I grew up in the U.S.; I’ve spent my whole life here. I know how long a foot is, how much a pound weighs. If you tell me that you ran a mile in X amount of minutes, that makes sense to me. But then there are these OTHER people out there in the world, CRAZY people, who mention it being a hot 36° outside, and I don’t know what the heck is going on. A fella tells me he’s 1.8m tall or that he weighs 83kg, and I can’t fathom what the heck this guy looks like.
Welcome to my troubles with the metric system.
Now, academically, I understand the metric system and how it works. If I wish to use it to tell temperature, it’s very convenient to know that 0°C is about the point at which water freezes and 100°C is about when it boils (variables not accounted for). Those polar numbers are easy enough to consider, and converting levels of measurement within this system is even easier, but when I’m then told that something is 23°C, I have no bearing on how hot/cold that is in actuality. I can’t fathom it, I tells ya! Tell me it’s 53°F outside, though, and I know exactly what I should be wearing and how it’ll feel.
It’s not that the metric system is overcomplicated or difficult to calculate, in fact it’s quite the opposite, but I’m just not used to using it in my daily life. A little while ago I was writing a story in which I elected for a character use the metric system, and I had to use an online conversion program to get the numbers right for what I intended. The imperial system we traditionally use in America is certainly funky, a hodge-podge of influences from the long period of England’s development, but by golly… it’s what I know.
I have a decent handle on centimeters because of their inclusion on the rulers I’ve been using since childhood, and I can kinda figure out a rough estimation of kilometers by remembering that a 5k race is about 3 miles (3.1, for your information), but that’s about it. Oh, and I guess I know about millimeters because of the lead for my mechanical pencils, too. Yeah… impressive. Those three bits of random knowledge aren’t really going to get me very far in a metric world, though.
Of course, I don’t really have to worry about it, as I doubt the stubborn citizens of the U.S. will be up for adopting the metric system as a day-to-day scale anytime soon, but it’s still a real inconvenience to be so befuddled anytime someone from nearly ANYWHERE ELSE in the world tries to communicate a measurement to me in what might as well be Sanskrit. “Oh, you lost 5kg and you walk 2k every day, but only when it’s between 18°C-31°C outside? Well, let me just get out my freakin’ conversion chart to understand what the heck that all means!”
In all sincerity, the majority of benefits fall on the side of using the metric system, but it’ll be a tough thing for the general public in this country to up and go along with — myself included. Our kids, though, Marty… somethings gotta be done about our kids! Perhaps our children can grow up in a world that uses a unified measuring system, simply because they were exposed to the majority-choice from a young age and can therefore easily adopt it. Perhaps.
For the rest of us lost souls, however, there is no hope. For the stubborn “patriots,” here is a bit of info on the value of the imperial system, and for those of us who are willing but simply unaccustomed, here is a handy chart I lifted from a similar post about the troubles of the imperial vs. metric system issue on LiveWorkTravelUSA.com.