The Brits do many things right (sticky toffee pudding, a nice cup of tea and movies about children inhabiting a magical world, to name but a few) and they do many, many things differently—though not necessarily better—than we do (such as adding a redundant syllable to the word “aluminum” and using the term “redundant” to mean “laid off”) but there is one area where they are certainly, most definitely, wrong.
Now, I don’t want to be too harsh on my host country, especially now while they are so emotionally fragile due to the loss of Mrs. Thatcher, so I’ll start off by pointing out something that they do right and the Americans do wrong: using flatware, or cutlery, while eating.
The Americans famously put the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right, cut their food, then switch the fork to the right hand to lift the food to their mouths. Seriously, what is up with that? Even as a child growing up in the US I thought, “This is nuts! Why can’t I just keep the fork in my left hand?”
The British, quite sensibly, put their forks in their left hands and just get on with it. I, however, resolutely retain the American way of eating, because I am an American, and this is what I do. I am questioned about this occasionally, and I usually give the story about how the American colonials, in an effort to separate themselves from all things English, devised this bizarre way of eating. For all I know, this might be true, and it satisfies my inquisitors: purposely inflicting a strange custom of dubious historical origins on oneself as a matter of national pride is something they can understand, sort of like Morris Dancing, or haggis.
So, at the dining table, common sense wins out, but in the office, it all goes horribly pear-shaped.
Binders. Binders with only two holes placed close together near the middle of the page. US binders have three holes—one at the top, one at the bottom and one in the center—as God intended. I am not saying this is “different” or that, in my opinion, the US way is better, I am stating, categorically, that—according to the laws of physics—this is wrong.
To demonstrate: if you suspend a long metal bar using two ropes near the middle of the bar, and then hang on one end, the results would not be satisfactory.
If, instead, you used three ropes, the bar would be stable, and the pages would stop going askew and getting all rucked up and pulled out inadvertently and…I mean, you could hang on the bar without experiencing any surprises.
For the skeptics and physicists among you, I offer the following equation as irrefutable proof:
Now that we have sorted this out, allow me to propose a solution: we will stop faffing about with our knives and forks at the dinner table if you will adopt a three-ring binder system. This will undeniably improve life in both of our countries.
But keep the Morris dancers and the haggis; I’ve grown quite fond of them.