Friday Firesmith – The Metric System, Traffic Circles, and Us

Friday firesmithThere are three classes of human beings that you never want to see sitting in a Jury Box; the first is law enforcement. They’ve seen the very worst of humanity and it’s a good guess they have more of a “kill them all and let God sort them out later” mentality than anyone else. The next is people who have worked in traffic. These people have survived countless attempted murders and are going to see each and every other human being as a bad driver. The third class of individuals you never want in a Jury Box are teachers. They have too much damn faith in other people to be disinterested judges.

But the thing about teachers is they don’t work in traffic. See where there is a common thread here?

There are two cultural roadblocks that Americans must, must, really must, overcome, before we can hope to evolve into a Greater Society. Only one of these involves traffic. The first is our pathological aversion to the Metric System. The meter is a scientifically based unit of measure as is the gram, the liter, and every other unit in the Metric System. It’s all so much easier to use. Every country on earth except for us and some third world country who just outlawed witch burning uses this system. Every university and college class taught anywhere one earth uses this system. Trying to get Americans to convert to the Metric System is like trying to convert the Americans to Satanism and bestiality and an aversion to junk food.

The next big cultural road block we suffer from is Traffic Circles.

Traffic circleTraffic Circle
A circular one-way road at a junction of thoroughfares, facilitating an uninterrupted flow of traffic. Also called regionally rotary.

 I’ve been to public meetings that suggested that Traffic Circles work much better than traffic lights or four- way stops. The public, by and large, react to this recommendation like a bunch of five year olds reacting to getting vaccinated with knitting needles.

The funny thing here is I’ve never seen a four- way stop actually work in South Georgia. People pull up to them and their brains freeze up. You have horn blowing and hand waving and people just sitting there so locked up and confused they don’t know whether to chew tobacco or dip snuff. Pulling up to a four-way stop in South Georgia can be like coming up on an orgy with four blind virgins handcuffed together in knee deep sandspurs during a hail storm; they have no idea what to do, they have no idea how to do it, and no matter how bad things are, they’re willing to just stay still rather than move.  But this is what they are used to. Heaven forbid we actually try something new.

What’s even funnier is that about 90% of all small South Georgia towns have a courthouse square or something like it. People have been using these things as traffic circles since mules where the main mode of transportation. They just don’t call them that.

Law enforcement has to deal with a lot of really weird people. Those who work in traffic have to deal with a lot of bad drivers. Teachers have to deal with the fact that education is being run by people who aren’t and it’s producing people who aren’t.

You’ll see this country change when the lives of those three classes of people change. As long as things stay the same they will get worse.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit


Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


43 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – The Metric System, Traffic Circles, and Us”

  1. Southeastern PA and south Jersey have been doing away with traffic circles for years. They were a nightmare, as most were intersections of two or more multilane highways, plus half the drivers didn’t know what to do… and this was back when drivers pretty much paid attention.

    MA is building new ones because the traffic gurus say they’re better. But in the real world half the drivers don’t have a clue, and the other half are sure they do, but wrong… if they look up from their phone long enough to notice.
    Even the people that know what to do, can’t, because they can’t trust the other guy.
    I suppose we should be grateful most of the clueless stop dead rather than blundering into the circle. Sudden stops by the car ahead isn’t unusual, a car charging at you from the right, is.

  2. I grew up in Washington, DC, which is loaded with traffic circles. Having learned to drive in that environment, it has never been a big deal to just ease into the circle, look for my exit and go for it. Maybe if the town officials squared off the circles and built a small building in the middle, drivers would do a better job of getting on with it…

  3. Maybe after implementing the metric system and putting in traffic circles Americans could look at a one-dollar coin to replace their dirty, limp, disgusting one dollar bills.

  4. …an orgy with four blind virgins handcuffed together in knee deep sandspurs during a hail storm… Wow, Mike! You are…. creative?… is that the right word?!! lol

  5. I just learned to count in binary and hexadecimal in my bid to become a cyborg, so 0001 is no problem.

    As for 0010, with the coming of our robocar overlords, traffic circles, stops signs, and traffic lights are about to go the way of vhs and cassette tapes. Speaking of… hear about the new google car? No steering wheel or brake and gas pedals.

  6. a little history…

    In 1866, an act of Congress, signed into law by President Andrew Johnson, made it “lawful throughout the United States of America to employ the weights and measures of the metric system in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings.”

    In 1875, the United States solidified its commitment to the development of the metric system by becoming one of the original seventeen signatory nations to the Metre Convention or the Treaty of the Metre.

