Judge John Hodgman on Mom’s Military Time

A family has trouble syncing into a schedule on the 24-hour clock.

An illustration of John Hodgman in judges robes, holding a gavel.
Credit...Illustration by Louise Zergaeng Pomeroy

Kelli writes: My mother is 72, still working as a nurse and essentially a saint. She uses the 24-hour clock, however, when texting her family (e.g., “Meet us at the Buffalo House at 17:30”). Judge, this makes my skull hurt. Please order her to use the 12-hour clock when texting with those of us who can’t do math.

I will definitely meet your mom at the Buffalo House at 17:30 because they both seem amazing, and we will have a great time without you. Look: I understand. I also can’t subtract. I used to be able to, but as my own dumb brain has begun to clock out, I’ll stare blankly at 9 minus 3 for a full 15 seconds before guessing 7 (hint: wrong), never mind 17 minus 12. But discomfort is good for our brain, ambiguity is bad for time and the 24-hour clock is used by most humans on earth. If they can figure it out, we can, too. I’ll save you some cheese curds.