We both learned the metric system in school. I remember my science teachers telling us that sooner or later the American measurement system would be no more…so we’d better pay attention and learn this better, er superior, system of measurement. I’d dutifully go home and tell my parents how we needed to get prepared for metric. I’d repeat my teachers’ rants on how inefficient our American measurement system was using my own generated passion. They would mostly just listen, smile.
My dad would take the opportunity to jokingly lecture me on how if we changed to metric, our song lyrics would get messed up. He’d say, “How lyrical is kilometer in comparison to miles?” Then he’d tool through his mind’s filing cabinet, find a song in his head with the word miles in it, and start singing out a tune replacing miles with kilometers laughing hysterically to himself even if I was not completely humored at that moment.
I learned it. I know how it works. Yeah, yeah, base 10 and all that–so much more scientific, supposedly easier, more efficient, blah, blah, blah. I didn’t listen well enough; now, I’m suffering. It’s not that I don’t know that 0 degrees Celsius is the freezing point, and it’s not that I don’t think things like that are oh so practical. I just still can’t quite feel how far 20 kilometers is, or feel how hot 40 degrees Celsius is…or feel how heavy 50 kg is. So, what do I do instead? I translate it in my head…or use my handy-dandy converter on my cell phone. Still! I thought I’d catch on during this year in Kenya. Nearly everyone we work with speaks of measurements in metric. I wish I got it. I even spent time studying the conversions trying to make myself get it! I’m only at sorta get it and not at feel it, yet.
The US is the only industrialized nation in the world that still uses a measurement system other than the metric system for most of it’s measurements. Pretty much everyone else uses metric most of the time.
Here in Kenya everything is metric:
* I buy 500 g of beef mince (translation: about 1 lb of hamburger).
* I set the cooker to 175 C to bake a cake (translation: oven on 350 F).
* We travel 13 km from our home to our church (translation: about 8 miles).
I never realized how ingrained the American measurement system was — in my psyche! My teachers didn’t do enough to keep me from being emotionally attached. I’ll get it, maybe even feel it… eventually. But, I agree with my dad–metric isn’t very lyrical.
From I’m Gonna Be by the Proclaimers
Translated into metric for your singing pleasure…
But I would walk 804.67 kilometers
And I would walk 804.67 more
Just to be the man who walked 1609.344 kilometers
To fall down at your door