A gift from Nova Scotia

 Sir Sandford Fleming introduced Standard Time in his role as a railroad surveyor who lived for part of his life in Nova Scotia.  Today is the anniversary of some part of this story, but the guy had lots of rows to hoe to get from trying to solve train arrival scheduling to a system that segments the globe into 24 districts across which moments can be compared and shared.

There’s a park, with a tower to his honour, on the Arm but he’s buried in Ottawa. 

Trains certainly require coordination in real time, given their reliance on shared tracks.  Vehicle traffic on streets, and pedestrians who share the streets, are less aware of the need for equally careful coordination.  In the past three days, there have been three pedestrian/vehicle accidents within 4 blocks of my house (each in a different direction).  Yesterday, a woman was killed while crossing the street a few more blocks away.  Reports of that event suggesat that both pedestrian and driver were simply not paying as much attention as they should.

Which may be the true core of Sir Fleming’s invention: he was calling attention to our need to pay attention.  Details of timing count.  Kant, whose own walks mythically adhered to punctuality by the city’s clock, might be an intersting interlocutor for Fleming, but I’m betting he would have appreciated the need to improve upon attention and care about time’s details. 

Today, many drivers seem to share that disposition.  Even more than usual (and it happens a lot here), cars are halting far back wherever I plan to cros the street, no sign of impatience as I take my (careful) turn.


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