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163 Innocent Old Men
by [?]

I found Titania looking severely at her watch, which is a queer little gold disk about the size of a waistcoat button, swinging under her chin by a thin golden chain. Titania’s methods of winding, setting and regulating that watch have always been a mystery to me. She frequently knows what the right time is, but how she deduces it from the data given by the hands of her timepiece I can’t guess. It’s something like this: She looks at the watch and notes what it says. Then she deducts ten minutes, because she remembers it is ten minutes fast. Then she performs some complicated calculation connected with when the baby had his bath, and how long ago she heard the church bells chime; to this result she adds five minutes to allow for leeway. Then she goes to the phone and asks Central the time.

“Hullo,” I said; “what’s wrong?”

“I’m wondering about this daylight-saving business,” she said. “You know, I think it’s all a piece of Bolshevik propaganda to get us confused and encourage anarchy. All the women in Marathon are talking about it and neglecting their knitting. Junior’s bath was half an hour late today because Mrs. Benvenuto called me up to talk about daylight saving. She says her cook has threatened to leave if she has to get up an hour earlier in the morning. I was just wondering how to adjust my watch to the new conditions.”

“It’s perfectly simple,” I said. “Put your watch ahead one hour, and then go through the same logarithms you always do.”

“Put it ahead?” asked Titania. “Mrs. Borgia says we have to put the clock back an hour. She is fearfully worried about it. She says suppose she has something in the oven when the clock is put back, it will be an hour overdone and burned to a crisp when the kitchen clock catches up again.”

“Mrs. Borgia is wrong,” I said. “The clocks are to be put ahead one hour. At 2 o’clock on Easter morning they are to be turned on to 3 o’clock. Mrs. Borgia certainly won’t have anything in the oven at that time of night. You see, we are to pretend that 2 o’clock is really 3 o’clock, and when we get up at 7 o’clock it will really be 6 o’clock. We are deliberately fooling ourselves in order to get an hour more of daylight.”

“I have an idea,” she said, “that you won’t get up at 7 that morning.”

“It is quite possible,” I said, “because I intend to stay up until 2 a.m. that morning in order to be exactly correct in changing our timepieces. No one shall accuse me of being a time slacker.”

Titania was wrinkling her brow. “But how about that lost hour?” she said. “What happens to it? I don’t see how we can just throw an hour away like that. Time goes on just the same. How can we afford to shorten our lives so ruthlessly? It’s murder, that’s what it is! I told you it was a Bolshevik plot. Just think; there are a hundred million Americans. Moving on the clock that way brings each of us one hour nearer our graves. That is to say, we are throwing away 100,000,000 hours.”

She seized a pencil and a sheet of paper and went through some calculations.

“There are 8,760 hours in a year,” she said. “Reckoning seventy years a lifetime, there are 613,200 hours in each person’s life. Now, will you please divide that into a hundred million for me? I’m not good at long division.”

With docility I did so, and reported the result.

“About 163,” I said.

“There you are!” she exclaimed triumphantly. “Throwing away all that perfectly good time amounts simply to murdering 163 harmless old men of seventy, or 326 able-bodied men of thirty-five, or 1,630 innocent little children of seven. If that isn’t atrocity, what is? I think Mr. Hoover or Admiral Grayson, or somebody, ought to be prosecuted.”