COLUMN: Idea for metric time ticks right along

Reporter's Viewpoint

The perverse side of my nature got me pondering the idea of adopting metric time.

Canada switched to metric in the 1970s and is still straddling the fence between metric and Imperial systems, so I figure flipping to metric time would be one more fun monkey wrench – er, I mean, adjustable metric spanner – to toss in the works.

Canadians have embraced the metric system so fully they go out to buy a litre of milk and a pound of coffee. Mounties still, for the most part, describe the estimated weights and heights of wanted suspects in feet, inches and pounds.

You can still buy a four-by-eight foot sheet of plywood and a two-by-four inch stud.

Mountain bike frames are measured in inches, but road bike frames are measured in centimetres.

Words for metric measurements like ‘kilometre’ and ‘kilogram’ don’t have the poetic ring that ‘mile’ and ‘pound’ did, so you never hear metric used much in song lyrics.

It’s physically possible, but mentally and emotionally pretty tough, to 2.5 centimetre your way forward too. And if you give 25 millimetres I guess there will be somebody out there willing to take 1.609344 kilometres, human nature being what it is.

Younger generations have enriched the language by replacing old terms used to describe excessively large quantities, like ‘humongous’ and ‘ginormous’ with ‘metric butt load’.

I like metric. It’s simple. I like simple. The Imperial system has drill bit sizes like eleven sixty-fourths, fifteen-sixteenths or three thirty-secondths of an inch. I never knew anybody who used drill bits that size. I broke most of mine.

If, however, you misplace your 4-mm hex key you can usually find one in your old Imperial set close enough in size to jam into the head of the screw you need to tighten.

Getting back to metric time; a quick Google and I discovered the idea has been around awhile.

I’d like a 10-hour day with 100-minute hours and 100-second minutes since we already work with a base-10 number system.

One guy proposed a 20-hour metric day. The Mayans had a base-20 numbering system, which apparently their calendar was also based on. (Sort of. It’s complicated.) Since it runs out of time next year, I figure it’s probably best to avoid anything base-20.

What difference would a 10-hour day make to our daily lives?

Well, we’d work less hours each day, but those hours would really drag on. Hourly wages would definitely have to go up too.

One of my co-workers suggested 20-minute workouts would hurt a whole lot more.

Assuming other countries didn’t switch to metric time, you can imagine Canada’s trading partners or anyone planning a trip to Canada trying to work out what time it will be when they get here?

Would metric jet lag feel better or worse? What would our time zones look like – and what time would it be in Newfoundland?

One proposal suggested eliminating time zones worldwide to make it the same time everywhere. I couldn’t resist phoning somebody up in England just to hear him demand, “Who the hell are you and why are you calling me in the middle of the night? Do you know what time it is?”

“Well, actually….”

Another guy on the Internet suggested one expected problem from switching to metric time might be some farmers would think cows will give less milk.

Most farmers I know are intelligent, highly self-reliant people, as adept at tweaking a Toyota with a set of metric allen keys as they are tuning up the old John Deere out back with a five-eighths-inch open end wrench and bit of bailing wire, who’d tell that guy where to stuff metric time and his elitist attitude.

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