Saturday, December 12, 2009

Check Your Calendar

One of the overlooked traditions of the holiday season is the annual arrival of a batch of new calendars for the next year.

I’m always intrigued by the new calendars. Most people, I think, just look at the pictures or advertising messages contained on the calendar, but I like to peruse the actual dates to see if there are any surprises in store.

It occurred to me this week in a moment of melancholy that calendars as we know them are on probably the way to becoming extinct, just like newspapers, phone books, paper money, and a whole host of other products. Thanks to technology, many items which are now printed will someday likely be only transmitted.

Calendar users are already a dying breed, I suspect. I myself keep a calendar book -- called a Daytimer -- in my back pocket to keep track of my upcoming appointments, but few of my peers still do. They all seem to use those berry-named devices. I must admit that the “alarm” function of these gadgets is appealing from time to time. While I am skilled, after decades of practice, at writing appointments on my pocket calendar, I find myself more and more frequently forgetting to actually check it to see if I have any appointments.

Because of my background as a printer -- a trait I share with Benjamin Franklin, along with a big, odd-shaped, balding head -- I probably pay more attention to calendars than most folks -- I’ve probably produced a few million of them in my time -- and therefore can claim a level of expertise on the subject. For instance, I know that there are always 365 days on a calendar, except for leap years, when there are…. I forget how many… I’ll have to check a calendar.

But I do know there are all sorts of calendars, ranging from the aforementioned pocket sized calendar books and wallet sized cards (and refrigerator magnets), to desk calendars, to stand-up calendars, to thick calendars where you turn the page every day, to large colorful decorative wall calendars, with a different picture on every page: -- red barns, snowscapes, covered bridges, sunsets, wheat fields and mountain ranges -- all corresponding to the month on the facing page. For instance, you show me a picture of leaves changing colors, and I can almost guarantee that you’re looking at September or October.

For decades, banks and insurance companies have given out free calendars to their customers. It was better than a card. It was an actual GIFT!

My favorite calendars of all time were the community birthday calendars sold by the Jaycees in my hometown of Lexington when I was a kid. Back then, Lexington was a small town, and everybody sorta knew everybody, so it was interesting to see a lot of their names listed on their birthdays.

Nowadays, you can buy calendars adorned with just about any topic you want: dogs, cats, classic cars, rock stars, sports teams, gourmet foods, and, of course, swimsuit models. Or, you can go to Kinko’s and get your own face -- or your relatives -- plastered onto a custom made calendar.

I don’t know who invented calendars, or when, but I’m pretty sure it was some really smart guy a lot of centuries ago. The Chinese seem to have an entirely different calendar, which doesn’t surprise me, since they have a WAY different style of writing, with little pictures instead of letters.

I think the Caesars had something to do with the invention of our current calendar, since Julius, Augustus, and Octavius all have months named after them. For years, I have been lobbying to have the name of the month of August -- named after Augustus Caesar, of little relevance to any currently living human being -- changed to the month of Elvis.

But, the problem is, I don’t know who exactly would be in charge of changing the name of a month. Congress, I don’t think, has ever weighed in on the topic. We just took the months, days, and dates invented by these ancient smart people, and stuck with ‘em, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, and… apparently, millennium after millennium.

I guess NOT tinkering with it is the best plan, because if we start, who know what we’ll end up with. If we change “August” to “Elvis”, what’s to stop us from changing “October” to “Obama”? Could changing “February” to “Favre-uary” be far behind?

Where would it end? “April” to “Oprah”? “May” to “Miley”? “December” to “DonaldTrumptember”?

Not that it matters, because I’m pretty sure technology will soon prevail, and the calendars of the past will go the way of rotary dial phones, analog TV, and 45 RPM records.

We’ll still be able to find calendars hanging on walls… but mostly as nostalgic decorations, the way you might now see an old wooden crank phone hanging in someone’s den.

The times, they are a changing. And you don’t need a calendar to know it.

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