidden.

“What if nobody remembered at my school? Will I be early or late tomorrow?”

“Early. I mean late. Just try not to worry about it. They changed the clocks at school.”

“I think they should change the clocks in the summer so it never gets dark.”

“Well, that’s not when everyone else does it.”

“Who decided to do this?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe somebody important.”

“And powerful. Is it just one of those grownup things?”

The adult does not say: Yes, honey, this is one of those just-because things that happened so long ago that even old grown-ups can’t remember how or why or when it started, so they just keep doing it anyway.

The kid remains confused but realizes that satisfactory answers will not, or cannot, be supplied by this particular adult. It is ridiculous, inexplicable. If something cannot be explained and understood by a reasonable, curious child, maybe the stupid adult practice should cease.

Her mother sighs and yawns as she thinks what a long day this has been and checks the clock to see how long until she can put the kids to bed.

Ask ten adults, and without Googling, nine or ten of them won’t know why we mess with the clocks which run our lives.


2 thoughts on “Why?

  1. I always thought it was an odd thing to do but crossed over to the ‘this is stupid’ side after living in two places that didn’t play along. Once I realized not everyone was doing it, it lost any real importance to me.

    Now I’m back in the land of time adjusters and have to have this conversation with my kids.

  2. I read on Wikipedia that in ancient times, the daylight hours of the long days of summer and short days of winter were each divided into 12 hours. An hour was longer in the summer, shorter in the winter. I think it is a fabulous idea that the work day/school day be ~75% of daylight time. Do you have any idea where Father Time lives so that I might approach him about recycling this ancient and brilliant plan?

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