Would you date me?

Date, as in what we call today relative to yesterday, or tomorrow.  Not quite as romantic as what you first (probably) thought, but still very important.

We used to be such a logical country.  It started way back when with our currency.  “Make it all decimal,” someone said.  “Issue coins and bills in standard increments and that way you minimize hassles in business!” someone else said.  We followed that advice, and became the biggest economy.  Of course there’s more to it, but the point is these were logical choices to make in the face of many other countries that did things without logic.

Today we are surrounded by computers, things that run using numbers and insufferably iron-clad logic.  When you sort something in ascending order, big numbers always end up below little numbers.

Except where our US dates are concerned.  We can’t seem to fathom the fact that the way we put a number next to a date is confusing.  First the month.  Why?  Because Americans love their months.  Really?

Then the date.  Of course that’s because the date is a smaller number, and should be subsumed by the month.  I’m alright with that, except…

… now we write down the year!  What’s up with that?  I started in the middle, went down, and now I go up?

Meanwhile, the rest of the world always goes in order, either big to small, or small to big.  So the first of May of 2014 would be 1 May 2014, or 1/5/2014.  To an American, this notation means January 5th.

What’s the harm? you say?  For one, imagine you work in international business.  You have sold an expensive product to someone in November of 2013.  They have promised to pay you on 1/5/2014, and your bank says “that’s great!”

Except when January 4th comes and goes, you still have no money.  Your bank is a worried because they are backing you on this sale.  You call the customer, and they say “What’s the problem?  We told you we will pay on 1/5/2014 – May first!”

Can’t happen?  Hah!  Already has.  Not just once, either, and not just to our company.

Here’s where being a student of behavior comes in.  You see, there is a choice that we make as Americans.  We choose an illogical date format, and there it is.  The rest of the world has chosen differently, and that causes conflicts.  Not “let’s go to war and end it all” conflicts, but little misunderstandings none-the-less.  The point is that conflicts always cost something.  Losing time, getting angry, even losing money are all costs of conflict.  Therefore our country is choosing to maintain a funny date system even though it costs us money to do so.

We don’t want to condemn, we only want to understand.  Now, has an American date ever cost you anything?  Do you remember the date?


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