Pet Peeve #51: The Non-Metric System

I was driving through the park today when I saw something really strange. A middle-aged male jogger was running with a tire (like, from a car) tied to a string that was attached to a harness around his torso. “Running” might not be the right word. He was kind of just stumbling along with a tire attached to him.

My first thought was: I bet this guy loves talking about how he jogs with his tire–he probably brings it up in conversation all the time. “So, I was jogging in Forest Park with my tire today…” (pause to see if the person asks about the tire) “Yeah, I run with a tire attached to my back. I fill it with quinoa and kale so I have something to eat after my run.”

My second thought was: I wish I had run sprints with a tire attached to me when I was young so that by the time I was in high school, I could have been a better sprinter.

These are the countries that don't use the metric system. Seriously.
These are the countries that don’t use the metric system. Seriously.

What does all this have to do with the metric system? Well, this train of thought got me thinking about things I wish I could have had ingrained into me as a kid so that they would be natural and instinctive now that I’m an adult. Near the top of that list is the metric system.

It makes NO sense that the US is on our non-metric system. Do we even have a name for it or did we completely make it it up like the turducken? The rest of the world is on a system that makes perfect sense, and we’re stuck on this nonsensical, archaic system of miles, pounds, and gallons.

The worst part of it is that it’s a vicious cycle. We were taught this system as kids, and our kids will be taught the same thing, and so on. There will never be a real incentive for us to switch over to metric system. Unless…

…what if our generation took one for the team? What if we sucked it up, paid the taxes required for all the road signs to change to kilometers, and learned the metric system despite our better judgment? What if our generation suffered so that all future generations could use denominations of 10 for everything?

Who’s with me?!

3 thoughts on “Pet Peeve #51: The Non-Metric System”

  1. Funny, turduckens came up at lunch today….

    I think metric is over-rated. It really is no less arbitrary a system of measurement; a kilometer is 1,000 meters, and a meter is 100 centimeters, etc. How is a round number any better than 5,280 feet of 12 inches each in a mile? Sure it’s less memory but the neatness of metric doesn’t always help with interpretation. A meter is longer than my stride, a centimeter too small to do anything with, but I know my gait is between 2 and 3 feet.

    Take temperature – 40 degrees C is blisteringly hot, 0 is where water freezes at sea level under normal pressure, but it’s still tolerable. That’s a puny range compared with Farenheit (104 to 32). Example, I find 68 F to be comfy and 78 F stuffy, but Celsius limits me to comfort at 20 and feeling a bit warm at 25 – I sound like a high-maintenance wuss!

    My biggest peeve about metric is in drink. A 4 oz glass of wine is decent. A 118 ml. glass of wine either sounds like too much (“I shoulda stopped at 104 mils!”) or too little (“118 DROPS of wine?”). Also, think of baking. If you want to add 1/2 cup of amaranth, you use a scoop, but if you have to add 300 mg. amaranth you need to pull out a scale like that waiter I used to work with who didn’t care about tips because he sold pot out of the restaurant bathroom on his little portable scale.

    Besides, if metric is so great, why doesn’t anyone talk about metric units of time? After decapitating the aristocracy, the French decided to get REALLY crazy and tried a 10-day week, 3 of which made a month, 10 of which made a year, and oh yeah you needed like a leap TRIMESTER to make it all work out. And let’s not forget about the 30-hour metric day (inconvenient 48-minute hours).

    • I didn’t know about that 10-day week! That’s crazy. Especially with the leap trimester. That seems to go against the laws of nature.

  2. G’day,
    I live in that small part of the map shaded grey.
    Metric is awesome – the few times I’ve visited the US, it was seriously disconcerting trying to figure out how far things were or how much they weighed.

    For measuring distances and weight, metric makes waaaay more sense.

    In response to JT – the a kilometre (yeah, we’ve got weird spelling in Australia) is 1,000 metres, and a metre is 1,000 millimetres. The centimetre is a handy mid-point, but any engineering or scientific measurements are done in millimetres. Also, time doesn’t make sense in metric because our perception of time is very much determined by the sun and moon, which don’t fit into a neat multiple of 10, so we don’t use metric there.

    As for baking and the like, we all just use metric scoops/spoons to measure things out, it works just fine (and we weigh things just like you’d need to if you didn’t have a nicely contrived sample value – what if you need 9/16ths of a cup?) 😉


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