January 26, 2018 — My son asked if I’d help him study. Parental Law 457: Children will only ask for help with school when the distance between preparing for an exam and taking the exam can be expressed in minutes. This is known as the “Oh Crap I Spent Too Much Time Playing ‘Call of Duty’” Unit of Time Measurement.
It’s also a widely-known fact that a child only asks for help when a parent is engaged in a minimum of three activities which may, or may not include cooking a dish that needs constant attention, watching a ball game or performing brain surgery.
“Sure,” I said, stirring a white sauce. Of course I was. If I stopped stirring it would get lumps.
He handed me a study sheet. The metric system. The METRIC system? Are schools still experimenting with this witchcraft?
I remember the day Mom collected my supplies for the year in elementary school when the metric system first came up. When her finger stopped on “ruler,” she lost her mind. Our new rulers needed to include metric measurements, so she had to drive to a different town to find it.
“One day soon, America’s going to switch to the metric system,” the teacher told our fresh little faces the first day of class. “So pay attention. This is important.”
OK, Miss Teacher Person. Go ahead with your hippy talk and I’ll just ignore Europe like our founding fathers intended, thank you.
That was more than 40 years ago and I’ve never intentionally used the metric system because I’m not a pharmacist or a track coach.
The metric system began in 1670 when vicar Gabriel Mouton of St. Paul’s Church in Lyons, France, decided standard units of measurement weren’t standard enough.
To be fair, standard in 1670 wasn’t really standard. Measuring was usually based on arbitrary things, like the length of a human body part.
The palm was a measurement based on, you guessed it, the width of a person’s palm. A foot was the length of a foot, a hairbreadth the width of a human hair and a cubit the length of a man’s forearm from the tip of his middle finger to the bottom of his elbow.
The problem with this system of measurement is obvious. There’s no unit called a wang.
No, that’s not what I meant.
The obvious problem is everyone’s body parts are different sizes so no unit of measurement was standard. That clears up a lot of things. Except the unit “butt,” which is 108 British imperial gallons of ale. Makes me wonder whose butt was so big it inspired the name of 108 gallons of alcohol?
Mouton proposed a measurement system based on units of 10. That would be simple if it didn’t go against everything America stands for, which is to not listen to the French.
The United States is one of three countries on the planet – including Burma and Liberia – that hasn’t adopted the International System of Units. We measure in inches and feet, pints and gallons and feel our temperature in Fahrenheit, gosh darn it.
Good for us.
Sure, Boy, I’ll help you study for your metrics quiz, but I’m not going to buy you a new ruler.
Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for the Apocalypse,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.