True confessions: when we first heard “Coming into Los Angeles” by Arlo Guthrie we thought he was talking about real keys. Like for his garage or gym locker. This was in 1969, so we probably heard it in utero which means either “at an early age” or “while drunk”, our Latin’s a little rusty, but the reason we thought this is because we had never heard of the metric system. Since then we have learned that lack of familiarity with the metric system has placed Americans at a distinct disadvantage in many facets of commerce, not only the illegal drug trade but also in the area of filling your tank in Canada.where you have to simultaneously convert US greenbacks into Canadian “Loonies” and US gallons into their metric equivalent, the cubic kilojoule.
This all came into focus when we heard an announcement by a guy named Lincoln Chafee that he was running for president. Now most candidates like to tell you how they’re going to improve the economy and create jobs while simultaneously thwarting the menaces of communism, racism, sexism and ISIS, not to mention the heartbreak of psoriasis, but Chafee spent most of his speech talking about how we should convert to the metric system. At first we chalked it up to the fact that, being from Rhode Island, he was tired of hearing his state described as “pint-sized” and figured nobody would go to the trouble of calling it “0.473176 liter-sized.” Currently an unemployed Democrat, he’s a former governor, senator, Republican and Independent. So he’s likely to change his mind at any time, but before he does, we should take a closer look at this proposal.
As he pointed out, it’s only us, Myanmar (national anthem – Myanmar Shadow) and Liberia (national anthem – Liberia Knockin’ But You Can’t Come In) using the old inches, feet and yards, not to mention pints, quarts & gallons. Everybody else is totally metric. You’d think Israel would at least retain the cubit, which was good enough for Noah to build the ark, but no, they’re going to have the poor guy drowning while he asks the Almighty if 48 centimeters is close enough. Also, you can still get a pint in an Irish pub, but nobody expects the Irish to follow the rules.
If Chafee has his way, the impact on sports will be dramatic. A meter is roughly 10% longer than a yard so the offense will have to go 2.8 feet farther to get a first down. Looks like the shortest yard may become the longest yard. And the meatheads in the booth will now have to tell you that “football is a game of centimeters.” Also, when Pedro Alvarez blasts one over the wall in dead center field, it’s only going a measly 124 meters.
The major problem though is musical. Can we stand to have Foreigner wailing “I’m hot blooded, check it and see, I got a fever of 39.4 C”? And if we throw out bushels and pecks, we’ll have to sit through “Guys & Dolls” listening to “I love you, 44.05 cubic centimeters.” How about ‘Moon river, wider than 1.6 kilometers”? We just hope the authorities won’t force jazz lovers to ask for Kilometers Davis. Unlikely, sure, but if you give ‘em an inch, they’ll take a meter.
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