While I seldom have occasion to count beyond ten, I sometimes think the 24-hour clock would be a better option. Since we have to face another major time malfunction (AKA switch to Daylight Saving Time) this coming weekend, I’m thinking about time. That, and I recently had someone ask me to set up a noon Zoom meeting. A nooner Zoomer is fine with me, but each time I have to ask is it “a.m.” or “p.m.”? Parsimonious websites rather snarkily (but correctly) say that it’s neither. It’s that liminal changeover between ante-meridian and post-meridian. It, along with midnight, stands outside the a.m. and p.m. system. Thankfully I don’t have many meetings at midnight, but still, a 24-hour clock, such as military folk like to use, makes sense. A meeting at 12:00 would always be noon, and 24:00 would always be midnight.
I tend to wake up around 3:00 a.m. I admit that it’s convenient to mark 3:00 p.m. as the 12-hour awake point in my day. I could easily adjust to do the same at 15:00. In fact, my watch—yes, I still use one—has the 24-hour timescale in smaller print just inside the more legible 12-hour one. I’m sure that we can all count to 24. Wouldn’t it make sense, in the service of ending confusion about a.m./p.m.? (Not to mention having to type in all those periods!) The way we divide time is arbitrary. The reason that we settled on twelve actually hearkens back to the official title of this blog, namely the ancient world. The ancient Mesopotamians had a base-6 counting system, unlike our base-10. When time came to be divided into hours, it was done on a base-6 system, giving us 12 hours of light and 12 hours of night.
Such ancient ideas as these are very difficult to change. We can’t even seem to agree that if Daylight Saving Time is such a good idea, why don’t we keep it all year round? I suspect most of us adjust to gradual change more easily than that sudden loss of an hour of sleep. Even the added hour in the fall doesn’t make up for it. If we can’t change something that’s obviously that flawed, how can we hope to agree that having 13 to 24 added to our clocks would be better? Or maybe just round things down to 20, for our base-10 system? Yes, hours would be longer but maybe we could negotiate fewer of them for work. But I’m just dreaming here. And it’s not even p.m. yet.