    Under the Mendenhall Order in 1893, metric standards, developed through international cooperation under the auspices of BIPM, were adopted as the fundamental standards for length and mass in the United States

    The Metric Conversion Act of 1975 (later amended by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, the Savings in Construction Act of 1996, and the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004) designated the metric system as the preferred system of weights and measures for US trade and commerce, and directed federal agencies to convert to the metric system, to the extent feasible, including the use of metric in construction of federal facilities.

    Metric System is required to be used in Government contracts

    ADM 8000.1C January 6, 2004
    SUBJECT: GSA Metric Program
    1. Purpose. This order establishes policies and assigns responsibilities for implementing the metric system of measurement within the General Services Administration.

    According to the CIA Factbook, the US one of the three countries that has not adopted the metric system as their official system of weights and measures. (Burma and Liberia are the other two.)[1]

  7. @krisgo, I think the word you’re looking for is special. Yes Mike is… um, special. ;0)

  8. Single lane roundabouts are wonderful and do significantly improve traffic movement. 2 lane roundabouts start to cause problems; confusion about turns, right of ways, and the ones in my area have conflicting rules such that car on the outside lane can continue on the circle at the same time as the car on the inside lane exits the circle which means a crash. But both cars have the right of way for the action. I have little experience with more lanes than 2 but I would guess the danger would begin to outweigh any benefit.

    • It’s merely a matter of experience and APPROPRIATE training. We use multi-lane roundabouts in Australia all the time and they’re really quite simple. It’s boofheads and obnoxious a-holes who make it harder than necessary. It’s easy.

      Corrected for American driving. Indicate right to turn right. Indicate left to turn left, but indicate right when exiting so others know. Don’t indicate to enter the roundabout if you’re going straight, but indicate right to exit. If it’s a two lane roundabout, don’t be in the right lane if you want to go left, and vice versa. Go straight from either lane.

      If I can figure it out, just about anyone can.

      As for metric, I cannot believe the US hasn’t jumped aboard what is clearly the most simple concept in measurement.

  9. in germany roundabouts started to get introduced some twenty years ago (but we never had 4-way stopsigns, either one direction had preference or there were no signs at all with “right before left”). Roundabouts are counter-intuitive for long-term drivers because for the vehicle entering them it’s some sort of “left-before-right”. Nevertheless they proved so successful most new heavy-traffic intersections are nowadays built with them.

    Roundabouts have several things speaking for them:
    – Nobody can just “shoot straight over” the intersection without looking, so fewer accidents (and of course they slow the traffic somewhat)
    – no mandatory stop if you see there’s enough space for you
    – even if there’s heavy traffic in one direction (say during end-of-workday) people wanting to go different can easily do so, something that’s sometimes not so possible with classic four-stops and right-before-left.

    But of course you shouldn’t necessarily build them like the english with their magic roundabout. On the other hand I know quite a few even more confusing “classic” intersections…

  10. I agree with you there. Having lived overseas for large chunks of my life, I find roundabouts so much easier to drive through. And I also find metrics easier to deal with.

    The only part I don’t like about metrics is that you loose the rough mile-a-minute on highways.

    Next time you are in LA, there is a large roundabout in Long Beach that will make your toes curl. Mainly because of what you witness with the stupid drivers. It is called the Los Alamitos Circle, on PCH. Bring a camera.

    Also in my home town of Santa Barbara they installed a 4 lane roundabout on the first freeway exit in to town. Talk about idiots. I see people flying off the freeway and entering the roundabout without even looking left. Or they come to complete stop and stuck their thumbs up their ass for 20 minutes acting like they are looking at a UFO or something.

    The solution is (a) more roundabouts so people get used to them. And (b) driver training by the DMV. Ever notice in the exam they never ask you about roundabout rules?

    And people… please signal when you exit the roundabout. Its just courteous to others waiting to enter. I think I’m the only driver in California that does that.

    • It would seem, Ron, there would be some sort of training. I never thought about that, but there are people who might have never even heard of one before. Especially here.

      And I always use my blinker.


  11. 50% of people are below average intelligence. Fact.

    Average intelligence is, let’s just say, not very high.

    Stupid parents raise stupider kids and on and on. You can’t suddenly make parents smarter. Ergo, average intelligence just gets stupider.

    *Sigh*, I’ll be dead when the real poop hits fan.

    • I’d rather have one of your “magic” roundabouts than “ordinary” multi-lane intersections like (including tram lines!) and its bigger brethren. At least in a roundabout a complete standstill is quite rare.

  12. Mike,
    Off topic, sorry to everyone. Jonco posted a story about Sandy Springs, GA, over at Naughty Bits that I’m interested in your opinion about. Thanks!

      • I live in the Atlanta area, and I never heard anything about this suit. And I know for a fact that every adult store that I’ve ever cruised through sells every kind of toy that is out there. Maybe it is some kind of law only to be found in Sandy Springs, which is a small suburb of Atlanta.

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