Changing Time

I was out walking/running at the high school track Sunday evening. Walking and running give a person the opportunity to think about a lot of topics, such as how out of shape and old they feel. Some summers I’d be running three or four miles by now, but that won’t be happening anytime soon.

I start on the outside lane and work my way in to the middle, one lap at a time. It helps me keep track. I’ve done eight laps by the time I get to the middle. I have no idea how far I actually travel. I know the outer lap is longer than the inner one, but I don’t know what the difference is with each concentric lane I move towards the center.

To be honest, since they changed tracks from yards to meters, I have no idea how far I’m traveling anyway, except that both the old American tracks and the new metric tracks somehow travel around a football field, so I guess the old 440 yards must be close to the new 400 meters, and that the 1600 is close to a mile.

Very smart people tried really hard to get us dumb, lummox Americans to convert to the metric system 25 years ago or so, but we were just too slow-witted and xenophobic to buy into it. The advantages of the metric system are that everything is easily divisible by ten, and much of the world uses that system, so it would make sense for us to change, too. I get the arguments in favor, but I like being 6’3” tall, and (confidential) pounds. I don’t want to know how many centimeters or kilograms I am. And yes, before you say it, it is stubbornness and laziness that stand in the way.

But, I’d like to redeem myself by making the following suggestion: Since the metric system is the cat’s meow, the bee’s knees, and da bomb, (pick your generation of choice) why not also use the metric system to measure time?

We can easily break down our current year into 100 equal units of 3.65 days, or “centi-years” as we’ll call them. The partial days may be a problem, but our school districts seem to have embraced half-days, so they must be okay. Each centi-year can be broken down into 100 milli-years equal to about 0.365 of our current days. Clocks would all have to be changed, along with calendars. The DVD player and microwave will still flash all the time, but it will be 10:00 instead of 12:00 that will be displayed while it flashes, since 12 won’t really be needed anymore.

This is clearly a good idea, and anyone who is against it is just afraid of change, and is stuck in the foolish principles of dead white men.

Somehow, this idea seemed better as my mind was wandering with me around the track. It brings up the bigger issue of change, and how and why it should happen, and who should decide. Sometimes we change things that are imperfect, and are left with something even worse. Sometimes changes are a big benefit. People who are as old as me remember the days before you could turn right on a red light. That one change may have saved more gasoline due to less unneeded idling than anything else we’ve done.

The trick is to be able to discriminate between good changes and bad ones. For that reason, I think I’m going to stick with seconds, minutes, weeks, months, and years, even though they don’t divide neatly by ten. And, I’ll listen to the politicians plans with an open mind, but be wary of the law of unintended consequences.


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