The Metric system before I die, please?

When I was working in the Middle East and would walk outside on my way to work, I would see a big thermometer hanging on our perimeter wall. When it read 35 deg at 7:30 AM, I knew that we would be pushing 50 at close of business – man, it was already hot, and it was going to be HOT-HOT-HOT! I had that figured out in, like, one day. No sweat (being funny). 100KM was an hour’s drive down the highway – that’s easy to figure… One liter of water weighs 1 Kg, and I weigh 100 Kg – that’s easy too… My little finger is 1 CM thick. Yes, I like this metric system! I’m “metric”…

Upon my return to the US, my employer Rockwell International was just then officially adopting the Metric system in its manufacturing operations. To my chagrin, the first Metric manufacturing drawings I ever saw absurdly showed what used to be 0.75 inch +/- 0.02 inch to now be be 19.050 mm +/- 0.5 mm – well, rules of precision didn’t quite translate across like they should, I guess, but more to the point, I wondered why that dimension wasn’t 20.0 mm +/- 0.5 mm – that would really have been metric. At that point in time almost 25 years ago, adoption of the Metric system in the US was really just a charade – an appeasement mostly by Government contractors that lacked any meaningful commitment. Today in manufacturing, that corner has been fully turned though,and it happened gradually over 25 years – probably because the US stopped manufacturing a lot of things, and Asian manufacturers produced Metric designs and products…

Societally, though, I am afraid that we have taken a few steps away from the Metric system in that time – “rats” I say. Ask the nurse at your doctor’s office what is your normal temperature in deg c, and they may wonder where you come from – They probably have no idea how to answer (the answer is 37.0 deg C, and 40 deg C is “burnin’ up). Banks get phone calls from well meaning folk to say that their thermometer on their sign is wrong when it rolls over to deg C. In the grocery store, a lady asked me once how many 2-liter Pepsi’s were in a quart (I wondered why not how many in a gallon), but why would you want to know? And if I had answered 1.9 2-liter bottles in a gallon,, would she even have comprehended?

Maybe if we try very hard to educate and excite school aged children about the metric system, we will adopt it before I die!


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