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NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

On Time Again in Indiana

Indiana has finally decided to observe Daylight Saving Time. For years, the state was divided by the change, and by the Eastern and Central time zones. It boils down to what the state's character will be: industrial or rural?


This week the State of Indiana concluded the most emotional and wrenching debate of recent times. And the arguments had nothing to do with immigration, abortion, or the war in Iraq. The Indiana legislature narrowly voted to make Daylight Saving Time uniform across the state. And eight more Indiana counties will move from Eastern Time Zone to the Central Time Zone.

This debate has raged, not a word I use lightly, across Indiana for more than 30 years. Right now counties choose their time zone and whether to set their clocks to Daylight Savings Time. The populace counties in the northwest part of the state, which are closer too around Chicago, choose Central Time and Daylight Savings Time to keep them synchronized with the city, where many Indianans work. Most of the rest of the state does not so choose.

This exercise of independence can promote confusion. If you live in La Porte, which is in the Central Time Zone and observes Daylight Savings, and have a ten a.m. appointment with your dentist, who's in Fort Wayne in the Eastern Time Zone and doesn't, what time do you leave? Only Stephen Hawking knows for sure. Imagine having to make calculations like that several times a week.

Or if you're a bus company owner in New Jersey who wants to call an auto parts plant in Munsee, Indiana, would you say, if it's noon here then it's 11:00 there, or 10:00 if they're on the daylight saving time or noon if, oh, heck, let's just call the plant in Pennsylvania. A debate over Daylight Saving Time can sound provincial to outsiders but it affects Indianans in the most personal ways. It's a debate over their state's character.

Is Indiana an industrial society connected to the same clock as the global economy? Or a rural state that can live by its own clock?

People who live in urban areas like daylight saving time. They tend to work inside, appreciate having extra hours in the sunlight after work. But if you work on a farm, you want that extra sunlight in the morning. Daylight Saving Time means driving along dark country roads at 5 a.m. It means that your children may be lined up along that road waiting for the school bus at 6:30 while it's still dark. It means that the sun is still shining when many farm workers have to get to bed.

But Indiana is now increasingly urban, not just in the collar counties around Chicago or near Cincinnati in the South. But in the heart of that state that is the heartland, increasingly Indianans are working in auto, cement and steel factories, hospitals, shopping malls and insurance companies. They're even drinking lattes. Daylight saving time will go in effect at 2 a.m. tomorrow but Indiana tavern owners pointed out that setting their clocks ahead then would deprive them of an hour to do business while the Final Four basketball tournament is being played in Indianapolis.

Basketball fans have been known to get thirsty, so Governor Mitch Daniels has signed a stay of execution permitting Daylight Saving Time to descent on bars an hour later. The price for progress won't be an extra round of drinks.

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Simon Says

Simon SaysSimon Says

NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small