In the previously blog-mentioned movie of “Smokey and the Bandit” there’s a scene where Frog (Sally Fields) looks at the dashboard of the 1977 Trans Am and in a surprised voice asks, “Are we really going 110? We’re going 110!”
The camera shows the speedometer and the needle is on 110, but it’s 110km/h.
Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s just shy of 70 mph. Not really that fast but maybe when compared to the then national speed limit of 55 MPH and on a two-lane back road somewhere between Texarkana, Texas and Atlanta, GA.; it seems fast.
Still, if you weren’t paying as close attention or able to watch the movie over and over (a feat not normally possible in 1977), you would assume she meant 110 MPH. Despite efforts to the contrary, the metric system didn’t exist to anyone stateside back then. Or even now.
Sometime around 1976, or in my fourth grade, I remember doing conversion worksheets in school. We were taught that the US had to get in line with the rest of the world if we were to stay relevant and competitive. Not too far in the future, pounds, gallons, and miles would be but a faint memory. I recall the worry and perceived immediacy of this new-fangled measuring system. We needed to learn it now!
That was the last instruction and work sheets I would ever receive.
Road signs for a short time listed both kilometers and miles, and the speedometers in the cars were required to list both as well. I don’t recall anyone resisting but it never took. There didn’t exist a real daily reason to change. People had bigger worries and eventually all effort to get people to switch went away.
I know that it might sound sick, misguided, or even ridiculous; but I’m kind of proud that we rejected it as a country. It’s OK to be different, to do it our own way. We Americans are funny that way.
The metric system is superior and easier to use. I admit it. But for whatever reason the 16 ounces to the pound, the 128 ounces to the gallon, and the 5280 feet per mile systems work for us.
Just like declaring that trucking Coors beer east of Texas is bootlegging.