Saturday, March 13, 2010

Telling Time

I learned how to tell time long, long ago. I have no memory of the process, it's just one of those things you learn early and never forget. But, I learned to tell time in a part of the world that uses AM and PM to differentiate between the time before lunch, and the time after. Then I moved to Denmark, and ... my ability to tell time has been blown to bits.

Why? Well, you see, over here they use a 24 hr clock. Where I come from, we call that 'military time' but here, they just call it time. Whether there are armies of soldiers involved or not, it confuses the hell outta me. Oh sure, on paper, it's all rather simple - there are 24 hours in a day and if you just use all 24 when telling time, rather than only 12, it simplifies things and gets rid of that pesky little 'am' and 'pm'. I fully understand the concept and I do agree that it does make a bit of sense, but my brain cannot compute the times on short notice. It's not that I don't know that 17 means 5pm, it's just that when the world is moving quickly, and I'm not paying attention, 17 is meaningless. And this... this gets me into trouble now and then.

Exhibit A: A couple of weeks ago, we had the dogs at the swimming hall on a Saturday. There's an appointment book there where you choose your next swimming time and write in your name to reserve the time. We were on our way out and decided to book a time for Wednesday evening. I ran to the book, scrolled quickly through the available times, and jotted our names down for 6:30 pm. As we were loading the dogs into the car, something in my brain was triggering me that some bit of something, somewhere, wasn't quite right. So, because of that little nagging voice, I ran back inside to double-check the time I'd chosen. Yep, okay, 6:30 it is. All set. Or so I thought.

When we arrived Wednesday evening, right on time, the owner started to tell Ole that we had missed our time, but that we were lucky, as no one was scheduled so we would still be able to swim. I'm thinking.. huh? How did we miss our time? Let's go to the videotape (or in this case, the appointment book). What time had I chosen? 16:30... um, oops. Yep, I had chosen 4:30 pm, not 6:30 pm, and despite my brain's best attempt to warn me of my error, another part of my brain just couldn't see that pesky little "1" standing in front of the 6:30.

Exhibit B: And just the other day, while on the phone, we were discussing an upcoming event and whether or not we'd be attending. I had received an email with the details of the event and I had read said email earlier in the day. When Ole mentioned that it may start too early for us, I quickly replied that I thought we'd be fine as it didn't start until 7 or 7:30.

I went back later to sign us up only to discover that we will be late in arriving. I'm guessing by now, you can probably figure out why.



  1. OH dear... I know the feeling, but I like the 24 hour clock now I'm used to it. Telling time in Swedish is a different matter though: they say half past four when they actually mean half past three... All very confusing!

    Oscar is doing much better, thanks for asking. Stitches came out last week and now he is allowed out on the leash for 10 minutes at a time. In two weeks, he can go out for 15 mins on the leash and so on. He won't be allowed to run off leash or swim till about mid-May though. ;-(

  2. LOL
    You even had me confused for a moment while I was trying to figure out how you were figuring out the numbers.

  3. I know I's right up there with those dang deciliters! I hate it! :o)

  4. Can you buy that clock? I still get confused with the time too... 17, 18, and 19 are the hardest for me. Not sure why? :)

    I do think it's still novel to look at the clock in the wee hours of the morning and see that it is 00:05 o'clock.

    ...and Scotty is really confused that he goes to bed at 20:00, but I tell him it's 8:00. :)

  5. Surprisingly, I got used to the 24 hour clock pretty quickly. It may be the only thing I've 100% adapted to! Now, if only I could get used to the calendars running Monday-Sunday. I screw up days for appointments all the time. Durp!

  6. I never understood why Sunday is considered the first day of the week in some countires, but yet it's still part of the weekend. How can Sunday be part of the weekend if it's the first day of the week?

  7. I'm glad the dogs got to swim still :-)

    And to confuse things for you more, USA is "springing forward an hour" tonight. I agree time can be confusing... now I can't wait for Fall, so we can get an extra hour to sleep.

  8. Our TI in basic training drilled the 24 hour clock in our head, constantly asking us what time it was, what time we were going to chow, etc. It worked.

    But the Norwegians are a bit like the Swedes, I suppose. They say "halv fire" when the mean 3:30, and they interchange the 24 hour clock with AM/PM. It all gets a bit confusing. My favorite is "seks på halv to..." or 1:24. Why can't they just say it's 1:24?? Why???

  9. @Fi and Corinne - They do that 'half' thing with Danish as well - 1:30 is stated as half-two.

    @Spotted - The Monday-Sunday confuses me too, and don't even get me started on numbering the weeks!

    @P - You raise an excellent point but I think it's one of those things that you are just used to being one way or the other and when it is suddenly different, it's confusing!

    @Rachel - It would be nice if the world could get together and decide once and for all when to change the clocks, for those who wish to participate.

  10. @Tara - I don't know if you can buy it or not but I sure could use a watch like that!

  11. OMG I need that clock. I once left a Japanese friend standing at the airport because I though 7PM was 9PM!

  12. I had no trouble adapting to the 24-hour clock, since my Dad was in the military and so I was already used to 13:30 and things like that. I had trouble with the 1:30 is half-two business!!

  13. Hahahaha, yeah, this is one of those frustrating little quirks with living over here...and it's weird saying can you come over at 17 o'clock? hahaha...I end up saying 5 but get nervous someone will confuse it with 5AM....very frustrating...but it's also given me some good laughs over the years...hahaha...

  14. My husband is Australian and he schooled me on military time well before we started accepting overseas work assignments. But I still have to do the math in my head--and that is a bother. I also struggle with the kilo thing. Aaargh!


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