I have a friend who always carries the same measuring tape as I do. I’d even sold it to him myself. It’s a Nordic brand. I don’t want to look like I’m advertising it, so I won’t say its name, but the brand claims to make the world’s most precise measuring tape.
We are not used to thinking this way, but a measuring tape is still a representation of a measurement. This means that someone, a programmed machine in this case, drew the millimetre and centimetre lines as precisely as possible. Sometimes this precision is very precise, and sometimes only precise, even if we may think that 1 metre is 1 metre on any measuring tape. This is known as the tolerance-to-error interval (or at least that’s what I call it), where maybe a measuring tape reads 50 cm, when in reality it measures 49.97 cm or 50.001 cm. Well, our measuring tape claims to be the most accurate of them all. A cm is truly a cm, and a mm is exactly a mm. It gives you confidence to know you that when you use this tape to measure something, it is absolutely precise. Ultimately, it’s a total placebo: I don’t work from 1, 2, 3 or even 4 millimetres, but even so, I feel safer.
Despite all this, my friend and I have never spoken of this precision. He’s an architect, so precision to the millimetre isn’t that important to him. He’s more about centimeters and metres. We talk about its feel, its weight, and its mechanisms. Things that are still, somehow, just as important as its ability to measure with precision. We talk about its comfort. These are things that you don’t usually find in a measuring tape, since whomever makes them doesn’t always prioritize these things. But they paid attention with this one. Its blunt yet compact. It is steady and serious. It is made of black plastic but not the cheap stuff—it could pass for bakelite. The button to extract and block the measuring tape is large, metallic, and ages spectacularly well. It seems silly, but it is very pleasant to the touch. For something that you’re always carrying on your person and holding, it’s important to be happy when touching it. It means comfort.
I say this with ignorance, since it isn’t my specialization, even though I have tried it and it has always drawn my attention. It’s the same as with climbing equipment. But with climbing equipment, it’s clearer: safety, above all else, that is completely real and without placebos. And that's how it is with materials, uses, blocks, standards, shapes, and the like. But despite hardness and extreme functionality on top of any other aspect, they are always pieces that are very pleasant to the touch, delectable, generous in their shapes, intuitive and comfortable. They are, without a doubt, real amulets par excellence.