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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Department of Weights and Measures

I believe somewhere between the Fiscal Cliff and the Sequester, the Department of Weights and Measures has had its budget seriously cut.  I'm not strictly sure there is a Department of Weights and Measures, but whatever department is responsible for making sure no slick-talker tries to sell us a thirteen-inch ruler or a calendar without a February in it has not been doing its job lately.  Actually, now that I think of it, they haven't been doing their job for a long time.  Maybe they've never done their job.

It started, I believe, with a "Baker's Dozen."  Quick now, answer without thinking: How many are in a Baker's Dozen?

Thirteen, that's right.

A Baker's Dozen has been a standard unit of measure for as long as I can remember, and yet...  I have never once gotten a thirteen donuts when I asked for a dozen.  And donuts are baked!  Or at any rate, they're cooked.  In fact, I believe the whole concept of a Baker's Dozen was created to apply specifically to donuts.  Is there any other bread stuff you'd get a dozen of?  "I'd like a dozen loaves of rye bread, please."  I think not.  If it were merely a matter of Dunkin Donuts and Krispee Kreme needing to re-calibrate all their donut boxes, it would not be so big an issue.  I'm sure the Undersecretary in Charge of Muffins and Donuts could pay a single visit to corporate headquarters and straighten the whole thing out.

But it goes deeper than that.

Now I know nothing about dress sizes, but my wife assures me that a sinister shift has taken place there as well.  Let's say dress sizes are "petite," "standard," "standard-va-voom," "standard plus," "standard extra-plus," and "no more donuts for you, lady."  Nancy says that what used to be a "standard-va-voom" is now a "standard" or even a "petite," whereas a "standard" is now a "petite" or an "extra-petite" or even a "for God's sake, eat something, woman, you look like a pencil."  Put in terms of another unit of measure, dress sizes run from, say, "2" to "10."  I swear this is accurate although I can't make sense of it.  Doesn't this mean a woman who wears a "10" should be five times as big as a "2?"  And for a woman to go from a "2" to a "4," she'd have to double in body mass?  Anyway, the point is that as screwy as the system was in the first place, someone's been tampering with it.  Nancy is, let's say, a "3."  (I apologize, sweetheart, if I got the number wrong; this is just a for instance.)  But nowadays, if she puts on a "3" she looks like a basset hound, and she has to go down to a "2" or even a "1" to find something that fits.  She further reports that even this is not consistent, but varies from store to store and manufacturer to manufacturer.  My father-in-law blames this on outsourcing to the Koreans and such, but I don't see how this can be.  The Koreans have as many fingers and toes as the rest of us, surely, and ought to be as capable of measuring and counting, after all.  What makes this even more alarming is that Nancy says dress sizes now go down to "0."  Pause a moment to let that sink in.  If your dress size is "0," doesn't that mean you're naked?  And if sizes continue in the trend they're heading, won't women end up wearing negative numbers?  If a man who shops in the "Big and Tall" store meets a woman who's a negative 2, won't they cancel each other out and explode like a collision of matter and anti-matter?

The last example I'll give you is the most alarming.  Weather.  All my life we had hailstones as big as golf balls.  This was the standard measure of all hailstones and it worked perfectly fine for us.  But now I've been hearing about hailstones as big as baseballs.  What's wrong with us?  Why didn't we stick to golf balls?  Next we'll want them as big as softballs or soccer balls.

The time has come to take action.  We need to get a bunch of people together and go down to the Department of Weights and Measures and do a little incoherent shouting.  We need an Occupy-the-Department-of-Weights-and-Measures movement.  Someone needs to take the blame.

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