The Lite Side

Florida Community Votes to Go Metric

- 2004.12.23

You know all that stuff at the bottom of the page that says "all rights reserved?" Well, I've always wanted to write one of those fake news items that gets spread around the Internet, like that one where the little kid asks for postcards to win a world record or the one where Bill Gates promises to pay you $1,000 for emailing him back to test his mail server or something.

For this article, I have a modest request. Copy everything below the line, send it to a friend. It's hereby released under the GPLu license (General Public Lunacy) with the only requirement being you don't send this paragraph. (If you don't get the joke, just read my last few columns.)

With no further ado, then, I present the Lite Side's

Florida Community Votes to Go Metric

SARASOTA (FL) AP- In a move sure to rankle the retirement-age members of this Gold Coast community, the Sarasota city council and the Sarasota School Board have jointly agreed to convert all public displays of measurements to the metric system.

Despite a failed attempt to convert to the metric system in the 1970s under the Carter administration, most Americans today do not have any interest in converting over to an unfamiliar system. The International System of measurement (SI) was first developed in France in the 1700s during the French Revolution, in part as a way of disconnecting society from anything to do with the old royal system of government.

In a contentious city council meeting, the council eventually decided to restrict all city purchases to materiel which is marked primarily in the metric form of measurement. This would mean that while 2-liter soda bottles could be purchased within the city, 20-ounce bottles would not be allowed because they were not designed to be marketed as metric.

"I've used feet and inches all my life, and no harebrained city council is going to make me change my ways," said Jeb Hartels, a longtime Sarasota resident. "It's un-American is what it is. Besides which, metrics was invented in France, and we all know they support terrorism."

City employees were directed to remove English system tools from their toolboxes. This caused some maintenance workers to threaten to strike, as many of them use tools that they purchased with their own money.

"If they think I'm going to try to force-fit a 20mm nut driver on a 1-inch bolt, they're full of, well, something you can't print in your paper," said Norm Rankles, a member of Machinists' Union 423, which contracts with the district for plumbing services. "The union will not sit still for this."

Nevertheless, an impassioned speech by a local newspaper writer, Richard Brooks, convinced the council, and especially the mayor, to go along with the proposal.

"Look, 97% of the world's population uses the metric system," said Mayor Frank Braun. "It's a no-brainer."

When asked what city workers would do if they couldn't afford new tools, Brooks replied glibly, "They should have thought of that before they picked a nonstandard tool standard."

Brooks himself admits he's never used the English system, having been raised by pro-metric parents and forbidden to try anything else due to their fanatical upbringing.

"We weren't allowed to measure our weight in pounds," he said. "We had to use kilos, which, being from Florida, is a word you hear every day on the street anyway. So it wasn't hard," he added in an interview following the meeting.

Brooks writes for the Sarasota Intelligencer. He plans to pen a missive on the entire subject, which he calls a "Brouhaha inspired by obsessive workers who are holding the rest of us back." His next column will detail all of the changes required by the new ordinance and will run under the title "English fanatics miss the point: No brains required to understand no-brainer."

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