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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hell in a Handbasket

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.

Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ain't She Sweet?

Sweet does not draw me as a personal trait.

As a taste it does, too much.

But as a human characteristic?

Oh, spare me.


Sweet women's soft falsetto voices

show they are no threat.

They hide their nature--from you

as well as from themselves.

Give me bitter or sour,

gut-wrenched seers and seekers,

happy or even unhappy in their skins

but honest and open about it.


Don't coat the kernel of self

in an M&Ms shell.

Give me no pastel sugar-robed almonds.

I want what is, not some smooth-surfaced

slick-willy version.


When I go,

no one will say, '"She was such a sweet old lady."

You can take that to the bank!


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Personal Opinion, a Dialogue

--Well, it's MY personal opinion that . . .


--Whoa! Stop right there. I don't remember asking to hear your personal opinion.


--You don't know what I was going to say. Or even what the topic was going to be.


-—Okay. Were you going to give me your personal opinion on hard candy? Or mashed potatoes? Or the new Atom Egoyan movie?


--No, not really. Though I could if you want. No, I was going to give you my opinion about something you do, a habit you have.


--Aha! I thought so. I go back to my original statement: I don't remember asking to hear what you think.


--I thought we were friends.


--We are.


--Friends can say whatever they want to each other.


--Not if they value the friendship, they can't. I just read a Buddhist writing on how being in the moment also covers being aware of our speech, avoiding saying hurtful things to others. Watching our language.


--But you don't know what I was going to say. Don't you trust me?


--Maybe I don't. Maybe I'm suspicious of your motives and I think you want to slap me down.


--Now why would I do that? In my opinion, you need to stop mistrusting your friends! But that's not what I was going to say. Can I give you my personal opinion now? You might not hate it as much as you think.


--Let's see. How far do I want this friendship to open up? I don't mind having a few barriers between us, you know. A barrier-let's say, a door—can be open or shut. And a closed barrier is an effective barrier. That's what I always say.


--So you're shutting me out?


--Not permanently. After all, everything changes. This will probably change, too.


--If the friendship doesn't get frozen out in the meantime. At some point, you know, you're going to have to learn to trust your friends.


--How did we get on to this topic? Leave me alone!


--All right. But here are some of the personal opinions you might want to listen to. I love hard candy, especially butterscotch—those round flat ones that fit so well into the roof of your mouth. Mashed potatoes, ditto. Always a fave, especially when they're mashed with celery root or rutabaga, with lots of butter. And I haven't seen Atom Egoyan's new movie yet, so I don't have an opinion. Are you satisfied?


--Thanks. I must tell you that this isn't about you, or whether I trust you. It's just about me and how afraid I am that you'll say something bad about me. You have to admit that when someone starts off with "well, if you want my personal opinion. . ." it usually doesn't augur well. Sounds suspiciously like the beginning of a put-down.


--Luckily, my stupid memory has done its usual. With all this talk I've forgotten what it was I wanted to say in the first place. So let's just forget it. Let's aim for a friendship with warmth. Forget about the openness for now.


--A friendship with warmth. A warm friendship. Yeah, I can handle that. And for the time being, we can both keep our personal opinions to ourselves.



Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Age, Where Is Thy Sting?

Here's the story of the shock I received last week. We have a home freezer in the little room off the kitchen. When I label items for the freezer I write the name of the food (cooked kabocha squash, for example) and the date on a slip of paper. Well, a torn half of a Library of Congress card, if you really want to know (of which we still have, after 35 years, 10 boxes). I then insert a corner of the paper between the plastic container and its lid.


When I write the date on this card, I put just month and year. In the olden days, when the first two digits of the year were one and nine, I could simply scrawl "Mar 96." But once the century changed, I found it necessary to add an apostrophe so that the date reads "Mar '10". Otherwise the numerals for the year can be mis-read as the numerals for a day—i.e., March 10—with no indication of the year.


Have you followed this so far? Well, last week I realized that this annoyance—having to add the extra little stroke of the apostrophe—is not going to go away any time soon. In the back of my unthinking mind was the expectation that in a year or two I'd be able to do without the apostrophe. My moment of revelation came when I looked the situation squarely in the face and had to admit that I will not be free of that apostrophe until the year 2032. That is to say, every year until then could be—if I failed to add the apostrophe—misconstrued as a day of the month rather than a year. For freezer clarity, I will be adding that apostrophe until 2032.


That's 20 years from now! Twenty years in which anything at all can happen but at the end of which I will incontestably be 20 years older than I am now. As I write this, I find myself stringing out my sentences, adding phrases, using two or even four words when one would do, in a vain attempt to avoid putting this down: I will be, in 2032, 95 years old. Good grief!


Oh, come now. There's no need to be dramatic. But the fact is, if I want to reach the point at which I no longer have to add the apostrophe to the dating of my freezer foods, I will have to stick around until I am 95. Given how much that apostrophe annoys me, I think it will probably be worth it--assuming that I still have a house, a freezer, and a room off the kitchen to put it in, when I am 95.


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor