Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Demetrification of Interstate 19

North Dakota Interstate 94
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The interstate highway that runs between Tucson and Nogales, Arizona (I-19), might not be one of the most scenic stretches of pavement in the country, but it definitely possesses a different “personality” thanks to the metric-based road signs and highway markers posted along this ribbon of asphalt. I always thought it was kind of cool that we had this "eccentric" little stretch of highway in America that was metric based—a little testimony/illustration of America's diversity where the literal rubber meets the road.

So, how did we get these metric-based road signs on I-19 in the first place? It was a little experiment the government carried out when we were seriously considering adopting the metric system—sometime in the early 70s. However, some 30 years later, the good politicians in Arizona have adopted that McDonald's homogeneous mentality and are planning on using $1.5 million of the state’s half-billion dollar stimulus package to replace the signs with our old-school mileage system.

God forbid the travellers of I-19 become a bit confused or mentally challenged all these years with those damn metric signs.

One colleague pointed out that while John McCain has been ranting and raving over the “pork” particulars that have been folded into the stimulus package, he hasn’t complained a word about the pork that’s in his own back pocket—replacing perfectly good kilometer-based road signs with mile-based road signs.

As I sit here and contemplate this menial travesty, perhaps the money would be better spent if it were applied to converting all the other road signs throughout the country into metric-based road signs. Yet, I suppose we’d rather snub our nose at the rest of the metric-based world because it might be a little too much for our educational system to teach another base-10 measurement system. I mean, let’s face it, there’s only a handful of countries in the world that are not using the metric system.

As long as we’re hell-bent against the rest of the world, I propose we get rid of our nickels and dimes and replace them with eighth and sixteenth coins instead. That’ll show’em!

We always talk about what a great country we are—our innovation, our ingenuity, our creativity, and so on. Yet, after all these years of consideration, we are either incapable or too stubborn to adopt something as simple as the metric system.

Go figure.


haiku curmudgeon said...

Yo Morgan, yes let us embrace the new money. That which is consistent with our measurement system. Let's see, we could spend thousands or centi-dollars ???? on reprograming all the cash registers that tell the clerks who work 'em use to calculate our change. Who would be out of luck figuring this complexity if it weren't for the built in calculators.

Anonymous said...

The rest of the world adopted the metric system while the majority of their people were illiterate, and most of the world is poor. Standard units were used to put a man on the moon, and were used for a disproportionately amount of technological development.

Standard units are superior to metrics because they are based on human proportions and abilities. Metrics are based on arbitrary nonsense.

A mile is the distance of 1000 paces. A length people can imagine, and measure without equipment. A kilometer is 1/10,000 the distance from the pole to the equator, absolutely meaningless to the human form and its abilities.

Hell yes change the damned highway to miles, and convert the rest of the world to standard units as well.

Better still, we should convert the highways to leagues instead of miles. I want my odometer to read in leagues, miles, and furlongs.

Decimal points suck if your doing the math in your head or are a visual thinker. Fractions are much better and more useful.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the rest of the world may be technically metric--but in much of it customary units still prevail in everyday use.

In Central America, barres (yards) are still often used. The Mexican feed sack is 100 pounds. You might buy a kilo of tortillas in Mexico, but in Belize you'll buy them by the pound. Mecates (25ft x 25ft) are also used in the bush.

And even in England people still order a pint of beer, rather than 350ml (or whatever). Yes, the customary system is simpler. Good-bye km signs, and good riddance!