From where I sit, it's clear that the world's going to hell in a handbasket, and I have evidence to back me up.
I was eleven when I read a clever little romantic story in the Saturday Evening Post about a transatlantic couple whose relationship came to an end because of the difference in abbreviating dates. At that time, the North American custom was to write month/day/year, while Europeans, including the English, wrote day/month/year. In my insular eleven-year-old existence, I hadn't even known that such a difference existed, but I was astute enough to form the opinion that such a situation should not be allowed. My strong opinion was heavily influenced by the failed romance in the story, for I favoured happy endings. Nevertheless, I was sure that by the time I reached adulthood, someone would have corrected the problem, perhaps even as a result of having read this very story in the Saturday Evening Post.
Through the years I adopted my own version of date-writing, with the intention of achieving clarity. I liked the European model (day, month, year), but I always spelled out the month. Hence: 11 November 1957. I thought everyone should do the same, not just because it was my idea, but because it was clear.
Nonetheless, I endured the confusion without complaint, doing my own little best to clarify, until the Canadian federal government destroyed any hope of date harmony in the world by unilaterally opting to put the year first. Well, isn't THAT new and different? Aren't WE the clever ones. Now you can receive a document dated 07/06/05, and you have absolutely no idea what that means, unless you also know where the document originated (and can remember the date rules of that institution).
To tell you that this makes me apoplectic is an understatement. I reel from my anger at this stupidity. Until now I have avoided going postal, but that's only because I do my best to avoid looking at any official documents.
The problem is much greater than a wayward federal government. Their year/month/day (or is it year/day/month?) has influenced other institutions to follow suit—or not, depending on their whim. Thus, you never know what system is being followed by anyone.
Banks come to mind, and here the problem is compounded by their frugality. Wanting to spend less on printed cheques, the banks now buy cheques that use only a tenth of the ink they used to use. In the upper right hand corner of the cheque, the area designated for the date, the print is so fine and faint that it can't be read by anyone over 25. The date-space is quite specific about where they want you to write year, month, and day, but you can't read it. You have to carry a flashlight with you to illuminate the cheque before you can fill in the date. I believe I'm going to start ignoring this and simply put down my own version of the date: 19 April 2010. Let them be the ones to adjust.
But the problem is obviously much more serious than I'm making out. And no one seems to be concerned about it. Imagine a WWII situation with D-Day in the works. Can you see a Churchill and an Eisenhower having their dates confused? One country invades on 06/06—oh, I get it! That's why they chose June 6 as the date for D-Day. It read the same in both countries. And what about 11/11 for Armistice Day? Apparently the only way to keep it all straight is to choose dates that work either way. Thus, all important international events will fall on or before the twelfth of a given month and the month will be chosen to correspond. Watch for it: important international dates will be Jan. 1, Feb.2, March 3, April 4, etc.
And as long as I'm talking about the downfall of modern civilization (was that the topic?) let me tell you this. I was brought up to believe in a god of vengeance and wrath, the one who designates a particular spot (hot as our hell or cold as the Scandinavian hell) for egregious sinners. The first group that I would designate for either the hot or the cold form of eternal punishment is obviously the bureaucrats responsible for the (totally avoidable) mix-up in recording dates.
Here's the second group: Recently I tried to release a new toothbrush from its packaging and discovered that the package can't be opened without a box-cutter. As I fought to free my toothbrush, I consigned to hell the designer—not just the designer of toothbrush packaging but the designers of all those bubble wrappings that have no entry point. And the punishment in my hell is not based on heat or cold. These designers are condemned to sit for eternity at a table, surrounded by cartons and cartons of toothbrushes enclosed in their diabolically designed wrappings. And the designers' task, for all of eternity, is to open the packages, one after another, using only their fingers, fingernails, teeth, feet—whatever they have at hand. A personal eternity, guys, designed just for you.