Long, long ago, when large reptiles ruled the Earth and the nightlife was dull, dull, dull, the U.S. flirted with the Metric System.
The elementary schools were abuzz with it. No more inches or feet. No more how-many-pints-to-a-quart or how many fluid hectares to a tablespoon. No. We would join the rest of the civilized world in the supremely civil world of the Metric System, where life would be measured by 10s and 100s and all kinds of other numbers ending in zero. We would, at last, have a common language.
And so, at the insistence of my parents and an un-wielding school system, I attended school – in Brainerd, Minnesota, yet! Home of Bus Brawls and Dirt-Road Trailer Courts – and endeavored to learn the Metric System.
And I did. I learned the Metric System (seems like that should be capitalized, doesn’t it? Like Brotherhood of Man or Emergency Exit). I believe I did quite well at it, too, capably computing how many pounds to a kilogram (2.2 and a smidge more) and how many centimeters to a meter (seven). I may be a little off there – it’s been a while since the fourth grade! – but no matter, as it's all come to naught anyway…
Whatever happened to our Metric System?
Here we are, how many years later, and the U.S. is no closer to the Metric System than we ever were. Outside of telling you how much Diet Coke is in a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke (two liters), I no longer even know what a centimeter looks like or whether or not it has more legs than a millimeter… Speaking of which, I had one of those in my basement the other day. Ack! Not a fan of insects.
You know, if we’d just kept at it, we’d all be used to it by now and we wouldn’t look like maroons when people from other countries say things like “Oh, it’s about 75 kilometers from here” or “He’s over two meters tall”. We’re thinking, so how far away is that in real life? And isn’t two meters really short? I defy you to find a typical U.S. citizen who has a concept of either of those measurements.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
And in the meantime, I’ll take a pint, please.