Just look at the price of gas. Can you do anything about it? Will being upset and exasperated help you deal with it? Maybe we'll just have to change the way we look at it if we are to survive. It just depends on how you look at it.
Did you know …
The U.S. Standard Railroad gauge — the distance between the two rails — is exactly four feet, eight and one half inches. An odd number, but that's the way they built them in England, and it was the English expatriates who built the railroads in the United States.
So why did the English build their rails with such odd measurements? The same people who built the pre-railroad tramways built their rails with a gauge of four feet, eight and one half inches.
And why did they build them like that? The tramways re-used the same jig, tools and measurements that they had used to build wagons, which used that same wheel spacing: four feet, eight and one half inches.
And why did the wagons have that particularly odd wheel spacing? If they hadn't used that wheel spacing, the wagon wheels would've broken on some of the old, long-distance roads in England …which incidentally had wheel-ruts with the same spacing.
So who built the old rutted roads? The Roman Empire built the first roads in England thousands of years ago, and these roads can still be walked on today. The ruts are spaced exactly four feet, eight and one half inches apart because the Roman war chariots made the initial ruts. And every one of them had to match, for fear of destroying their wagon wheels and wagons. Since the chariots were made for and by the Imperial Realm, they were all alike in their wheel spacing.
So the U.S. Standard rail gauge of four feet, eight and one half inches comes from the original specifications for an imperial Roman war chariot.
This is a classic example of conditioning — people doing things because that's the way they've always been done. There are businesses in trouble today, headed for a cliff that they don't see because of the conditioning — they were successful doing things a certain way in years past, and they don't see the market has changed, or that they way they're doing things is no longer productive, or they are out-of-date and out-of-style. They keep making decisions based on how things have always been done.
So next time you're handed some instructions or some idea and you wonder, "What horse's rear end came up with this?!" You might be exactly right. You see, the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough, four feet, eight and one half inches, to accommodate the back-end of two warhorses!
Now here's an interesting twist to this story:
When you see a space shuttle sitting on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, you will notice two big booster rockets attached to the side of the main fuel tanks. These SRBs (Solid Rocket Boosters) are manufactured by a company in Utah. The engineers who designed them may have preferred to make them a bit wider, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory site to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad tracks, and the railroad track at four feet, eight and one half inches is about as wide as two horses rear ends.
So, the major design feature of what is arguably the most advanced transportation system in the world was determined, literally, by the width of a horse's behind.
Can you imagine?
Andy Andrews is a New York Times bestselling author.