On April 1,1975, the country of Canada converted all temperature readings from Fahrenheit to Celsius cold turkey. Cold turkey was now sitting in your refrigerator at 12 degrees celcius not 53.6 degrees fahrenheit. The confusion of conversion was catastrophic for years, as Canadians would wear fur coats to the beach and Speedos to the ski slopes, because the math was just too difficult to do. The world demanded that all countries convert to the metric system, because powerful, dangerous drug cartels insisted in selling their products by the kilo.
The theory for thermometer conversion almost seemed practical. Zero degrees Celsius was the freezing point of water. 100 degrees Celsius is the boiling point of water. This entire system is based on the world’s most precious, universal resource… water. As the captain of the Titanic said, “If you base your world on the reliability of water, things are going to leak.”
The problem with my generation was more disastrous than the generations that would follow. In the mid-seventies all of my classmates were finishing their high school degrees. We had excelled in the many mandatory courses like mathematics and science, to prove to our parents that we were smart. The day after we all graduated every measure we had ever had to memorize disappeared. Teachers were now hitting their students with meter sticks not yard sticks. Yes yards became meters, ounces became grams and gallons became liters. Because we were Canadians, another conversion occurred in spelling as meters became metres and liters became litres. In the future this double conversion would piss off all known versions of spell check putting Canadian typists in cranky moods.
There were some brief moments of fun during the very early days of conversion. Road signs encouraged all to drive at 100, so local highways resembled the Autobahn as new, unconverted drivers set speed records for their commute to work. As time went on more confusion occurred, as the government got very sticky with their interpretation of the rules. Movies like “The Green Mile” were renamed “The Green Kilometre” and “Footloose” was retitled “MetreLoose”. That movie could still star Kevin Bacon, as long as Canadian grocers sold that bacon by the kilogram. When Canadians gathered around the campfire to drink and sing, we needed much more alcohol, when they guy with the acoustic guitar broke into the crowd favourite “I would walk 1,000 Kilometers”
Mother’s recipes passed down from precious generations were being destroyed as mom incorrectly added a kilogram of salt thinking that meant a pinch. Lines formed at the local gas stations as people with calculators were trying to solve the gallon\litre riddle, even though they were filling up their tank every time.
This conversion strategy also had negative effects on the national economy as male Canadian porn stars became unemployable in the U.S. when their resume bragged about the many centimeters of their appendages.
An interesting exception to mandatory conversion in our country occurred on our local golf courses. Yards and inches continued to be the standard measure for your leisurely six hour round of golf. The reason for this abertion of non compliance for old measures is clear to me. When you offer your opponent a gimmee for a 2 foot putt, the foursome quickly moves to the next tee. If you were considering giving a 60.96 centimeter putt, by the time you figure out the distance conversion, the foursome behind you has already hit into you. To avoid bruising and concussions, the golf industry just let this one slide.
The 1970s and 1980s were tumultuous decades, in spite of the catchy tunes REO Speedwagon continually released. This handshake agreement of world conversion to the metric system hit a bit of a bump in the road. The United States of America simply refused to comply. This was not the first time the world’s most powerful country had balked at conversion. In a June 14, 2016 article from Popular Science, researcher Daniel Engher addressed the history of metric conversion in the U.S.A.:
“Thomas Jefferson first tried to move the nation toward a decimal-based system in 1789. But without support from scientists, his idea flopped. More than a century later, in 1906, “good old Canadian ” (I added that line to ensure I celebrated Canadian content in this American publication) telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell told Congress that “few people have any adequate conception of the amount of unnecessary labor involved in the use of our present weights and measures.”
Strong words, but still no change.
Things looked promising in 1968, when Congress authorized a three-year study that eventually recommended converting to metric and laid out a 10-year plan to get there. But they did not make the switch mandatory. Instead, business owners and people who opposed big government and globalization—and who saw conversion as ceding control—won the battle for hearts and minds. A Gallup poll at the time showed that 45 percent of Americans opposed the switch.
The benefits of switching are negligible, but the costs are huge.
Today, the problem with metric is the same as it’s always been: The benefits of switching are negligible, but the costs are huge. Manufacturers would have to convert values on packaging. Everyday people would have to replace their tape measures, switch to metric wrenches, waste time figuring out what it means to say its 20 degrees Celsius outside.
Even metric fans see the hassle. “Like all educated people, I just assumed it made perfect sense to go metric,” says Donald Hillger, president of the U.S. Metric Association, which was founded a century ago to promote conversion. “Now I look at it and think: ‘Exactly what am I personally going to get from this? I’m going to get annoyed.’”
Still, metric creep was occurring in the country just south of us as they bought soda by liters, machine car parts in millimeters, and their medicine in milligrams.
“It’s going to happen,” Hillger says, “but at the rate we’re going, it will take a while.”
The Leadership in the USA refused to accept the Litreship model imposed upon them, by the rest of the world. Since clocks did not go metric, why should other measurements change? Noon in Canada is still noon in the USA, unless you are in Chicago where you get an extra hour of sleep.
There were significant benefits to Canadians with the Americans inflexible stance against the metric system. Every trip to the USA was a trip down memory lane. There was something beautifully nostalgic when we purchased a pound of butter, a gallon of gas or an ounce of heroin on our weekend getaways. This feeling was not reciprocated when Americans visited Canada for a weekend getaway. Internet sites crashed as these foreigners downloaded metric conversion tables, while sitting at their dining tables at fine restaurants, to ensure they were getting ripped off for a nice litre of red wine.
As always my funadamental goal in these writings is to help others. I will provide a link to my fellow Americans to help with their frustration in our restaurants. The metric tipping conversion chart is still being addressed, as 15% to 20% gratuities still doesn’t convert well in the metric system, because of the unstable fluctuating currency rates in our countries.
With the current open, enlightened Leadership in America, the world feels encouraged metric conversion is moments away. A simple signed executive order or a presidential pardon could immediately convert the one outlier for universal measurement. I will end this with a non-metric warning. “Give a man an inch, and he thinks he’s a ruler!”
Cue the Blong: Once again my composition is another example of my pure benevolence to others. My final metric joke is I would rather have my foot in my mouth, than my metre in my mouth. Jaw dislocation is not as funny as it sounds. To those still struggling with conversion I present “I Can’t Keep Up”