Looking forward to a good palindrome year

Palindromes are phrases, words or sequences that can be read the same way forwards as backwards.

“Race car” is a palindrome as is the command, “Sit on a potato pan, Otis.” (This is also the title of an entertaining book of palindromes by John Agee). Numbers can also be palindromes.

Today’s date, 12.22.21, is an example. Dec. 22 is the last in a group of numerical palindromes which occurred this month. The dates starting with December first (12-1-21) through the ninth (12-9-21) make up nine of this December’s 11 palindromes. After that string we had Dec. 11 (12-11-21), and then, finally, today, 12- 22–21.

For those of us who find such things interesting, the month of December 2021 has been a notable month, indeed. In fact, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, 2021 contained a total of 22 numerical contrivances, a veritable plethora of palindromes. Last January alone had 10 palindromes in a row.

Of course, it all depends on how a person chooses to write out a particular date. Some people put a zero in front of single-digit months so, for example, the upcoming New Year’s Day would be written 01-01-22. Many write the date abbreviating the year from four digits to just the final two. I wonder if we shorten the number for the year year because in our modern culture we want immediacy and efficiency so we tend to abbreviate everything. After all, in the time it takes to write or say “December twenty-second, two thousand twenty-one” we could have sent and received six or seven text messages.

Here in the United States, we mostly write dates in the order of month-day-year, MM-DD-YYYY. In some countries, dates are ordered day-month-year, DD-MM-YYYY, so in those places today’s date would be written 22-12-21. This is certainly an interesting looking number, but it is not a palindrome. Checking websites, I learn the Canadian government insists dates on all its forms to be written YYYY-MM-DD. Both of these systems for ordering calendar dates are very logical: from smallest to largest or largest to smallest, but I fear either would really wreak havoc with the pleasures of palindromes.

I sometimes find it frustrating when I am filling out a form on the computer and am directed to type in a date. It’s frustrating because there is no settled way to input the dates. It varies from form to form, from program to program. Sometimes you put a number in and the cursor automatically jumps to the next box; sometimes you must manually click on an empty box. Some forms require dashes between the numbers, and some insist on slashes. Some expect long numbers like on charge cards to be written without spaces, and some require simple spaces between short groups of numbers. Maybe there should be a national standard. Maybe Canada can give us some advice.

And speaking of punctuation between numbers, I distinctly remember when I first saw periods/decimal points separating phone numbers. It was on a pamphlet for the Indianapolis Museum of Art. “When did dashes and slashes go out of style?” I wondered at the time. I figured someone thought it was an interesting and maybe a bit trendy way to change up a traditional graphic element. Now I see it everywhere. I use it myself sometimes when the computer allows me.

I am looking forward to 2022. It promises to be a good palindrome year. But now I am thinking about Christmas and praying everyone has a wonderful (if not palindromic) 12.25.2021 — or 2021/12/25 if you are Canadian.