I recently stumbled across an article about the Metric System. In particular, Americans' resistance to it. I've always found our collective national reluctance to adopt things metric to be a little bit. . . I dunno. . . odd. I mean, what does it matter, really, whether it's 3 miles to the next town, or 5 kilometers? Although I suppose it could get a little strange in places like suburban Detroit, where the main roads are named 15-Mile, 16-Mile, etc. Would they have to change them to 24-Kilometer, 25.6-Kilometer, etc? Would Eminem have to change the name of his movie to 12.8 Kilometer? And I suppose nobody wants to hear Mary Poppins sing about 5 milliliters of sugar. . .
I suppose it's mainly a matter of what you're comfortable with. We've all honed our sense of inches and feet since we were small, and we know what a pound is, or a gallon, and this metric stuff just seems weird, and not worth the effort. Plus, I think some of the 'metrification' initiatives from back in the 70s/80s were kind-of heavy-handed, and inspired resistance just by pushing too hard. But I also suspect that some of our national resistance to metric-ness is akin to why lots of us don't like soccer - it's something 'Foreigners' do, and dammit, we're Americans, and nobody is gonna make us do stuff like they do in the rest of the world, because, dammit, we're Americans, and we can do as we damn well please, and screw the rest of the world. Dammit.
Most people don't know it, but the metric system isn't just arbitrary; it's based on the dimensions of the earth itself - by definition, there are 10,000 kilometers along a standard meridian from the equator to the poles. Which, I dunno, seems more reasonable than counting barleycorns, or keeping track of the king's nose, or whatever. And liters are derived from meters (a liter is 1000 cubic centimers, if you were wondering). And a gram is the weight of a cubic centimeter of water. And so forth. I mean, heck, in Celsius (which are like 'metric degrees'), water freezes at 0 degrees, and boils at 100 degrees; does anybody even know what 32 and 212 are all about? I sure don't. . .
I've always smiled wryly at the notion that 'Americans don't do metric', anyway. You see, I work as an engineer in the automotive industry. From the day I walked off my college campus and into my first cubicle 30-odd years ago, I have never done my job with an inch, a pound, or a foot. All your cars, whether domestic or imported, are designed and developed by engineers thinking and measuring in millimeters, kilograms, liters and Celsius. Really. Unless, you know, you're driving some American iron from the 60s or earlier. In which case, the people from the Woodward Dream Cruise would like to hear from you. And us engineers know (and nobody else wants to hear) that metric units are a lot easier to use, calculationally speaking. It's true.
Truth to tell, you've already adopted more metric than you probably think you have. How natural does it feel to buy a 2-liter of pop (that's soda for you non-midwesterners)? Even so, a few years back, a local dairy in OurTown tried to sell milk in 4-liter jugs, 5% more milk, for the same price as a gallon. And people simply wouldn't buy the 4-liters; I'll be darned if I can figure out why. Alcoholic beverages are typically sold in 750 ml bottles (although you probably think of it as a fifth). Track and field (and swimming, for what it's worth) events haven't been run in yard or mile distances in decades; we're used to hearing about 5k and 10k runs, and we know that a 100-meter time below 10 seconds is faster than hell. Even the jumping (high jump, long jump, pole vault) and throwing (shot put, discus, javelin) records are 'officially' kept in metric distances, while being duly translated into feet and inches for American audiences (years ago, Javier Sotomayor, the Cuban high-jumper, asked that the bar be set at 2.44 meters because he knew the Americans would flip out over 8 feet). And I won't say anything at all about, say, grams of cocaine. . .
Heck, some metric stuff is just plain more fun. If you've ever driven in Canada, wasn't it fun to go 120 on the freeway (of course, if you're a typical Yank, and the sign says '120', you went 130, didn't you)? All you 210-pound folks would become 95-kilos, and doesn't that just sound better? I'm 5 feet, 11 inches tall, which is frustratingly just short of 6 feet; but in metric, I'm 180 centimeters, which is just more satisfying. And eight inches (actually 7-7/8) becomes 20 centimeters. For those of you to whom that matters. . .
Now, before anybody sets out to firebomb my house with a 2-liter Molotov cocktail, let me stress that I'm not proposing that anybody force anybody else to adopt metric. If and when it happens, it will happen because people adopt it naturally, and 'organically'. All I'm saying is that, in lots of ways, metric units are easier to use than the 'English' units we've grown up with, and there's really nothing to be afraid of. Just like 2-liters of pop, you get used to 'em, and it really doesn't take all that much effort to 're-calibrate'. But I'm not holding my breath. . .
And, on a completely different line of thought. . .
A week ago today was Jenn's-and-my 35th anniversary (and hey, at least there aren't separate 'metric' units of time, right?). I can scarcely express the depth of my gratitude to my Best Beloved; my life is incredibly richer for having her in it.
Thank you, Sweetheart, from the bottom of my heart. Further up and further in!