METRIC SCHMETRIC 06/12/2008
 

An illustration of how much sense the metric system makes to me.


i was always scared of the metric system.

back when i was in elementary and middle school, teachers spent a chapter or portion of the school year teaching me and my fellow students about... THE METRIC SYSTEM.  i remember being totally bewildered by the new calculations and units i was supposed to learn, but worse than that, i remember being told that the United States was soon going to adopt the metric system as its standard (as Europe had already done), and i was scared shitless -- because while i was a darn good student, i never understood the Metric System.

well, it turned out that America DIDN'T convert to the metric system as previously warned -- the distance of my work commute was to be measured in miles for many years (not in kilometers), and the smoked turkey i bought at the local deli was to be measured in pounds all my life (not in kilograms).  and i was glad.  when you fail a chapter of study that teachers swear you need to know, you hope like crazy that they're wrong -- that you'll never actually need to know it in real life.

well, they weren't wrong.  not exactly.  you see, as most of you are aware, i have moved to England.  and guess what:  they follow the f-ing metric system here.  in fact, i looked it up and it happens to be that as of 2007, only three countries in the WORLD (the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar/Burma) had not mandated the metric system upon their populations.  i bet that surprises a few of the Americans out there, eh?  i know it surprised me...

being 5 feet and three inches tall means nothing to people here.  my height, if taken, would be in centimeters, and i have no idea how many centimeters tall i am.  if i were buying gas (or "petrol") for a car, i would not be buying it per gallon -- i'd be buying it by the liter.  in fact, it's not even LEGAL to buy and sell goods by the pound, gallon or ounce here -- and we can thank the European Union for THAT little gem.

when i pull out an American family recipe that calls for "one pound" of ground beef, i now have to remember that that actually means i need .454 kilograms of meat.  if i need a 12-ounce can of kidney beans for chili, i have to know that i actually need 340.2 grams of beans.  if the store is a mile from my flat, it's actually 1.61 kilometers away.

and frankly, that's a giant pain in my ass.

metric conversions are all well and good if i'm sitting at home at my Mac, where all i have to do is press the F12 key to get a metric system converter, but when i'm out in the field (AKA the grocery store) i'm pretty much fucked.

it was wisely suggested to me before i left the States that i not think about metric units as some fraction of the American units and just start learning the metric units.  i know this was sound advice, but it doesn't help me much in these early months of trying to buy groceries and housewares.

what's my point?  i don't really have one.  but if somewhere out there one of my childhood teachers is reading this, they can rest assured that they did not lie when they said i was going to NEED to know the metric system one day. 

they were right.

and also?  today we had a high of 63 degrees Fahrenheit in London.  except in London it's not "63 degrees Fahrenheit" -- it's 17.222 degrees Celsius. 

but don't even get me started on THAT.