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by Mike Bedard
Many people may think America has everything the modern person possibly needs. There’s a Starbucks on every corner, a smart phone in nearly every hand, and a ton of jobs that don’t require you to ever put on pants. Wearing pants to work is now a myth, like Bigfoot or black and white televisions.
But there are plenty of things that we don’t have, and the reasons why we don’t have them are all kinds of dumb. America could be the smoothest sailing ship out there if it wasn’t constantly crashing itself on the rocks of insanity. Oh, and speaking of ships ...
We Don’t Have the Metric System Because Of Pirates
The United States is one of three countries (the other two being Liberia and Burma) that doesn’t use the metric system. Every other country gets to divide measurements with a base-10, and that makes things so much easier than figuring out that 12 inches go in a foot, three feet go in a yard and some super high number that only high falutin’, book learnin’ city boys know go into a mile. Turns out, we were pretty close to adopting the metric system in the 18th century. And we have pirates to blame for why it eludes us.
No, not an old timey version of the people who are currently downloading Season 2 of Westworld. Actual eye-patched, peg-legged, murderous pirates are the reason you never had to learn about meters.
"On this boat, we measure by yAAARRRRds!"
In the 18th century, the country was still young, and the rate of measurements varied by state. New England was using English systems while New York was all about those Dutch systems. The only thing more confusing than interstate trade in the 1800s is when your friend tries to explain the third act of Inception to you.
The country had to do something, and Thomas Jefferson was all set to pitch the French system, i.e. the metric system, to his colleagues. To really impress the big Whigs, Jefferson sailed Joseph Dombey (a botanist who was well-versed in how useful the metric system was in trading) over to use his big fancy science words to convince everyone to adopt it. During his journey, Dombey’s ship got caught in a storm and got blown way off course ... right into pirate country, which we assume was 90% of the planet back in those days.
The pirates imprisoned Dombey, who died in confinement. Jefferson never got his expert, and the country adopted the British system of measurements. And now students all over the U.S. get to learn about the metric system for a few confusing days before they are abruptly thrust back into their regular studies as if those days never happened.
We Don’t Use Celsius Because The Public Ignored The Metric Conversion Act Of 1975
The United States measures everything with Fahrenheit, which appoints the freezing and boiling points of water to be 32 and 212, respectively. On the Celsius scale, the freezing and boiling points of water are zero and 100, respectively. Again, the U.S. was incapable of realizing how dope base-10 is, despite the fact that we’ve gotten multiple chances to use it.
See, Fahrenheit was cool hundreds of years ago when Daniel Fahrenheit (Real name, we swear) was the first to get a consistent temperature reading between two different thermometers. We assume that this was followed by dozens of models pouring champagne on him in slow motion. Later that century, Anders Celsius (Again, real name, we swear) found another, simpler way to take accurate readings, and by the mid 20th century, most of the world hopped aboard the Celsius train.
"Either you're totally fine, or you've been dead for hours."
So why doesn’t America use it? Turns out the reason is because lawmakers thought Americans would change on their own. Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act in 1975 that was supposed to begin the process of metrication throughout the country, meaning we should have gotten meters and Celsius decades ago.
The main problem with the law, though, is that it let the public have final say. And since they’d had feet and Fahrenheit ingrained in their heads since preschool, no one wanted to learn new systems of measurement. In 1982, Ronald Reagan dismantled the Act. That’s what we get for assuming people will do the thing that benefits their own self-interest without being forced to.
We Don’t Use Bidets Because Of French Brothels
Let’s say your entire body ends up covered in fecal matter. Just like in real life, it doesn’t really matter how, because the bottom line is that you have a crippling case of poop torso. So, would you rather clean off the fecal matter and corn kernels in a wonderful shower, or by wiping a very thin piece of paper over every inch of yourself hoping that you don’t miss a spot?
Hopefully you answered “shower” for the above question, which tells you everything you need to know about why bidets on American toilets should be everywhere. Sure, in the old days, bidets involved physically splashing water on your butt, but there’s no reason why we can’t have a more advanced version of them in the 21st century.
"Man, your bathtub is tiny."
There have been all sorts of reasons why bidets have never caught on, but the most recent involves French brothels in World War II. Soldiers saw bidets in the brothels, and thus associated them with immorality. As a result, many Americans view them as unnatural, which is weird, considering that what we do trust are small squares of meager paper.
Trying to mix the usefulness of water with the painful inadequacy of toilet paper, wet wipes have been marketed to people looking for a deeper clean after restocking the lake with brown trout. And now cities from San Francisco to New York have had to deal with damaged sewer systems as a result of the sanitary wipes.
We Don’t Have Roundabouts Because Engineers Thought We’d Be Too Aggressive
If you’re one of those people who has ever “been outside” before, you’ve probably seen a roundabout in the middle of some streets, but probably not too many of them. And that’s a shame because studies show roundabouts are much safer than using a traffic signal or stop sign. And the lack of them is due to the fact that road engineers thought Americans were just too angry to use them properly.
"This is America, son -- we don't put up with no circles."
Journalist Stephen Beard posited, “The roundabout is said to have flourished in Britain because it requires the British virtues of compromise and cooperation. The U.S.’s more aggressive, confrontational culture may explain why the roundabout has not been more widely adopted by Americans.” That sentiment may rub some the wrong way, but just know that a lot of other developed countries aren’t so quick to jump on the roundabout bandwagon. Japan, a country that often seems to get all the cool technology years before it lands in the U.S., only has a few dozen.
The sad part is that roundabouts are cheaper in the long-run, because they require less maintenance (and no need for electricity) compared to traffic signals. Also, roundabouts help cars consume less fuel. However, you don’t get to honk at people when the light turns yellow and they decide to wait it out, so the pros and cons really balance themselves out.
We Don’t Vote On Weekends Because Of Farmers
There are many possible reasons why voter turnout is so low in the United States. It could be that we have debates where politicians “talk” instead of forcing both candidates into an MMA bout, but who really knows? One possible solution would be to have people vote on the weekend when many already have the day off. The only other option would be to make Election Day a holiday, but it turns out that creating a new federal holiday is so stupidly complicated that it isn’t even worth trying. And that brings us to why elections are on Tuesdays in the first place.
Turns out, you can’t blame farmers for Daylight Savings, but you can totally blame them for having to vote on a Tuesday -- a.k.a. Monday’s awful, less popular cousin. In 1845, Congress passed a bill making Tuesday Election Day because it was convenient for farmers. They would travel to a polling station on Monday, vote on Tuesday, and travel back home on Wednesday. Sunday was the Sabbath, so that was a no-no straight out of the gate. Can’t be votin’ when there’s prayin’ to do. And we just kind of never changed that.
Thanks a lot, JERKS! Wait, we're sorry. Please keep growing food.
As you can see from this map, countries all over the globe, from France to Mexico, hold elections on Sunday, so they don’t have to rush to a polling place after spending nine hours in the office. So it’s finally time we stand up to those stubborn farmers who died 150 years ago. That’s right. We’re calling you out, farmers who died 150 years ago, for inconveniencing us modern people. It’s your move.