Do we spring forward and fall back? Or fall forward and spring back?
For the time-challenged among us, there's only one thing tougher than remembering which way to nudge the clock hands this weekend as we bid the annual adieu to daylight saving time. And that's remembering on which weekend the ritual falls.
Of course, the official transition is supposed to occur at 2 a.m., ostensibly to keep disruption to a minimum. But by selecting an hour in the middle of the night, the clockmeisters have succeeded only in making an arcane practice even more difficult.
How many of us have forgotten to push the clock back in the fall, only to arrive an hour early for church services the next day? Or rushed to complete Sunday morning chores to tune into the big football game, only to see the Beltway talking heads?
What's needed is some simplicity, some motivation - a reason to look forward to falling back. Rather than relegate the chore to some ungodly hour and pursuing it under the cover of darkness - like some sort of criminal activity - we should expose it to the full light of day.
The solution is simple - as plain as the hands on the face of your watch. Or, if you're digitally challenged, as plain as the flashing 12:00 on your VCR and microwave.
Let's move the time change back about one day - 37 hours to be precise - from 2 a.m. Sunday to 1 p.m. the preceding Friday. Sound complicated? Absolutely not. Think of the result.
Picture yourself at work on Friday, dutifully going to lunch at noon. As the clock strikes 1, rather than scurrying back to the cubicle, you merely reach for your watch, fall back an hour and voil! One more hour of lunch. Instant time change and a nation of happy workers.
Indeed, we shouldn't do this out of mere selfishness. Do it for the children. Think of the effect on playgrounds across America. The bell rings to return to class, only to be followed immediately by another bell, signaling the start of yet another lunch hour. That'll do more for their morale - and that of their beleaguered teachers - than any promise of 100,000 new instructors.
It gets even better in March - or is it April, or May? - or whenever it is we are supposed to spring forward.
At 1 p.m. on the preordained Friday, we all push our clocks ahead one hour. One p.m. magically becomes 2 p.m. We're an hour closer to quitting time, to going home, and to the weekend. Even the top-floor executives can buy into this one. Just explain to them, with great sincerity, that the push forward eliminates the 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. siesta when we let the belt out a notch and try to remember what it is we were doing before lunch. Be sure to mention the words "improved productivity." Then walk away before giving them a chance to ask questions.
Of course, implementing a change like this will be immensely difficult, especially if left to lawmakers to pass laws and regulate how we regulate time. After all, a Brit named William Willett suggested in 1907 implementing daylight saving time by moving the clock ahead 80 minutes - in four, 20-minute increments. With ideas like that, you have to wonder why we trust them with maintaining the prime meridian and greenwich mean time.
No. Desperate times call for desperate measures. It's time for we the people to take the hands of our clocks into our own hands. At 1 p.m. today, let's take one giant leap backward and reclaim an hour of our lives in the bright light of day.
United we fall - back. Do it for the children. Do it for the extra lunch hour. But most of all, do it so that you can read the instruction manual for your VCR clock in the light of day.
* Michael Runzler, a San Francisco Bay-area public-relations executive, has four digital watches, three digital alarm clocks, two VCRs, four analog clocks, a personal computer, and a fax machine in his household that need resetting this weekend.