The Little World – Metric Conversion Vs The Rest Of Us

The whole world rags on the USA because they still persist with imperial measurements. But let’s face it – if they changed tomorrow the whole world would be just as critical. It is more politics and smarminess than measurement.

Here in Australia we succumbed to decimal currency in the 1960’s and metric measurement some time later. It made jobs for some and trouble for others, but in the end worked out reasonably well. Most people can now think in terms of millimetres, metres, and kilometres. Also millilitres and cubic centimetres. If we avoid all the weird stuff to do with land measurement or subatomic particles we can live a reasonably quiet life.

Soooo…armed with my trusty tape measure, Fujifilm X100, and clipboard, I went out one midday to measure up roadside structures for my 1:18 model dioramas. No one bothered me – no awkward questions were asked. I guess no-one was concerned whether I was planning a terrorist plot on the Telstra pay phones or the local self-service car wash. I promise to be good and not blow things up.

But here’s the kicker. None of the structures I measured – from the Australia Post red post box to the Main Roads Department signal control box beside every set of traffic lights – seem to be constructed on a set of even or standardised measurements. The closest I could find to someone doing it cheap and easy was the City of Canning roadside rubbish bins that are constructed on a 1000mm square base. Every other blessed structure was based upon uneven measurements.

I would be willing to guess that it is the result of separate design bureaux being used by each government authority – no coordination of things at all. Each tender sent out asks for a different design and as many dimensions as there are designers come in. The ones that shave the price by making the box 693 mm wide rather than 1000 mm wide get the contract and another design hits the street.

Who knows what I will find when I start to measure street signs…

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