The adventures, thoughts, and general scrawlings of a classical pianist

On the Metric System

Being in Europe makes me feel like the US uses a completely inferior measurement system. Ever since I got on the plane things have been in kilometers and meters. My carry-on was “under eight kilograms,” however much that is. I asked one information desk lady where to exchange my currency and the directions she gave me included “fifteen meters.” I confess I’m bad enough at judging things like “fifty feet” or “twenty yards” or “ten pounds” but when you completely switch the measurement system out on me I’m just totally lost.
Something tells me that this is America’s fault. We’re on a totally wacky system of inches and feet and miles where everything converts arbitrarily but the metric system is so elegant. Centimeters, meters, kilometers, everything is just a multiple of ten. Too bad I just can’t get it.
Another thing which makes me feel like Europe is out to get me is the way that time is notated on the 24-hour scale, or military time as we Americans like to call it. Now before you think I’m totally dumb, I do know how it works and in fact I use 24-hour time on Facebook so I’m at least somewhat familiar with it.
The thing is, though, I don’t think in terms of twenty-four hours. I can figure out that “18:48” is “6:48 PM” just fine but when everyone’s throwing around numbers bigger than twelve and instantly knowing what part of the day that is, it just confuses me. “7:30 PM” to me means the sun is going down, or that people are eating dinner around that time. “19:30” means nothing to me.
It also, in my mind, raises the possibility that I’ll somehow miscalculate the time and get things totally messed up. It’s like the European system is just lying in wait for me, just counting down the differently-notated hours until I’m bound to mess up and show up to something at completely the wrong time.

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