Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Give them an inch, they'll take 2.54 centimeters

If you are planning to order a pizza in a European Union nation during 2009 or thereafter, paste this in your hat:
Pizza Hut are in the process of phasing in metric measurements for their 950 [European] restaurants in preparation for an EU ruling due to take effect from 2009 which says that pizzas must be sold in metric measurements instead of imperial. (Thanks to Neil Herron at Wonko's World.)
What could be more reasonable? The initiative, after all, came after 18 months of close study by the multi-lateral Pizza Standardization Commission, which swore in 44 witnesses whose testimony runs to 3,659 pages of closely spaced type. If nothing else, you could hardly expect a system of measurements called "imperial" to survive into the 21st century C.E. (itself an anachronism; events will soon be dated 2o E.U.E., etc., for European Union Era). If only our ancestors had had the foresight to call the system Emerging-World Multi-Cultural Units (EMUs), the mandarins in Brussels might not have gotten around to outlawing them until, maybe, 2015.

Given the urgency of the situation, the EU is taking a risk in allowing the present pizza measurements to be phased out gradually. But according to my highly placed sources, a last-minute behind-the-scenes effort by the European Coordinated Pizza Manufacturers and Distributors League (ECPMDL) pushed back the deadline by 60 days.

Certainly the pizza lobby felt hard done by. They pointed out the costs involved: re-sizing pans and ovens; a complete design re-think for advertising and point-of-sale collaterals; ordering new lettering for menu boards; and the person-hours required to remove the old letters and retrofit the new ones.

Nevertheless, the Pizza Standardization Commission concluded: "In today's highly competitive world, the nations of Europe must present a united front if we are to offer a counter-weight to the pizza-pricing power, or PPP, of the bloodthirsty screaming-fundamentalist Halliburton-ruled intelligent-design-loving United States of America."

There is no question that this move by Brussels represents a significant challenge to American PPP. I view with alarm the inchworm pace of metrification in the U.S., more than 30 years after President Jimmy ("I am the World") Carter told us to get with it as soon as we put our sweaters on.

In fact, the only new metrification moment I have experienced in years was when signs went up on Highway I-10 between Tucson, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico, showing distances in kilometers. I can only surmise that this was part of a Federal Highways Program to ensure that illeg — excuse me, economic migrants from Mexico were not confused about their actual progress away from the border. A small step, but surely a harbinger of greater ones to follow.

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