TUESDAY: Papa Knows Best


Copyright is held by the author.

Canada’s Sir Sandford Fleming … apparently became an advocate of time zones after spending an uncomfortable night in a railway station because of time confusion.  [He] instigated the initial efforts that led to the adoption of the time zones used by the railways in 1883 and the global time zones we use today. — The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Invention of Standard Time”


AFTER OUR splendid roast beef dinner, Papa and my beau Isaac retired to the library for brandy. Papa wanted to discuss the peculiar conference Isaac had attended. Commerce — engineering — Papa deems such topics too harsh “for the ladies’ ears.” Silly Papa! If only he knew how I burn to understand the big wide world.

I concealed myself between the drapes and a bookshelf. I could not see the men nor they me — but I could hear everything. And oh, the stink of those beastly cigars!

“The conference had to do with — time. We agreed something has to be done about time,” said Isaac, enunciating the word “time” like a visiting dignitary’s name.

“Time!” Papa’s voice was loud with surprise.

“Well, time differences between cities . . .” Isaac trailed off, puffing his cigar. “For example, your mantel clock is one hour 15 minutes off from my uncle’s clock in Halifax. And it’s 30 minutes off from clocks in Kingston.”

My city needs only to deal with local time,” said Papa. “Why should I give two hoots about your uncle in Halifax?”

“Eventually all cities will be connected by railroads,” Isaac said. “Tis the way of the future. They want to make schedules for railroads. But each city has its unique local time.”

I ought to have warned Isaac: Papa has massive contempt for Canada’s new “railroad mania.”

“Say you take a five-hour ride by wagon. You load the wagon, the horses trot for five hours, and then, boom, there you are,” said Papa. “Who cares what time it was in the city where you started? When you arrive, you can read the local time straight off a sun-dial. Or read it the modern way — straight from the town hall clock tower.”

“But the railroads—,” Isaac began.

“The railroads! Don’t let an iron horse dictate the time,” scoffed Papa.

Isaac persisted. “It would be easier for the traveller to have predictable changes in the clock-time as he journeys from one end of the country to the other. ‘Time Zones,’ this man Fleming proposes to call them.”

“Pah! ‘From one end to the other’ — you talk as if this traveller plans to hop on a carriage in Halifax and ride it all the way across this enormous land! To dismount at some trading post on the edge of the Pacific Ocean!” said Papa with growing amusement.

My dear Isaac stayed calm. “Yes, sir. I do believe that travel across the continent will happen within our lifetime.”

Papa laughed. “I dare you to show me the carriage that can do that! Or maybe you claim your magical road-rail will do that!”

Isaac said, “In fact, there is talk of a railroad that will link one side of the continent to the other.”

“Ha-ha. There is also talk of angels dancing on the head of a pin,” said Papa.

“It may seem farfetched,” Isaac conceded.

“What’s next,” asked Papa. “Votes for women?”

At this, they both roared.

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