On indifference

Posted on March 28, 2010


Now watch as I become invisible to the entire metric spectrum

I don’t understand the metric system.

Meters, centigrade, liters, kilopascals — I really don’t know what any of these damned things are. (To be fair, nobody knows what kilopascals are — at least, nobody who’s ever had a date with a non-inflatable woman.)

But surely!” you cry, “After living with the metric system for over three decades, you must have some understanding of it, if only by osmosis?

Ah, my excitable and italicised friend, this only shows how little you understand the power of true indifference. True indifference can block out the most persistent and persuasive knowledge. True indifference is the mental equivalent of high-quality Teflon™.

That’s because true indifference creates “Indifference Zones.”

One of my Indifference Zones is sports. And by that I mean all sports. Not one kind of sport, or ten kinds, but all sports. This includes sports-like events, such as reality TV shows in which survivors, house guests, or midgets get voted out each week.

It isn’t the idea of competition itself that leaves me cold, it’s just that if I don’t know the people involved, I can see no reason for caring about the outcome.

For instance, I was thrilled when the Colorado Jaguars beat out the Mississauga Braves for the Silver Stick award, but only because Gabe Whiteman-Jones is its all-purpose forward and his father is a friend of mine (at least digitally). When I have a personal connection, I become just as partisan and team-spirited as the next guy.

Providing the next guy isn’t some shirtless moron with a painted face.

In general, however, I have no personal connection to sports figures, which in turn means I am completely indifferent to what they do. I honestly do not know who won the latest Stanley Cup. Hell, I don’t even know how many medals Canada won in the recently expired Olympics.

There was a time I was actually a bit of an expert on sports. At least in the way that there are guys in the bar you’ll listen to a bit more seriously because you think they know what they’re talking about but in reality they don’t know squat.

You know — like consultants.

Anyway, back in the late ’70s and early ’80s I frequently met with couples about to get married. I found that talking about sports was often an effective means of bringing the groom out of his catatonia.

And it was fun. I enjoyed holding forth against someone’s wrong-headed idea that some new rule or trade or whatever was a good strategy when it was patently obvious that not only should the coach be fired, but that his name should be stricken from the annals of sportsdom.

Or vice versa.

But once I moved on from that career, thereby ending the motivation, I fell back on my old ways and within a few months was virtually a clean slate again.

The same is true of anything in which I hold no interest: it just passes through me like light through Claude Rains. I don’t know what colour my living room walls are, although both my father-in-law and wife assure me they’re quite ugly. All cars look alike to me, with the exception of the PT Cruiser and Volkswagen Beetle. And as for clothing, everything I own is either black or brown so I don’t have to try figuring out whether this particular shirt “goes with” those particular pants.

Of course, the metric system is a special case. Not only am I indifferent to learning another measurement system when I already had a perfectly good one of my own, but I’m actively put off by its annoyingly clunky and highly irrational nature — despite its proponents’ almost mystical belief in the logical power of the number ten.

But more than this, metric was imposed on me and my fellow Canadians without debate or even reasoned argument. In a single, and rather abrupt, act of parliament, a large part of our culture was simply erased.

Glen Campbell was “500 miles away from home” and The Proclaimers were willing to “walk 500 miles” to prove their love. The Byrds were “eight miles high” (probably in more ways than one), Cat Stevens was “miles from nowhere,” Rihanna felt “a million miles away” from her lover, and Madonna, although never specifying the exact distance, felt “miles away” from hers. We didn’t “walk a kilometer for a Camel,” we walked a freakin’ mile. And Robert Frost didn’t have “kilometers to go” before he slept, he had “miles to go.”

Well, in the beginning I fought metric, but of course it was a lost cause. Fortunately, although I (and millions of other Canadians) may have lost the war against it, through my Indifference Zone I feel like I have at least  been victorious in my personal battle.

Ignorance may be bliss, but indifference is bliss plus a satisfying snub.